A Grape By Any Other Name: Cannonau & Grenache


*A Grape By Any Other Name posts are about exploring different grape varieties known by other names or nicknames, both inside and outside of Italy.

Cannonau is most closely associated with the island of Sardegna where it is widely planted.  Cannonau is used to make dry reds, rose’, passito sweet wines, or fortified “liquoroso” wines.  Many of the wines spend some time in oak or chestnut botti (=large barrels) depending on its classification (riserva, classico, etc).  Common descriptions include red fruits like raspberry, floral, and spices when more mature.  You are more likely to hear about Cannonau’s International counterparts in France and Spain, but it’s believed now that this grape actually originates from Sardegna.  Cannonau wines tend to be labeled clearly as such: “Cannonau di Sardegna” or “Cannonau di Jerzu” (the latter being a specific sub-region of Sardegna).

Cannonau has several synonyms domestically: Cannonau di Sardegna Capoferrato, Cannonau di Sardegna Oliena, Tocai Rosso, Uva di Spagna, Cannonaddu, Abundante, Aleante, Aleantedi Rivalto, Nepente, Aleante Poggiarelli, Cannonau Selvaggio, Canonazo, Carignane rosso, Elegante, Francese, Gamay del Trasimeno, etc.

Internationally Cannonau is known under many synonyms: Grenache (France) and Garnacha (Spain) are the principal ones to remember.

  • Grenache is a widely planted black grape in France, with most plantings being used in the popular blends of the Southern Rhone (think Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Cotes du Rhone) and in both the Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon regions in the south of France.  It’s also used in the French sweet wine production, vin doux naturels.
  • Garnacha/Garnacha Tinta/Garnatxa/Lladoner/Tinto Aragones/Granaccia/Garnaccho negro, Garnacha Comun/Garnacha negra/Garnacha Roja is the 2nd most planted black grape in Spain and makes up part of a large percentage of red blends.
  • Other names (of which there are too many to bother making you read) include: Alicant Blau, Aragones, Bois Jaune, Rousillon, etc

Other Locations:  This grape is planted in a lot of places, including Portugal, Israel, Australia (where it is also used to make a port-style wine), and the USA (California, Washington state).  In these cases it’s more likely to be labeled Grenache, or one of the many other synonyms rather than “Cannonau”.

Why so many names?  Well, why do we have so many different words around the world for the color yellow, when it is in theory the same thing, in all its many shades?  Also worth noting: there are many mutations and crossings of Grenache/Cannonau which can be the reason behind a different name, as is the case of Grenache Rose and Grenache gris (which are mutations of Grenache) or Alicante (a crossing of Grenache and Petite Bouschet).

Do they all taste the same?  Wines around the world made from Grenache/Cannonau are all different from each other mainly because most are blends, meaning they are not 100% of this grape and therefore vary in their other grape components.  Dry red wines made of a dominant percentage of Grenache/Cannonau tend to have noticeably similar textures and descriptors for tastes and smells (velvety texture, red fruits).  But when we consider the effect of Terroir (=the combo of the soil, weather, sun, altitude, etc which make a place unique and different from other places), a Grenache-based wine from France cannot possibly taste exactly like a Cannonau from Sardegna.

International Grenache Day is on the third Friday of September every year.  Your local enoteca might have a special tasting event for it, so keep your eyes peeled closer to the date!

Aubrie Talarico

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5 Responses to A Grape By Any Other Name: Cannonau & Grenache

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