GRANACHA TINTA

UNTAPPED POTENTIAL

SUITABILITY FOR WINE-MARKETING
GARNACHA IN SPANISH VITICULTURE
GARNACHA ABROAD


Garnacha Tinta is a variety of the European vine species vitis vinifera. It is very widely planted in Spain, its natural habitat being areas whose Mediterranean climate supplies plenty of sunshine and high temperatures. As long as the terrain and stock are suitable, its plants can extract moisture from deep underground during times of drought and are therefore able to thrive in arid conditions. Garnacha or Garnacha Tintais also known by other names: Garnacho, Tinto de Navalcarnero, Tinto Aragones, Lladoner, Garnatxa Negra, Grenache and Grenache Noir in different winegrowing areas. These are all synonyms for the same variety. Even so, there is ongoing research into strains known by variants on the name of this variety and its clones, correct definitions being obtained by enzyme and polyphenol analyses backed up by ampelographical studies and, in certain cases, DNA tests for accurate differentiation. AMPELOGRAFHIC AND GROWING DATA Gamacha is an upright vine. It has long, strong and many-branched shoots, and one or two short laterals per shoot. Young shoots show slight blue pigmentation at the ends caused by migration of anthocyanic substances.  The adult leaf is small to medium sized, pentagonal in shape and five lobed, serrate with short teeth and convex sides. The sinus is an open U-shape, and the petiole short, thick and hairless. Both upper and lower leaf surfaces are also hairless. The flower is hermaphroditic with apparently well developed sexual organs, though fertilization is often unsuccessful, an apparent accident which prevents fruit set from occurring. The grape cluster is medium in both size and compactness, with a short bunch stem (up to 5cm- 2 inches). The fruit or berry is spherical, medium sized, and has thin, densely colored skin (dark blue to black) made matt by abundant bloom, colorless flesh, and pips. Garnacha buds early, and is consequently susceptible to late frosts like those that M6ntrida (Toledo) and Navalcarnero (Madrid) were unfortunate enough to experience this year. Gobelet pruning is traditional, with four or more arms and two spurs per arm, though more recently, espalier training is also being used. The high vegetative potential of this variety, with its tendency to form robust trunks, arms and shoots which facilitate the circulation of sap, makes it important to control planting density, choice of rootstock and pruning style according to the availability of water, balancing vegetative growth so as to obtain high quality fruit. Garnacha is considered a native variety in Spain, and in the course ofits long history clones have evolved, adapted to soil and climate conditionsin different geographical areas. This explains the many variants on itsname.

Other varieties exist, different from Garnacha Tinta, which are dissimilar and genetically unrelated, yet known by double-barreled names in which 'Garnacha' is qualified by an accompanying term. Examples are Garnacha Blanca and Garnacha Roja, and the black varieties Garnacha Peluda and Garnacha Tintorera.

SUITABILITY FOR WINE-MARKETING

Garnacha has many fine qualities as a wine grape, important among these being its richness in polyphenols and its good ripening record in appropriate conditions. A well-made Garnacha wine is densely colored, rich in primary aromas and dry extract, and characteristically fruity. Photosynthesis occurs in much the same way throughout the vegetable world, and the various varieties of Vitis vinifera. As we know, this system of absorbing energy from sunlight uses the leaf as a screen whose chlorophyll transforms the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into sugars.

That said, however, each variety metabolizes differently and the grape's ripening process is not simply a question of producing a certain level of these sugars (glucose and fructose), but also of synthesizing many other substances which affect wine quality importantly. Among these are the primary aromas specific to each variety, organic acids and polyphenols, which make up a vast group of substances including the grape's colorants and tannins. This is why it is so important to know all about a grape variety if one is to get the best possible results from vinification, both as regards capitalizing on its characteristic qualities and aromas and avoiding problems.  An important feature of Garnacha is its particular aptitude for reaching high glucose levels. This means that the growing method must be adapted accordingly and ripening must be watched carefully, timing the harvest so that the grapes still have a good overall acidity level. This is all vital to achieving successful vinification, a long-lived wine and the right organoleptic balance. The activity of oxidase enzymes characteristic of this grape (and of others) has to be catered for.   Cultivation and plant care need to focus on ensuring really healthy grapes, and picking and transporting the harvest must be done so that the bunches reach the winery's reception hopper as unscathed as possible. The action of these enzymes may also need to be blocked by treatment in the winery, and bye xcluding oxygen as far as possible at critical junctures to avoid oxidation of the polyphenolics and, particularly, coloring matter.

