Grenache in the Vineyard
September 10, 2013
Originating in Northern Spain, the diverse Grenache grape has found a home in several wine regions of the world. Known as Garnacha in Spain, it is one of the most widely planted grapes in the country, especially in the Rioja region. In France, Grenache is the predominant grape of wines produced in the Southern Rhône region. Grenache made its way to the United States in the late 1800‘s and was first planted in regions aiming for high yields because of its vigor, where it was primarily used as a blending varietal.
According to the USDA National Statistics Service, as of 2012, there are 6,020 acres of Grenache planted in California with about 6%, or 374 acres, grown in San Luis Obispo County. Of the 30,709 acres of wine grapes grown in San Luis Obispo County, Grenache makes up only 1.2% – not very much!
In Paso Robles, there are over 56 vineyards growing Grenache and 61 wineries producing a wine composed of the varietal. Paso Robles is emerging as a region that doesn’t always conform to tradition and this is evident in the way Grenache grapes are used in the production of wine. Grenache is commonly blended with Syrah and Mourvèdre as a traditional “GSM” blend, and can also be found bottled as a stand-alone varietal. In Paso Robles, some winemakers are also creating wonderful blends utilizing Grenache and other varietals that are not typically seen together. These unconventional blends prove that producers in Paso Robles are not afraid to take risks and like to experiment!
In the vineyard, Grenache thrives in the calcareous soils found throughout the Southern Rhône and Paso Robles regions. Grenache can be a vigorous vine, but with specific farming techniques, yields can be limited to encourage more concentrated flavors. Typically, Grenache buds early but ripens late so it grows best in hot, dry conditions with warm temperatures during the day along with cool nights. After a long growing season, harvest generally takes place in late September into October.
In addition to the fabulous red wines made with Grenache grapes, the varietal is also popular as a rosé wine. The varietal is typically high in alcohol and adds a bold fruit-forward quality to wines. Typical fruit flavors include currant, cherry, and raspberry, with other common flavors of pepper, licorice, and tobacco. Wines produced with the Grenache grape are great to pair with spicy food.
Next time you visit Paso Robles, be sure to seek out wines made with the versatile Grenache grape. From a crisp rosé to a traditional GSM, to an interesting blend of Grenache and Tempranillo, you won’t be disappointed!