Grenache is a red wine grape that transcends its intrinsic limitations for bumptious wines of generous sweet fruit, moderate acidity and soft tannins; or at least propels those limitations to a resonance beyond that of most grapes used to make wine. The reasons for this are simple. Grenache is the most widely planted red grape variety in the world. This is because independent of Pinot Noir's caress, Cabernet's Sauvignon's stiff noblesse and Syrah's fashionability, Grenache is the lifeblood of the Mediterranean; an agent of sustenance.
Indeed, Grenache is poured with gusto from Sardinia, where it is known as Cannonau; across Spain where it goes by the synonym Garnacha; to southern France where it is often blended with a spicy potion of Mourvèdre, Syrah, Cinsault and Carignan of various percentages, throughout the Languedoc, Roussillon, and southern Rhône.
Grenache reaches its apogee on the galets, limestone streaks and perhaps, best of all, when planted on the sandy alluvials of its most famous terroir, Châteauneuf du Pape, just outside of Avignon. Here, Grenache may legally be blended across thirteen grape varieties, some of which are white, to make one of France's greatest and most potent red wines. Many of the appellation's finest practitioners, including Château Rayas, however, express the quality of their site without blending.
Arguments can be made that Grenache's tendency to ripen late while taking on high alcohol levels, may be better tamed at altitude, on the cooler limestone crags known as the Dentelles de Montmirail, in nearby Gigondas. Similar endeavors have been made in the once fashionable Spanish region of Priorat. Sadly, the highly extracted and international styles of wine that were largely made there have fallen to the wayside as Spain feels the brunt of the Global Financial Crisis, with falling land prices and less external demand.
In Australia, very old Grenache vines, many dry grown and ungrafted, are scattered throughout warmer regions of South Australia, including the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. Notable wines include Clarendon Hills' single vineyard bottlings and its coveted Australis bottling.