In all the wine world, there is one grape in particular you need to get to know—she’s the sexiest grape in the world. A subtle and often overlooked grape, she has been around for hundreds of years but often has been hiding in the shadows.
She hails from two of the oldest wine producing countries in the world: France and Spain. And while some of the more famous wine labels she has been on have come from the French countryside, her home is in fact Spain.
In France, you’ll find her hanging out along the hills of the Southern Rhone, and even more predominantly in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape région. While 13 different grapes are permitted to be grown with Chateauneuf-du-Pape area, she reigns supreme. When blended together, she’s often the dominant grape in the mix, keeping other grapes from sharing the spotlight, where some wineries use up to 80% of her in their blend.
In Spain, she’s the Queen of the countryside. Again, like much of the old world, you’d be hard pressed to spot her in a bottle of wine from any Spanish Winery. Just like France, the wine is labeled not so much by the grape makeup, but by origin.. However, chances are good to great if you spot a bottle of wine from the region of Rioja, you’ve probably got her in your hands, along with her male counterpart.
While both Spain and France have somewhat adopted her, and made her their own, her origins are from the Italian Island of Sardinia, the largest island off of the country. But make no mistake, this Italian born beauty has made her home currently in both France and Spain—and she’s very comfortable being there too.
However, she’s not so bold as to steal the spotlight in the old world wines and be the only wine in the bottle. A little shy perhaps, she is accentuated by her friends out in the field. In France, she’s often spotted hanging out with Syrah (Sir-aahh) and Mourvedre (Mour-ved-dra). The trio all compliment each other though she is truly the shining star of the three.
In Spain and Rioja, her BFF is the Tempranillo. A rough and ready Cabernet Sauvignon-esque grape, she softens her up with her subtle bright fruit flavors. She truly makes the wines from Rioja shine.
Lately, in the new world of California, she has been labeled and sold as a single varietal. While still being used as a blend with both the Syrah and Mourvedre as well as the Tempranillo, she is starting to truly sparkle on her own in the California sunshine.
Let me take it back. This beauty loves California, with its temperate climate and even temperature. She likes to take her time ripening. She knows who she is and she isn’t satisfied sharing the same hillside as the Pinot Noir or Chardonnay grape. She knows Chardonnay can pretty much grow anywhere, but she won’t accept just any weather.
She was so weather sensitive she sent winemaker Angela Osborne, who only grows and produces her, packing from her native New Zealand in search of her perfect climate. According to Angela’s story, she searched over 4 continents to find the perfect spot to cultivate her. She eventually settled upon the luscious Santa Barbara Highlands of Central California to make her sparkle and shine.
So who is the sexiest grape in the world? None other than the Grenache, or Garnacha in Spain.
Her taste is of bright fruit, mainly strawberries with a little light white pepper on the finish. She will make your taste buds tingle with excitement. She pairs well with pork, chicken and other lighter meats.
You might have to work to find her on a wine list, or in a wine shop, because she is often under the name of the two old world wine regions. But finding the sexiest grape in the world takes effort. She’s not going to be standing out in the specials aisle. Nor will she always be the shining star at your local supermarket.
Talk with wine professionals, clerks at wine-specific wine shops and you’ll hear a subtle difference in the way they talk about the Grenache vs other wines. There’s almost an heir of royalty when wine professionals speak of her—almost. Though the Grenache is still just a commoner, happy to rub elbows with the chill Syrah or the working-class Tempranillo.
One doesn’t just open up a bottle of Grenache for a bachelor/bachlorette party. No, she almost deserves a 5-star meal. However her easy-going nature means she will be your best friend, even for the simplest chicken dish (as long as the sauce isn’t too heavy).
Much like a Flamenco dancer moving in perfect step to the music, the Grenache is graceful. She usually takes the center stage of a blend, however always complimenting her blending beauties when possible.
The Grenache is hard to find as a standalone 100% varietal wine. She sometimes lacks the strength to stand up on her own. While in the old world, blending is not just accepted but pretty much the norm, the New World is varietal specific.
It’s also with the label laws of the US where the Grenache might breach the 75% needed to state it’s single varietal when in fact it might, and often does, have her counterparts in with her.
If you are looking for her on a restaurant wine list, chances are far better you’ll spot a Southern Rhone, a Rioja or a Châteauneuf-du-Pape first before you see the single-varietal label. That is perfectly fine. The French and Spanish know how to work with the Grenache.
If you are out and seeking a subtle, sexy, and often times mysterious wine, look out for it. With the sexiest grape in the world, you might be a little star-struck. But give your glass a little swirl, a bit of a smell and you’ll instantly fall in love with the Grenache. The mysterious and often-times overlooked, the sexiest grape in the world.