Garnacha grapes are particularly useful for young red wines, or wines for drinking in their first or second year, whether varietal or blended with other varieties. They respond well to vinification by the traditional maceration method, allowing time for the extraction of plenty of coloring matter without creating an excess of tannins, and by the carbonic maceration method. Either way, levels of free sulfur dioxide need to be monitored to ensure its antioxidant effect, and where possible, wine should be made and stored in an inert atmosphere of carbon dioxide or nitrogen.  Garnacha is also widely blended with other varieties such as Tempranillo, Mazuela, Gamacha Tintorera, Bobal and Cabernet, to give better balanced fixed acidity, extract and color, and greater stability.

All the areas where Garnacha is grown produce excellent roses, either mono varietal or with a small percentage of other varieties. These are fruity, richly colored wines and are produced in, for example, the Denomination of Origin (D.O.) areas of Navarra (from the Baja Montafia sub zone), Cigales, Rioja, Carifiena and Priorato. Garnacha is also used for notable rancio (maderized) wines in traditional areas such as Tarragona (Catalonia) and, particularly, in Priorato.

These are made by the old method of forcibly oxidizing wine by exposing it to changing temperatures, stored either in wooden casksor in glass demijohns left in the open air. It is often used, too, for what used to be known as mistelas (now known as vinos de licor-liqueur wines), though these are made only in a few specific areas. It would be true to say that Garnacha does not occupy prestige status -it is associated with wines which are high in alcohol, astringent, unpretentious and vinous.  This is largely because in many areas Garnacha is still being grown in old vineyards and is often vinified in rudimentary wineries.  

One does not often find a monovarietal Garnacha red officially this means wine made with 85% or more Garnacha grapes. It is a difficult variety to vinify for the reasons outlined above, so the tendency is to use more easily vinified varieties or to use Garnacha in blends.

Monovarietal wines not only require modern technology, but technology appropriately applied to the particular variety. Some of the wineries successfully approaching Garnacha in this way include Rioja's Vifia Ijalba and the San Isidro de Aldeanueva de Ebro cooperative; Carifiena's San Valero cooperative (Monte Ducay '94), and the Longares and Paniza wineries, also covered by the Cariiiena D.O.

In Navarre, good Garnacha wines made by carbonic maceration come from the Cascante and Cintru6nigo cooperatives in the Ribera Bajaand from the Sada cooperative in the Baja Montafia.   Good Campode Borja Garnachas include Borsao from the Borja cooperative (a blend with Cabernet), and Vifia Ainzen.

With few exceptions, promoters of new wines and brands tend to focus attention and big money on planting and vinifying international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot. They do not apply the available technology to exploring and maximizing the potential of native Spanish varieties like Garnacha.

GARNACHA IN SPANISH VITICULTURE

Data from the Catastro Vitivinicola (Winegrowing Census) for the decade 1972-1982 show that Garnacha occupied 176,000 hectares (434,896acres) of Spain's vineyards, accounting for 13.23% of the country's wine grape total and 33.4% of its black wine grapes. This includes Tinto Aragones, which the Census treated as a different variety but which is currently considered to be a Garnacha clone. In terms of area planted, Garnacha is the leading black grape variety in Spain and the second in the overall variety figures, after the white Airen.

Spain is currently compiling its Viticultural Register to European Union (EU) regulations. So far, INDO (the National Institute for Denominations of Origin) has published the volumes relating to nine provinces, among them Toledo, Tarragona and Zamora, the up-to-date figures for which are quoted below.

Zaragoza is the province with the largest area of Garnacha.  There, it is the principal variety and the basis for the wines covered by the D.O.s of Carifiena, Campo de Borja and Calatayud.

