It can be easy to take the ubiquitous Grenache for granted, and the fact that production has fallen from 324,000 acres in the 1980s to around 200,000 today suggests that many people do. In fact, at the end of the 20th century, Grenache was the world’s second most planted vine, but much of it was pulled up as part of European Union efforts to reduce production. It is widely planted in France, which makes up around half of all production, and also across the north of Spain (as Garnacha).
Despite Grenache’s tendency to produce high yields, the grape truly shines when it is more restricted in its growth and vines have been allowed to mature. Some excellent wines have been made using Grenache, including those of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Priorat. It is also the main component in the sweet, strong vins doux naturels, and gives the dry red wines of Roussillon their strength and ripeness.
Grenache comes in three main varieties, divided by colour:
General characteristics for all Grenache varieties include notes of candied fruit, cinnamon, citrus rind and tobacco. It is late ripening and suited to hot, dry climates. Grenache is also popular in Sardinia, where it is known as Cannonau. Locals believe that Cannonau originated there when it was part of the Kingdom of Aragon, before it was exported to France and Spain.