How do you know if it’s Grenache in a blind tasting?


First, a short explanation on the meaning of blind tasting. According to Wikepedia “To ensure impartial judgment of a wine, it should be served blind — that is, without the taster(s) having seen the label or bottle shape. Blind tasting may also involve serving the wine from a black wine glass to mask the color of the wine. A taster’s judgment can be prejudiced by knowing details of a wine, such as geographic origin, price, reputation, color, or other considerations.”

Our purposes are a little different than this. We, as Masters of Wine students, need to pass the practical part of the exam (the other ones being theory and dissertation). This part of the exam is nothing more than a blind tasting with questions about the wines. Patrick Farrell MD, MW and… #winelover (and my mentor) describes what we are expected to identify: “variety, origin, climate, style, production technique, quality level, age and maturation, vintage, and such technical matters as levels of alcohol, acidity, and residual sugar”.

To pass the exams there are three 12-wine blind tastings (red wine tasting, white wine tasting, and “whatever” wine tasting = sparkling, sweet, rosé, and fortified wines), each lasting two and a quarter hours.

Today is #GrenacheDay and, of course, we need to focus on the Grenache grape. How do you that what you have in your glass is Grenache? Or, how do you know that (if the wine is a blend) one of the grape varieties is Grenache?



In most wines (like this one above) from Southern Rhône, Grenache is the dominant grape variety.

  • The wines made from the Grenache grape are generally spicy, berry-flavored and soft on the palate with a relatively high alcohol content.
  • If it comes from a cool climate (or a cool vintage), you should expect to find aromas and flavors of herbs, strawberry, raspberry, white pepper, redcurrant, and bilberry. A mineral note is very likely to be present as well.
  • If it comes from a warm climate (or a warm vintage), expect aromas of blackberry, boisenberry, dark berries, cherry, plum, lavender, kirsch, olive, orange peel, licorice, prune,  and rosemary. The wines will be very fruity and even jammy!
  • Grenache wines aged in new oak, most likely will display notes of cloves, leather, game, dried fruit, meat, tobacco, smoke, and toffee.
  • Expect the wines from the “Old World” to be peppery. The ones from the “New World” to be fruity.
  • The color of the wine is generally a pale ruby red and it will change within 3 to 5 years from the vintage. The acidity is relatively low, while the alcohol is high to very high. The tannins are low and supple.
  • The high sugar levels of Grenache make leads to the use of this grape variety in fortified wines. Red vins doux naturels of Roussillon and most Australian fortified wine are classical examples. Remember that when you have fortified wine in your glass!



“Don’t Forget To Have Fun!
Having Fun, Even When Wrong, And, Better Yet, While Learning From Your Mistakes, Is Half The Battle.”

Patrick Farrell MD, MW and… #winelover


Luiz Alberto, #winelover & #grenachelover


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3 Responses to How do you know if it’s Grenache in a blind tasting?

  1. Chile Copa de Vino September 24, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    Don’t forget the Aussie carbonic style, it was on my WSET Diploma tasting exam…………….

  2. Lope November 16, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    Just getting into wine tasting and this is very helpful. Also like the idea of a black wine glass. Thanks!


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