Garnacha – whether red, white or rosé – presents the winemaker with several advantages and challenges. Garnacha is not a difficult grape to grow, but it is highly sensitive to variations in terroir and requires specific conditions and care to produce its best wines. It is not easy to produce a good single varietal Garnacha; in some places, it is blended with other grapes so it can add its ripe, aromatic and fruity aromas to other grapes with more tannins or color. If you want to produce a good single varietal Garnacha, you have to be careful and follow some specific rules.
“For me, Grenache has been a bit like the proverbial girl next door. Has taken years. to work out how beautiful she is.”
– Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards
Winemakers in areas like the Protected Designations of Origin of Calatayud, Campo de Borja, Cariñena, Somontano and Terra Alta, manage to produce excellent single varietals combining traditional and modern techniques:
- Climate: Garnacha feels most at home in hot, windy and dry climates, similar to the area where it originated.
- Low yields: It is key to keep yields down to improve concentration with low or no irrigation at all. There is even evidence that Garnacha benefits from a mild degree of water stress.
- Older vines: They reduce the yield and increase concentration.
- Poor Soils: While Garnacha can produce excellent wines on a variety of soils – there are very good wines made from Garnacha on schist, granite and limestone – poorer soils give the best results. But no matter the mineral composition, it is critical that the soils be warm and with excellent drainage so that the roots will dig deep.
- Fermentation at a low temperature: It is essential for preserving freshness. For most red wines, maceration takes place before or during the early stages of fermentation in order to impart color and tannin, but is stopped before the wines can become too tannic. New oak barrels can help as well, but must be used moderately in order not to mask the sweet and fruity character of Garnacha. White Garnacha also needs to be fermented at low temperatures if the wine is to retain its freshness and minerality.
“Who dared to bet on Garnacha 25 years ago? Nobody did… Happily enough, nowadays, Garnacha is being rediscovered… Fortunately, [the area where Garnacha originated]… has shaken off the tag of rough, tannic wines displaying proudly the grape’s name on some labels.”
– José Peñín, Spanish wine guru
With great attention to terroir, modern winemaking techniques, and century-old vineyards, this region represents the purest expression of Garnacha as a varietal wine.
“Grenache is fascinating in its ability to adapt to where and how it’s grown, and to really reflect a sense of place. It’s often used to enhance top blends, like in Chateauneuf du Pape, and it is the basis for most rose’, YET is capable on its own of producing great wines that age beautifully. It’s developing a real cult-following”.
– Nicole Rolet