Garnacha is the dominant variety in most of the province's municipalities, and has been for many years, though the figures for the last 20 years show an increase in plantings of white varieties such as Viura and Garnacha Blanca.

In Toledo Province as a whole, Garnacha is the second variety after Airon (though in Montrida D.O. it occupies 92% of the vineyards) and the wines hereabouts are characterized by this variety's fruity primary aromas.

A comparison of the old Catastro Vitivinicola figures for Toledo with the updated Viticultural Register (their field data refer to 1975and 1992 respectively, so that they span 17 years ) shows that Garnachahas fallen back by 7,000 ha, or 18%. However, the ripping out or abandonment of Airon plantations has now increased Garnacha's share of the overall figure from 18% to 21%.

The municipalities of Fuensalida in Toledo Province and Carihenain Zaragoza Province have the most extensive plantations of Garnacha, each of them exceeding 3,000 ha (7,413 acres).   Garnacha's percentage in Navarra is very high, though current figures show important changes.  In Navarra D.O. overall, Garnacha accounts for about 52%, dominating in the Baja Montafia at 90%, while there is a relative decrease in the Ribera Baja, with 43%.

In La Rioja Province, Garnacha is the most widely planted variety, accounting for 44.5% of the total under vine, though it should be noted that in the Rioja Alta the figure is less than 25%, while in the RiojaBaja it exceeds 70%. Garnacha is the leading variety used for young wines, and is blended in varying proportions with Tempranillo and other varieties for crianza and reserve wines.   

Garnacha is also an important variety in Madrid Province, especially in the sub zones of Navalcarnero and San Martin de Valdeiglesias. In Avila Province, it accounts for almost 80% of its vineyards, with 1,800 ha in the Cebreros area alone. In Teruel, Garnacha is the leading variety in many municipalities, though here it is more widely dispersed rather than being grown in particular nuclei.

Other provinces whose Garnacha figures merit a mention are Burgos, with some 5,000 ha (12,355 acres), and Soria, Tarragona and Valladolidall with about, or more than, 2,000 ha (4,942 acres), though their plantations are more widely dispersed.

In Tarragona, Garnacha has declined during the period under consideration by some 3,000 ha (7,413 acres), or 62% of the original area.  However, higher percentages of other varieties have been ripped out or abandoned. It is actually gaining ground in Priorato and in the Falset sub zone of the Tarragona D.O., revealing confidence in this variety on the part of local growers.

In Huesca, Garnacha occupies 19% of monovarietal vineyards, especially in the Somontano D.O.'s production area, and it is also grown in the majority of the province's vineyards in tandem with other varieties.

Zamora meanwhile has practically doubled its area of Garnachasince the old Catastro figures.

GARNACHA ABROAD

Garnacha is the same variety as the one known in France and elsewhere as Grenache or Grenache Noir. In the EU, the authorization of grape varieties is regulated by R. (EC) 3800/81 modified last year by 3255/94.After Spain, France is the biggest grower of this variety, with plantations of it in the southeasterly d6partements, particularly Vaucluse and Gard, and the Pyrenees Orientales, Drome, Herault and Aude, in areas with plenty of sun and sufficiently high temperatures. it is the principal variety for several D.O.s, including Cotes du Roussillon, Corbieres, Costieresdu Gard and Coteaux de Languedoc.

In the vast Languedoc-Roussillon, Garnacha Tinta is used to make naturally sweet wines such as Rivesaites and Banyuls, and it is alsoused in C6tes de Provence and C6tes du Rhone in combination with other varieties such as Syrah.

In Portugal, Garnacha is authorized only in Ribatejo e Oeste, Alentejo and the island of Madeira.

In Greece, there are plantations of Garnacha on the Chalcidice Peninsula, in the Dodecanese and, principally, Heraklion. Garnacha is nota significant variety in Italy.

In California, Garnacha accounts for 14% of the area planted with black wine grapes, occupying third place after Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Gabriel Yravedra is an agronomist, First Vice President of the International Vine and Wine Office, and a member of the Scientific Committee for Denominations of Origin of Agro-Alimentary Products in Brussels.