A Brief History
As one of the Barossa’s very first grape varieties, Grenache is an intrinsic part of our history. We’ve compiled the essentials of Grenache history for your Friday afternoon reading pleasure.
“This is one of the world’s most planted grape varieties, not least because it can thrive in hot, dry climates – so it is likely to maintain this position in a world experiencing climate change and where drought seems an increasingly common phenomenon.” (Robinson et al., 2012)
Grenache is a grape variety that originated in Spain. The earliest mention is found in Gabriel Alonso de Hererra’s Agricultura general, dating back to 1513, while the first reliable mention is found in the book Cataluña illustrada written by Estevan de Corbera in 1678. There has been some debate as to whether Grenache may be an Italian variety, however a study of genetic relationships between Spanish grape varieties grouped Grenache together with several other old Spanish varieties. This study, along with the fact that all three colour variants and significant clonal diversity are found in Spain and not Italy, speak in favour of a Spanish origin.
Despite the varieties Spanish heritage and its importance to the region, The International Organization of Vine and Wine’s 2017 report on the distribution of the world’s grapevine varieties shows that it is only the fourth most planted wine grape variety in Spain.
Grenache is also an integral part of French winemaking. It is the third most planted wine grape in France, being found throughout southern wine regions. Most notably in France, Grenache is grown for the Rhône’s famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape GSM blends.
Fun fact: As one of the original varieties planted in Australia, there are many vineyard sites, especially in McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley with Grenache vines dating back to the late 1800s. (Wine Australia, 2020)
In Australia, Grenache was our most planted variety until the mid-1960’s when it was overtaken in popularity by Shiraz. It held the number two spot until the early 1990’s when it took third place to Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2020 it has become the eighth most planted red grape variety.
Considering its massive popularity worldwide, it is surprising that Grenache is not seen on more labels. This is largely because Grenache is so often used as a blending variety. In the style of French Rhône Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s, Grenache will often be blended with Shiraz and Mourvèdre in Australia to create balanced GSM’s. As a standalone variety, we are seeing Grenache become more and more popular, especially in the Barossa Valley with winemakers taking full advantage of old vines planted in the late-1800s.
Fun fact: Australia is home to the oldest Grenache vineyards in the world with still productive vines dating back to 1850 (Wine Australia, 2020)
Grenache loves warm climates and while the grapes are prone to some common diseases the wood is quite resistant, perhaps contributing to the remarkable longevity of the vine. The strength of the wood and upright growth makes it particularly suited to being pruned short and trained as bushvines.
Grenache, as a wine, tends to be paler than many other red varieties, especially when it is irrigated. The grapes are prone to high sugar levels, making Grenache a prime candidate for sweet, fortified dessert wines such as Tawny’s. As a dry wine Grenache can vary from light to densely flavoured, from perfumed and fruity to spicy and herbaceous.
At Moorooroo Park Vineyards we love to create light to medium-bodied Grenache as a standalone variety, highlighting floral perfumes and juicy, berry-laden fruit-forward characters in The Moo Grenache. We also take advantage of the tendency for hot, dry climate Grenache to be densely flavoured and cellar-worthy to create a Grenache Shiraz blend in the Harries that is harmoniously balanced, with very finely integrated tannins.
We really enjoyed this dive into the history and importance of Grenache, we hope you enjoyed it too!
-Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding, José Vouillamoz. Wine Grapes. Penguin Group, 2012.
-Jancis Robinson. The Oxford Companion to Wine. Oxford University Press, 1994.
-OIV, Distribution of the world’s grapevine varieties, Focus OVI 2017. Available at http://www.oiv.int/public/medias/5888/en-distribution-of-the-worlds-grapevine-varieties.pdf
-Wine Australia, “National Vintage Report.” wineaustralia.com/market-insights/national-vintage-report. Australian Government, 2020.
-Wine Australia, “Rebirth of an Australian Classic.” wineaustralia.com/discover-australian-wine/grenache. Australian Government, 2020.
-Robinson, Jancis. “Grenache.” jancisrobinson.com/learn/grape-varieties/red/grenache. 2020.
2017 The Moo Grenache is a medium-bodied wine that captures the true heart of Barossa Grenache. This garnet coloured wine’s scent is a perfumed mix of stewed plum and liquorice, while the palate is floral and boasts silky tannins with an even finish of clove and red berries that lingers softly.