Grenache is widely planted around the world. It is the second most widely planted grape in France, making up 60 percent of the acreage in the Rhone Valley and 70 percent of the acreage in Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Planted in approximately 500,000 acres worldwide, grenache can be found in Spain, Italy and Australia, as well as in California.
But in California, acreage has declined over the last 20 years from approximately 12,000 acres to approximately 6,500 acres today. Despite this reduction in acreage, grenache production and consumption is on the rise, according to a recent seminar with the Rhone Rangers.
American wine critic and author of the forthcoming American Rhone Wine Movement, Patrick Comiskey moderated a panel of winemakers from throughout California as a tasting and discussion was underway about the rise of grenache in California.
“Despite being grown here more or less continuously for over 150 years, grenache’s range of flavors, its regional expression and its level of profundity are still a long way from being realized,” Comiskey said. “It may have more potential than any other Rhone variety currently grown in the U.S., so it’s time to have a look at the state of the grape.”
With origins in Spain, grenache is a vigorous grape that is easy to grow. It is a grape that grows well anywhere there is sunshine and can thrive in many soil and climate types. The grapes produced have good acids and sugars, resulting in wines that have aromas ranging from red fruit (cherry, currant) to raisins, licorice and black pepper.
While the grape has been grown in California for more than 150 years, the majority of it has been planted in inland areas. The vines have been watered down by high yields and the result has been large production of low-quality wines, until now.
The rise of grenache
For more than two decades, grenache has been in the hands of winemakers who are passionate about the grape. Tablas Creek in Paso Robles began working with Chateau de Beaucastel in Chateauneuf-du-Pape in 1989 to bring cutting of Cotes du Rhone grapes to America, and it is considered responsible for grenache in the U.S.
Grenache has been pulled out of places that were not the right terroir and planted in correct locations, such as cooler coastal areas. Today, American grenache tends to be vibrant, fresh and inviting and ranges from bright and spicy to dark and luscious.
Ten producers, all members of the Rhone Rangers, were featured at the grenache seminar. The Rhone Rangers are a group of roughly 150 wineries dedicated to making wines from the 22 grape varieties originally made famous in France’s Rhone Valley. Get to know some of these grenache champions and try their wines.
— Bernat Vineyards and Winery, Santa Ynez Valley
— Tablas Creek Vineyard, Adelaida District, Paso Robles
— Lightning Wines, Paso Robles
— Terra Rouge, Sierra Foothills
— Vines on the Marycrest, Adelaida District, Paso Robles
— Andrew Murray Vineyards, Santa Ynez Valley
— Kenneth Volk Vineyards, Rio San Benito Vineyard
— Mounts Family Winery, Dry Creek Valley
— Petrichor Wines, West Sonoma County
— Tercero Wines, Ballard Canyon
With all these producers of grenache, the grape will continue to be on the rise. Try one of them today and you, too, may become a champion of the grape.