Grenache Noir is grown in every appellation and present in most blends. To many, ‘Grenache rosé’ is a term used almost interchangeably with ‘Provence-style’. Many, if not most, of the old gobelet vines seen in vineyards across the south are Grenache.
Grenache oxidises very easily, which makes it particularly suited to the reductive winemaking that dominates the modern rosé scene. Its juice is naturally quite pale, and tends towards a translucent, brickish colour, lending rosés their signature pale salmon hue, shifting to copper as they age. Grenache typicity is best described as “peachy and creamy” – peaches and stone fruit on the nose, accompanied by a soft, creamy palate.
It only became truly widespread in the south in the second half of the twentieth century, planted as an ‘improver’ and qualitative grape to replace Carignan and Aramon. Its key quality was its very high potential alcohol, essential when big reds were all the rage. Mastering that alcohol today can be tricky, and the easiest solution of earlier harvests can lead to unripe, austere wines.
Grenache is also the base of many rosés in Spain, especially Catalonia and Navarra. The style in these regions is significantly different to that found in southern France, tending towards darker, more full-bodied wines, sometimes perceived as slightly old-fashioned. There it is more often bottled as a single-variety rosé, which is relatively rare in France. Most 100% Grenache rosés are not particularly exciting, although they can be good if some Grenache Gris is included as well.
Grenache is very prone to coulure (flowers not becoming grapes) and, as an early budder, does not tolerate spring frosts very well. It is therefore particularly susceptible to vintages that start with a ‘difficult’ spring.
Grenache rosé typicity involves a light salmon hue, peach and stone fruit on the nose, and a creamy, medium acidity body with medium-to-high alcohol. When harvested late, ripe, jammy raspberry fruit is another common indicator.