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International Grenache Day: 32 top Australian Grenache to whet the whistle

Grenache

Old vine Barossa Valley Vine Vale Grenache – the source of An Approach to Relaxation ‘Sucette’ Grenache 2017 – photo credit An Approach to Relaxation

It’s International Grenache Day today. Attesting to the grape’s growing popularity down under (and over here, with exports up of Australian Grenache up 30% to the UK for the year ended June 2018), 16 premium new wave Australian Grenaches were shown at Wine Australia’s Off the Vine tasting yesterday. 

In honour of International Grenache Day, you’ll find below double that number, representing my pick of Australian Grenache wines tasted this year.  Listed by region and producer, please do seek them out!

With Australian winemakers in town, I took the opportunity to find out what lies ahead for Grenache.  Is the future rosy?

Steve Pannell (McLaren Vale) was stoked to hear that his latest 2017 vintage of S C Pannell Old MacDonald Grenache (Blewitt Springs, McLaren Vale) is one of the best wines I’ve tasted this year.  He rates it among the best wines he has ever made and told me he is concerned to protect the variety’s future given Grenache – once Australia’s most planted grape – today represents just 6% of McLaren Vale’s plantings and around 1% of the country’s land under vine.

Together with other leading Grenache players, like d’Arenberg’s Chester Osbourne and Yangarra Estate’s Peter Fraser, Pannell is hunting out the best (heritage) clones to plant.  In line with received wisdom, the best examples of Grenache I’ve tasted hail from McLaren Vale’s and the Barossa’s old bush vines.  So is Pannell planting for his generation or the next?  Though, he joked, it will make him a pariah, the winemaker reckons the old, old vine adage ain’t necessarily so since, with a single crown, old bush vine bunches sit back, which can result in uneven ripening and botrytis.

Pannell has planted Grenache clones from Old MacDonald vineyard in Blewitt Springs and the Smart vineyard in Clarendon (from whence he is producing another single vineyard Grenache).

I’ve been especially excited about 2017 McLaren Vale Grenaches because the very cool, mild year really plays into the new wave (finer boned, fresh and aromatic) style.  So I was delighted to hear that 2018 was also a mild year – “right on the mark,” said Pannell.

Pannell shared with me another secret to new wave Grenache’s freshness – “keeping large volumes throughout its life” which, he explained, reduces oxidation.  You can’t make it like Shiraz (a reductive grape), he added, because “it will fatten or flatten.”

 

Barossa Grenache

Alex MacClelland, Bethany Wines

Bethany Wines Old Vine Grenache 2016 was awarded Wine of Show at the Barossa Wine Show – the first Grenache to hold this distinction.  This week I met with Alex MacClelland, who was appointed Bethany Wine’s Chief Winemaker last year.  His bosses, the Schrapel family, used the plane tickets which came with this coveted award to send him on a Grenache immersion tour in the Rhône, where he has previously worked vintage.  I was interested to know what, if anything, he’d be taking back home.

MacClelland told me he had admired Rhône Grenaches with “a robust tannin profile, but freshness at the core.”   Where, he said, the Barossa delivers “softer, finer, more resolved tannins, which is great for drinkability,” he is playing around with whole bunch ferments and longer macerations better to articulate terroir.  An approach which is readily apparent in new label, Blue Quarry, which majors on his favourite parcel of centenarian vines.  Located on sand over yellow clay, the tannins are grittier – sandy and long.  It is spicier than the trophy winning estate wine (now labelled under a new ‘First Village’ label, pictured below) – savoury, less fruit-driven.

MacClelland was also taken with the use of concrete in the Rhône which he noticed, being inert and less oxidative than oak, lends more focus to Grenache.  Suffice to say, he is returning to the Barossa with a shopping list!  That said, he was equally keen to emphasise that stylistic continuity is the name of the game for the First Village Grenache, which has always been about “honest Grenache-making,” that is to say pale (with no splash of Shiraz to build body and colour), vibrantly-fruited and pretty.  Small wonder given he can’t make enough of it.  Quite the reversal of fortune for this once down trodden grape.  Check out my reviews on Bethany First Village Grenache 2017 & Bethany Blue Quarry Grenache 2017 below.

