|Grenache vineyard of Barossa Valley, Australia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Grenache was one of the first grape varieties to be introduced to Australia, and its high sugar content makes it perfect for sweetening up Australian fortified wines. It was also one of the first grape varieties successfully cultivated and vinified in Washington during the early development of the wine industry there. In California, it is a popular component in sweet jug wines, which are inexpensive table wines typically bottled in large glass jugs.
Grenache’s long ripening season allows sugars to reach high levels, producing sweet wines high in alcohol. A typical Grenache varietal has alcohol content around 15%. Grenache grapes have light, thin skins resulting in wines that are pale and generally low in tannins. Yield size and processing technique determine the ultimate outcome, but tannin and acid levels are typically medium to low.
|Grenache- Santa Barbara, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Processing the grapes can be difficult for producers. The grape produces wines that are low in tannin, so to compensate for this lack in flavor structure, growers often use harsh pressing techniques and hot fermentation to try and extract as much tannin and color as possible. These harsh techniques can result in wines that are herbaceous, course and astringent. The best Grenache is made when fermentation is slow and cool, followed by a period of maceration. Oak barrel aging can help Grenache retain some color and prevent overly quick oxidation.
Grenache is most typically used in blends, though a few varietals are produced. It is often blended with harsher, more tannic wines to add sweetness and body. On its own, Grenache produces a varietal that is full in the mouth and exhibits the flavors of blackberry, black currants, allspice, cinnamon and orange blossom. Due to quick oxidation, the wine is not meant to be aged, though certain cultivation and vinification processes can produce bottles appropriate for some aging.
|Grenache Rosé wine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
This completes my exploration of Grenache. Join me next time for a discussion about Lagrein, an Italian red grape variety.