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Grenache Blanc in the Vineyard

July 9, 2013

Vitis vinifera, the predominant grape species used for wine production, is prone to genetic mutation. These mutations often result in a new grape varietal with different flavors, characteristics, and quality. Grenache Blanc is an excellent example – the varietal is believed to have originated as a mutation of the red version of Grenache in Spain.
In addition to continuing to grow in the Rioja and Navarre regions of Spain, Grenache Blanc thrives in the Rhône Valley in France where it is typically used as a blending grape for both white and red wines. Characterized by low acidity and high alcohol, Grenache Blanc typically adds a fruitiness and rich mouthfeel to the finished wine in the Rhône Valley.

Grenache Blanc made its way to Paso Robles in 1992 when Tablas Creek Vineyard imported grapevine cuttings from Chateau de Beaucastel located in Rhône’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape area. It was not until 2002 that the USA government recognized Grenache Blanc as a varietal distinct from the red Grenache.
According to the latest statistics available from the United States Department of Agriculture, there are currently 278 acres of Grenache Blanc planted in San Luis Obispo county. Here on the Central Coast, Grenache Blanc is not used strictly for blending – many wineries have decided to bottle the wine as a standalone varietal.

The varietal continues to be planted in Paso Robles Wine Country where the hot days and cool nights provide ideal conditions to develop the wonderful fruit flavors. There are a few reasons that Grenache Blanc is gaining in popularity in Paso Robles vineyards: the vine is drought resistant, ripens fairly early in the growing season and is easy to graft. Although it is known to be a very vigorous varietal, when the yield is controlled in the vineyard, the vine is capable of producing a wine with lasting flavors, richness and an excellent balance of low pH, lively acidity, and alcohol.

There are over 24 wineries in Paso Robles producing Grenache Blanc. Although a beautiful addition to a white blend, seek out a standalone Grenache Blanc from Paso Robles to experience the delightful aromas and flavors of white peach, lychee, apricot, nectarine, Asian pear, quince, and cardamom. The wine is typically beautifully structured with fruit, herbs, acidity, richness and minerality.

Lisa Pretty
Robert Hall Winery