Get to Know Spanish Garnacha (Grenache)
From light and vibrant to deep and concentrated, Spanish Garnacha is a fascinating wine that appeals to many palates and pairs with a multitude of dishes. Are you a fan of Garnacha? Read on to learn more about this grape, its history in Spain, and its more well-known regions.
What is Garnacha?
Garnacha (also called Grenache in English and in French) is a red wine grape that is one of the most widely planted in the world. It thrives in hot and dry conditions (like those in central Spain, Italy’s Sardinia, Australia, Southern France, and California’s Monterey AVA and San Joaquin Valley).
Garnacha flavor profile
Although full of spices like white pepper, Grenache tends to have a soft mouthfeel. Its high alcohol content is rounded out by berry flavors such as raspberry and strawberry, and when aged, the wine exudes leather and tar. Depending on the region, the altitude, and winemaker preferences, the wine can be deep and concentrated or light and bright.
Grenache is known as Garnacha or Garnatxa (the second name is most common in the Basque and Catalonian regions). It was once known as a blending grape and not highly treasured; after the Priorat region in Catalonia began producing high-quality Garnatxa that received worldwide acclaim, it gained popularity throughout the country’s wine regions. Today it is the third most widely planted grape in Spain, and its most notable regions are Aragon, Rioja, and Priorat.
There are two main types of Garnacha: Garnacha Tinta (dark Grenache) and the less common Garnacha Peluda (hairy Grenache), which is more popular in Borja and Aragon. Garnacha Peluda gets its name from the hairy texture of its leaves, and it produces wines that have higher acidity and lower alcohol levels than Garnacha Tinta.
Garnacha from Aragon
Garnacha is believed to have originated from this region, which is in the northeastern part of Spain bordering Catalonia on the east and France on the north. It is the predominantly planted grape in this region and is used to produce monovarietal wines from some of the region’s oldest vines (some up to 100 years old).
Aragon is home to the Denominación de Origen Protegida (DOP) of Catalayud, which is Aragon’s second largest wine region and has Garnacha vines planted at a higher altitude than any other. (Interestingly, this DOP is the only one to have a designation for “old vines,” which are considered to be vines that are at least 35 years old.) More than 50% of Catalayud’s wine production is Grenache, and the wines tend to exude fruit and mineral characteristics alongside balance, structure, and body.
Other notable wine regions within Aragon include the Campo de Borja DOP and the Cariñena DOP. The Campo de Borja DOP has both high and low elevation areas that create a variety of wines ranging from jammy with notes of raisins to clear wines with bright fruits. The Cariñena DOP is centered on the city of the same name, which is one of the oldest cities in Spain. The region’s wine history dates back to the 3rd century BCE, when the area was known as “Carae” by the Romans.
Garnacha from Rioja
Although Rioja is known for its Tempranillo wines, Garnacha also thrives in this hot, arid region in the middle of Northern Spain. The grape is more common in the Rioja Baja (lower Rioja) region, where it is blended with Tempranillo and adds bright fruits that make Rioja more enjoyable to drink in its earlier years. It is also commonly used to make the rosado (rosé) wines of the region.
Garnacha from Priorat
Garnacha is believed to have been in the region of Priorat (in Catalonia) for nearly 800 years, but has only received international recognition in the last few decades. The area’s old vines (many are 40-60 years old) thrive in the rugged, steep terraces of an area that for many years was only connected to the rest of the world by one small road. Priorat Garnacha is intense, dark, and concentrated with strong tannins that require several years of aging to reach a beautiful balance and maturity. These wines are worth the wait: when aged, Priorat wines are heavily sought after and beloved by wine drinkers.
Spanish Garnacha food pairings
Spanish wines are best enjoyed with foods that use ingredients of the region, including peppers, eggplant, manchego, olives, pork, and sausage. Try some of these foods with your next glass of Garnacha:
- Roasted peppers and eggplant
- Serrano ham, membrillo, and manchego
- Pork ribs
- Smoked meats and sausages
- Meats and stews flavored with paprika