Wine producers and growers agree that when it comes to a warm-climate grape variety, one that is resistant, easy to grow and versatile, Grenache is one of the best. The strong sturdy vines do well in the Rhone Valley in Southern France, thriving in a climate of mild winters and hot summers. Sadly, Grenache is often camouflaged, recognized only as part of a leading blend for improving quality, yet this outstanding grape is one of the most widely cultivated grapes in the world.
French Grenache promoters, wanting to change that image started International Grenache day in 2010. The first Grenachistas, - the Grenache fans - were enrolled at the First International Symposium held in France, a meeting which united 270 visiting participants.
The Grenache Association based in Avignon comprises producers, wine syndicates, professionals and enthusiasts. Grenache Day has spread dramatically worldwide. That day is in September, usually the third Friday, when fans gather to celebrate, share and spread the word. Grenache enthusiast Marlene Angelloz, executive director of the non-profit Grenache Association said:
“Although this grape is planted all around the world it still doesn’t have the notoriety and recognition it deserves. The organization is a real opportunity to connect and build an international network.”
The Three Grenache Grapes
This is how The Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Roussillon(CIVR), the wine trade Council, describes the three Grenache varieties grown in the region:
Black Grenache is the most common form of Grenache planted, this is a voluptuous grape variety, rounded and smooth; it blends well with dry wine and is also suitable for creating sweet, fortified wine. It goes well with red meat and game.
White Grenache produces rich wine with aniseed and floral tones. Grenache blanc is best known as one of the thirteen varieties used for the celebrated Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. It’s good with grilled fish or white meat, very nice also as an aperitif.
The Grey Grenache variety is used for making lightly tinted white wine as well as sweet fortifying wine.
Learn more about these grapes in "The Grenache Trio: Grenache Blanc, Grenache Noir and Grenache Gris."
Terroir and Vinification
France grows more Grenache than any other country in the world. Transported from Spain many centuries ago, this grape is often referred to as the King of Rhone Valley, the wine region where it grows abundantly. Grenache prefers the hot, dry soils and enjoys dry and preferably long summers for ripening.
Domaine Saladin is one of the domains that benefit from this special Provencal terroir. Situated in a village in the Ardèche area of the Côtes du Rhône, the soil here for their 100% Grenache Noir variety is deeply layered, made up of large round pebbles, which conserve the heat during the day and releases it at night – a protection for the vines from winds and frosts. Sheltered by oak and chestnut trees, this Grenache plot gets even more care.
At the family estate, grape growing is organic; they use no pesticides and no herbicides. And interestingly, there’s no destemming, no expensive crusher to pluck the grapes for fermentation; they handpick and use the whole clusters of grapes including the stems.
Elizabeth Saladin, from Domaine Saladin said:
"We don’t do this to be rustic, but harvesting this way gives a more floral, light and fruity wine. We wait until the stems reach maturity to harvest, they mustn’t be picked too early.”
Aiming to promote, encourage production and to raise awareness of Grenache wine, CIVR launched Grenache Du Monde, (Grenaches of the world) a worldwide competition in 2013. The competition is held every year, open to bottled wine with at least 60% Grenache (red, white and grey)
Samples at this’s year competition came from France, Italy, Spain, Macedonia, Australia, South Africa, a total of 485 outstanding wine showcased and judged in Perpignan the south of France. Plans for next year’s competition to be held in Spain are already underway.
Marlene Angelloz works hard at adding new spots the International Grenache Day google map.
"Informing and educating is key to getting the word out for this quite wonderful wine," she says.
Marlene is busy planning for the 2016 international wine fairs to be held in France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. She enthused:
“You have to be passionate about this grape to work well at it and look after it well.”