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Garnacha, always the Bridesmaid?

Garnacha is a Spanish grape variety known as Grenache in France. It is often overlooked and not held in the same esteem as the illustrious Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah. However, in the hands of good winemakers around the world superb wines are being made.

Garnacha loves the sun and needs heat to ripen and it can survive and flourish in the harshest, driest conditions. There is not one style that defines a wine made from Garnacha. They can be medium to full bodied, smooth with raspberry, black cherry and plum flavours with a touch of spicy pepper, or have meaty, savoury character.

Garnacha is often considered the bridesmaid and never the bride because it often plays a supporting role in a wine. It is known for its red fruit character and high levels of alcohol, however, it lacks colour and tannin so is often blended with other grapes, notably Syrah, also known as Shiraz, for a deeper colour darker fruit character.

Aragon is the home of Garnacha, notably Calatayud and Campo de Borja, other regions in Spain producing premium Garnacha wines are in arid regions of Priorato and in Rioja, where it is blended with Tempranillo. It is also widely planted in the Languedoc region of southern France, however, it is in the Côtes du Rhone notable in the areas of Châteauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras that you find the full range of characteristics.

In Sardinia it is known as Cannonau and produces a range of wines from still to Port style wines. Australia’s McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley are known for producing full bodied wines from some of the oldest Garnacha vines found anywhere in the world. Also Garnacha has a cult following among leading Californian producers.

The fact that Garnacha has a lighter colour and is full of ripe red berry fruit flavours makes it an ideal grape to make Rosé wine, the most well known regions being Navarra and Provence in southern France.

There is also a white Garnacha grape with makes the base for some really lovely wines in the same regions where the red grape variety flourishes.

Does Garnacha make a good partner to food? Due to its softness and red fruit flavours and low tannins it makes it a very versatile food wine. Also, I mentioned that Garnacha has a peppery character and this makes it an ideal partner to hearty dishes that are rich in herbs and spices.

How should a Garnacha or Garnacha blend be served? Because it is naturally quite high in alcohol it is important to serve it cool otherwise the alcohol can be perceived as being hot and out of balance.

On thursday 21 of june in The Wine Place, Valencia, there will be a tasting of Garnachas from McLaren Vale, Sardinia, Languedoc, Sonoma and Valencia. For more information go to cursos.thewineplace.es.

Photo by Nacho Domínguez Argenta on Unsplash.

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I am a Northern Irishman based in Valencia. My career in wine began more than three decades ago, in London. I am the founder of TheWinePlace.es, an online store, where wine enthusiasts can enjoy a selection of international wines and Verde Marte, a company dedicated to exporting Spanish wines. Also, Thewineplace.courses, an "approved program provider" of the courses of the prestigious WSET. I share my passion for wines through my media work writing weekly columns for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo and 5 Barricas, an online wine magazine.

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