Exploring the wide world of grenache with these picks

These are some of the wines made with grenache grapes. Krista Slater for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Courtesy of Krista Slater

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These are some of the wines made with grenache grapes. Krista Slater for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Courtesy of Krista Slater

Credit: Courtesy of Krista Slater

Grenache is an international crowd-pleaser.

Also known as garnacha or cannonau, it’s a variety of grape that grows well in many varied regions. It makes an excellent single-varietal wine, but also excels in blends, and is the basis for a great portion of the world’s rosé production, French or otherwise.

Still, it doesn’t seem to get the airtime devoted to the likes of cabernet sauvignon or malbec. If you are a fan of red wine, then you’ve likely enjoyed grenache as part of a Côtes du Rhône, the ubiquitous French blend that hails from the Rhone Valley in the southeastern part of the country.

The Rhône Valley is divided into the northern Rhône and the southern Rhône. There are formal appellations within those zones that designate how — and with which grapes — wine can be made.

In the north, syrah is king, and most appellation-designated red wines are syrah-dominant. In the south, blending is prized over varietal wine, but grenache rules the pack (and it is quite a pack; 13 grapes are permitted in the region’s blends).

In spite of its strong French connection, this grape is said to have originated on the Italian island of Sardinia, where they call it cannonau, or in northern Spain, where it is known as garnacha or Aragon.

Detractors of grenache tend to cite a propensity for high alcohol, or an almost syrupy ripeness in the fruit. However, that is not set in stone. As with all wine, there is so much more at play than just the grape in determining its final style.

We encourage you to explore the diverse international styles of this delicious red grape. Most of the wines are medium-bodied and vibrant, with red fruit flavors and dark spices — perfect for fall foods and festivities.

Here are a few selections we are enjoying right now:

Seppeltsfield Barossa grenache, Australia 2021. We consistently favor grenache when we seek out bigger Aussie reds. We find them to be ripe, but not huge, and layered with aromatic complexity. Seppeltsfield, established in the Barossa Valley in 1850, is one of the most historic estates in Australia. Think strawberry preserves with black pepper.

Cardedu cannonau di Sardegna 2022. This is a favorite version from Sardinia, where cannonau is the island’s most widely planted grape. Cardedu’s vineyards are in Jerzu, historically one of the best spots on the island for the grape. This wine has a pleasant smokiness layered in the red fruit.

Mallea GSM Santa Barbara County, California 2021. This wine mirrors the classic Côtes du Rhône blend, but is from the sunny yet cool climate of Santa Barbara. Mostly grenache, with syrah and mourvèdre, it brims with juicy black cherry and warm spice.

Domaine de Mena Clot 13 Creature. This is another grenache-dominant blend, rounded out with syrah and carignan. The producer is in the Roussillon region in the very southwest of France. The Mena brothers produce natural wines with minimal sulfur, so there is a wild savory note on the nose, leading to dark, brambly fruit. This wine is a killer with red meat and a fun addition to the Halloween table, thanks to Frankenstein’s monster appearing on the label.

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