McLaren Vale Grenache

Ochota Barrels ‘Fugazi’ McLaren Vale Grenache 2017 (Blewitt Springs)

McLaren Vale Grenache

Grenache halo? Taras Ochota, Ochota Barrels

From a Blewitt Springs vineyard planted in 1947 on a ridge of ironstone gravel/red clay.  Naturally fermented, the wine saw around 5% carbonic maceration and spent 90 days on skins with 80% whole bunches.  It was aged in seasoned barriques for 6 months and bottled unfiltered and unfined.  In this cooler vintage, it’s quite a delicate, mineral expression with wilder moss and earth nuances to its sapid red currant and cherry fruit.  Careering the fruit along, ably abetted by fresh acidity, a Spiderman shot web of tannins lends energy and tension to the palate.  Long, very persistent and lively, with exotic hints of lychee and turkish delight.   12.2%  (Tasted at Off the Vine, September)

Jauma ‘Like raindrops’ McLaren Vale Grenache 2017

McLaren Vale Grenache

James Erskine, Jauma – cerebral, but playful Grenache

It was good, at last, to meet James Erskine.  These days all the former sommelier’s wines are preservative free.  They are very accomplished wines.  Unpushed, balanced and pure, with great lightness of being yet wonderful intensity.  He works five Grenache vineyards and this wine is blended from the fruit of three vineyards -28 Road (in the alluvial basin, McLaren Flat), Genovese (Blewitt Springs, white beach sands) and Wood (sandy ironstone ridge, Clarendon) Like Raindrops has an expansive langorous quality.  Long limbed and at ease with itself, it’s a little like Erskine, as you can see from the photo!  Gentle red berry and cherry and plum notes with a seamless riff of coltsfoot – like Blackpool through a stick of rock. Nice lift, spice and persistence, with sweet impressions of fruit and spice to the finish. 13.0%   (Tasted at Off the Vine, September)

 Jauma ‘Lilies single vineyard’ McLaren Vale Grenache 2017 (McLaren Flat)

From McLaren Flat.  Erskine doesn’t make a single vineyard wine every year, but said it was “a no brainer” in 2017, whose cool conditions play perfectly into his style.  From a vineyard which has been organically cultivated for 20 years, the Grenache was planted in the 1940s on deep sands on clay and coverted to trellis in the 1980s. It is quite different from any of the other Grenaches I tasted, with pulsing fruit – mesmerising waves of fresh blackerry and raspberry fruit to the palate, interspersed with striating, sandy tannins which combination holds you in its grip.  14%   (Tasted at Off the Vine, September)

Ministry of Clouds McLaren Vale Grenache 2017 (Blewitt Springs, Clarendon)

McLaren Vale Grenache

Bernice Ong and Julian Forwood of Ministry of Clouds

A blend of old vine vineyards, the oldest dating back to the 1920s.  Lovely chinato herbs to nose and palate.  Reflecting the year, the red cherry fruit is firm, al dente, with lovely freshness, which is underscored by mineral, sandy, grainy tannins.  Long, intense and persistent. Very good. 13.9% (Tasted at Off the Vine, September)

S C Pannell Basso Garnacha 2017 (McLaren Vale)

McLaren Vale Grenache

S C Pannell Basso Garnacha 2017 (McLaren Vale)

Pale crimson, initially a touch reduced on the nose and raspberry-fruited palate, but it soon unwinds, unleashing sweet raspberry cream soda, pronounced Turkish delight, parma violets and bergamot jelly bean lift (classy confectionary), with some zesty orange peel, chinato herbs and lively peppery notes in the background.  Though very much at the lighter end of the medium-bodied spectrum, with a natural sweetness, it has interest, texture and rub – a lick of tannin and spice.  Delicious, sappy, mouth-watering acidity makes for a persistent palate.  Pannell’s tasting note mentions water-melon – yes!  I find blood orange and white pepper-laced ruby grapefruit too.  This vivid, exotic take on McLaren Vale Grenache, ahem Garnacha, was sourced from a dry-grown vineyard pruned to single-bud spurs. The name Basso stems from the low intervention winemaking.  Following minimal pressing, the juice was fermented (including malolactic fermentation) in stainless steel vats, then aged for six months in French oak (seasoned, I’m sure).  It was racked and bottled without filtration.  Liberty Wines, RRP £18.99

