McLaren Vale Grenache

Grenache or Garnacha is one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world. It ripens late, so it needs hot, dry conditions such as those found in Spain, where the grape most likely originated. It is also grown in the Italian island of Sardinia, the south of France, Australia, and California's Monterey AVA and San Joaquin Valley.

It is generally spicy, berry-flavored and soft on the palate and produces wine with a relatively high alcohol content, but it needs careful control of yields for best results. Characteristic flavor profiles on Grenache include red fruit flavors (raspberry and strawberry) with a subtle, white pepper spice note. Grenache wines are highly prone to oxidation, with even young examples having the potential to show browning (or "bricking") coloration that can be noticed around the rim when evaluating the wine at an angle in the glass. As Grenache ages the wines tend to take on more leather and tar flavors. Wines made from Grenache tend to lack acid, tannin and color, and it is often blended with other varieties such as Shiraz or Syrah, Carignan, Tempranillo, and Cinsaut.

Grenache is often used as a blending component, adding body and sweet fruitiness to a wine. The grape can be troublesome for the winemaker due to tendency to oxidize easily and lose color. To compensate for the grape's naturally low tannins and phenolic compounds, some producers will use excessively harsh pressing and hot fermentation with stems to extract the maximal amount of color and phenols from the skins. This can backfire to produce green, herbaceous flavors and coarse, astringent wine lacking the grape's characteristic vibrant fruitiness. To maintain those character traits, Grenache responds best to a long, slow fermentation at cooler temperatures followed by a maceration period. To curb against oxidation, the wine should be racked as little as possible. The use of new oak barrels can help with retaining color and preventing oxidation but too much oak influence can cover up the fruitiness of Grenache.

The high levels of sugars and lack of harsh tannins, makes Grenache well adapted to the production of fortified wines, such as the vin doux naturels (VDN) of the Roussillon region (e.g. Rivesaltes, Banyuls, and Maury) and the "port-style" wines of Australia. In these wines, the must ferments for three days before grape spirit is added to the must to halt the fermentation and the conversion of sugar into alcohol. The high alcoholic proof grape spirit brings the finished wine up to 15–16% alcohol. These wines can be made in a rancio style by being left outside in glass demi-johns (or carboys) or wooden barrels where the wine bakes in the sun for several years until it develops a maderized character and flavors of sour raisins, nuts and cheese. These fortified VDNs and port-style wines have longevity and can be drinkable well into their third decade.

A clone from Perpignan arrived in Australia with James Busby in his 1832 collection. More significant was the introduction into South Australia of new cuttings from the South of France, by Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold in 1844. Plantings in South Australia boomed, particularly in McLaren Vale, the Barossa Valley and Clare Valley. Until the mid 20th century, Grenache was Australia's most widely planted red wine grape variety with significant plantings in the vast Riverland region where it was vital component in the fortified "port-style" wines of the early Australian industry. As Australian winemakers started to focus more of premium still wines, Grenache gradually fell out of favor being supplanted by Shiraz and later Cabernet Sauvignon in Australian vineyards. The late 20th and early 21st centuries saw a revival of interest in Grenache with old vine plantings in South Australia being used to produce varietal Grenache as well as a "GSM"-Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre-blends becoming popular. Varietal Grenache from the McLaren Vale is characterized by luscious richness and spicy notes while Barossa Valley Grenache is characterized by jammy, intense fruitiness.

Though Grenache is most often encountered in blended wines (such as the Rhone wines or GSM blends), varietal examples of Grenache do exist. As a blending component, Grenache is valued for the added body and fruitiness that it brings without added tannins. As a varietal, the grape's naturally low concentration of phenolics contribute to its pale color and lack of extract but viticultural practices and low yields can increase the concentrations of phenolic compounds. Grenache-based wines tend to be made for early consumption with its propensity for oxidation make it a poor candidate for long-term aging. However, producers (such as some examples from Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Priorat) who use low yields grown on poor soils can produce dense, concentrated wines that can benefit from cellaring. The fortified vin doux naturels of France and Australian "port-style" wines are protected from Grenache's propensity for oxidation by the fortification process and can usually be drinkable for two or three decades.

The characteristic notes of Grenache are berry fruit such as raspberries and strawberries. When yields are kept in check, Grenache-based wines can develop complex and intense notes of blackcurrants, black cherries, black olives, coffee, gingerbread, honey, leather, black pepper, tar, spices, and roasted nuts. When yields are increased, more overtly earthy and herbal notes emerge that tend to quickly fade on the palate. The very low-yielding old vines of Priorat can impart dark black fruits and notes of figs and tar with many traits similar to the Italian wine Amarone. Rosado or rosé Grenaches are often characterized by their strawberry and cream notes while fortified vin doux nautrels and Australian "port style" wines exhibits coffee and nutty tawny-like notes.

McLaren Vale Grenache

About McLaren Vale Grenache

We harvest the Grenache ancient vine in late April on over 400 hectares of vineyards in the region. As it ripens late, the Grenache vine thrives in the hot, dry conditions of the area. Naturally, these conditions boost the alcohol level of the wines produced. The McLaren Vale Grenache indeed lives up to its internationally renowned status.

The internationally distinguished wine is a superb table wine and can be paired perfectly with almost any meal. Grenache from McLaren Vale is ideally served at 12oC – 15oC, which should be just right to enhance the freshness and quenching qualities without upsetting aroma and flavour.

McLaren Vale Serving Suggestions

Grenache is a perfect pairing with spiced and herby meals, including roasted meats, vegetables, and ethnic foods.

• A winter warmer meal such as Asian slow-braised beef and vegetables is perfectly complimented with your glass of Grenache.
• Eggplant, tomato and pine nut veggie roast with some zesty za'atar is a lovely companion to Grenache.
• It also pairs well with grilled or smoked fatty fish such as tuna, trout and salmon with some red cabbage, guacamole and hot sauce.

Due to its unmistakable spicy berry and cinnamon flavour, and subtle pepper spice notes, Grenache from McLaren Vale would be an excellent companion for cheeses. So don’t hesitate to stock up on your Grenache for your next fancy cheese and wine event!


The texture of the Grenache can range from elegant and silky to a bit more of a rustic expression depending on the soil and levels of ripeness. Grenache from McLaren Vale is misleadingly lighter in colour, is semi-transparent and has a medium-bodied taste due to its higher level of alcohol.

• The Curtis Limited Series McLaren Vale Grenache 2016 is characterised by a touch of cedar, soft acidity and generous red fruit flavours such as cherry and raspberry, cinnamon, and subtle pepper spice notes and will develop leather and toffee notes as it ages.
• Durbidge & Co Grenache 2018 is bright, vivacious and youthful with mixed brambles, fresh raspberries, a tantalising cove, tight acidity, and star anise spices with fine grainy tannins.

Why Not Stock Up Today?

McLaren Vale Cellars are proud suppliers and lovers of the lovely wines produced in McLaren Vale. Our confidence in our harvest is such that we offer you a 100% Happiness Guarantee and a free returns policy.

We were raised among the vineyards and wineries in McLaren Vale, and to this day, we live and breathe the life of a winemaker. You will find no better place than the McLaren Vale Cellars to acquire perfect wines with a touch of love and excitement included. We encourage you to browse our blogs if you want to learn more about us and our wines or stay updated on the latest harvest news.

Contact us today for the best choice, or choices, in Grenache from McLaren Vale.

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