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Calaveras Grape Varietal of the Month: GRENACHE

[MAY 16, 2023 - Mark Silverstone]

Grenache, or as it’s known by its Spanish name, Garnacha, is one of the most widely planted red grapes in the world. The Garnacha grape was born in the northern region of Spain known as Aragon. The grape was originally used for both single varietal wines as well as for blending.

In the early California wine industry, Grenache's high yields and high alcohol level made it an ideal blending component for pale, sweet jug wine production. Early plantings centered in the hot central San Joaquin Valley, where the grape benefitted from its tolerance to heat and drought.

Grenache is a vigorous and hardy vine with a strong wooden frame, often grown as free-standing bush vines. It is resistant to wind and drought, making it suitable for use in arid Mediterranean climates such as right here in Calaveras County. The vines respond favorably to moisture stress and thrive in hot, dry climates with well drained soils. The variety is very sensitive to temperature and terroir. Interestingly, poorer soils often lead to better results, producing berries high in flavor and vibrancy.

Grenache berries have thin skin and ripen late in the growing season. The long ripening process allows the sugars in the grapes to reach high alcohol levels, often at least 15% ABV. Grenache is known for its bright red fruit flavors; strawberries, raspberries and tart cherries combined with subtle spicy notes of white pepper. It is known for being soft on the palate with bright acidity and mellow tannins. Grenache is often described as tasting like candied fruit roll-ups with a hint of cinnamon, revealing itself easily to expert blind tasters !! The spice in Grenache makes it a perfect pairing with spiced and herbaceous dishes including roasted meats and vegetables, fruit based sauces and savory pizza.

Serving Grenache at room temperature is often too warm due to its high alcohol content, which can lead to a burning sensation when swallowed. Grenache is best enjoyed slightly cooler, so about 20 minutes in the refrigerator will allow the fruit and spice to really shine.

Grenache (Garnacha) can be found at the following CWA member wineries:

Airola Road Vineyards, Aloria, Gossamer, Hatcher, Jazz Cellars, Prospect 772, Stevenot, Twisted Oak, Val du Vino and Vina Moda.

Sources: Wikipedia, Wine Folly, Food & Wine, Wine-Searcher, Usual Wines, Wine Enthusiast, Vinepair


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