Garnacha variety is an ancient one that has undergone many mutations which affected the berries colour and the hair at the underside of the leaves. It is indigenous from Spain, probably Aragón, but late investigations relate it with the Italian isle of Sardinia, where it is known as Cannoanau.
With relatively early budding but late ripening, it has to be grown in fairly warm climates. It is a vigorous variety (less in case of sandy soils), vulnerable to downy mildew, dead-arm (phomopsis), botrytis cinerea, ring rot, grape moth and millerandage. It has a very high level of sugar in its berries, so in cases of very good performance it loses colour. Acidity levels are moderate. Garnacha is well adapted to slightly acid soils, rich in gravel and limestone. Short pruning and training cup are recommended. It is well resistant to drought but with tendency to magnesium deficiency. On the other side, Garnacha has good endurance to wood diseases as eutypa dieback and stereum hirsutum or wood rot, which explains its remarkable life-span.
Garnacha is one of the most cultivated varieties in the world, as it can thrive in warm dry climates, so it is suitable in an environment subject to the climate change where drought is an increasingly common phenomenon. It is usually blended with Syrah, and Monastrell .
In France, Garnacha is the second variety most planted after Merlot, especially in the Rhône, and Languedoc-Roussillon areas, with milder temperatures. The best examples of French Garnacha wines are found in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where all Garnacha wines have deep colour and are tannic when young. Sometimes they might be rather vegetal, spiced and with a high alcohol level, where sweet and mature sensations are frequent.
In Spain it is outreaching in Aragón, Castilla y La Mancha, Castilla y León, Cataluña, La Rioja, Madrid, Extremadura, Navarra and Valencia being the third most planted variety after Tempranillo and Bobal.
For years, Garnacha was considered as lower quality regarding Tempranillo, but on the 90's decade it started being well considered in the Priorat, reaching the highest prices in the market, so many wine producers changed their point of view. Nowadays it is far more likely that Garnacha appears in the varietal label and some export markets value the sweet concentrated fruit of old Garnacha wines from regions such as Empordà, Campo de Borja, Cariñena, Costers del Segre, Madrid, La Mancha, Méntrida, Somontano, Tarragona, Terra Alta y Utiel-Requena.
Some of the best Garnacha wine producers are: Celler Mas Doix, Celler Vall Llach, Mas Martinet, Álvaro Palacios and Terroir al Limit in Priorat; Chivite and Guelbenzu in Navarra; and finally Can Blau, Orto Vins and Portal del Montsant in Montsant.