S C Pannell Old MacDonald Grenache 2017 (Blewitt Springs)

McLaren Vale Grenache

S C Pannell Old MacDonald Grenache 2017 (Blewitt Springs, McLaren Vale)

I thought it would be tough to outdo the 2012 vintage of Pannell’s top McLaren Vale Grenache, a personal favourite.  The 2017 is mesmerisingly spicier, more savoury, with a unique Australian thumbprint of dusty peppertree – dry twigs and leaves (snap and crackle), which I enjoyed enormously about it.  It’s more Eau de Cologne or aftershave than ‘perfume,’ with Imperial Leather cedar, clove and sandalwood, Mourvedre-like saddle soap/leather and orange peel and vermouth-like herb nuances to its creamy, sweet, yet restrained – very much on the backfoot – red berry and cherry fruit.  Pithy, striated tannins – quite the filigree fretwork – are present but dynamic.  Lingers long and lifted, with peppery grunt, tinder box tension and a persistent undertow of mineral-sluiced acidity.  A triumph!  The grapes were hand harvested early, on 4th March and come from Old MacDonald vineyard’s 75 year old vines in Blewitt Springs. They were fermented in small open-top fermenters with 20% whole bunch. The wine spent 11 days on skins before gentle pressing. It was transferred to a 4,500 litre, eight-year-old French-oak vat for maturation before being bottled without filtration nine months later.  14.5% Liberty Wines, RRP £39.99.

Thistledown Sands of Time Single Vineyard Grenache 2017 (Blewitt Springs)

McLaren Vale Grenache

Thistledown Sands of Time Single Vineyard Grenache 2017 (Blewitt Springs, McLaren Vale)

The fruit for this McLaren Vale Grenache is exclusively sourced from Sue Trott’s 80 year old dry grown vineyard on a ridge of fine Maslin sands.  Located in Blewitt Springs, an elevated sub-region (check out this video of the vineyard), it benefits from cooling Gulf of St Vincent breezes.  I found it quite different from other more aromatic, expressive Blewitt Springs wines I’ve tasted, even Thistledown Vagabond 2016, which came from the same vineyard.  If you like, more introspective – at least at this point in time.   It has a deep set, red cherry and plum nose and palate with ‘skinsy’ (inside of a cherry skin) tannins, a touch salty.  Finely textured and close weave – chamois-like on days two and three – these fruit-driven tannins have a coolness and succulence about them going through, setting them apart from the spicy imprint of oak tannins and mineral rub of sandpapery tannins on the finish.    Tightly held, the fruit cleaves to the palate. On days two and three, it revealed a little more of itself, with crème de mure, pithier pomegranate, medicinal cherry lips, five spice, orange peel and bergamot nuances.  Well structured, with evident power in hand, this cool customer is a sleeper.   I reckon, it will be worth the wait. Thistledown Sands of Time Grenache was naturally fermented in a combination of 50:50 concrete eggs and two ton plastic open fermenters.  With alternate layers of (30%) whole bunch and gently crushed fruit, the egg component is left to ferment with no extraction whatsoever.  “[T]he most intervention it gets is me gently raking the cap to keep it wet,” said Cooke, who rates egg ferments for the “rapier like precision and purity” it imparts to wines.    The open ferments are gently plunged twice a day.  This Grenache was then aged mostly in concrete (two thirds) and new 500l French oak puncheons for 10 months and bottled unfined and unfiltered.   14.5%  It is priced at $70 in Australia – a touch higher than S C Pannell Old MacDonald.  Originally tasted in August and re-tasted yesterday at Tasted at Off the Vine, that deep-set, long-haul quality is emphatic.  I found more dark fruits – blueberry and blackcurrant too.

Aphelion The Confluence Grenache 2017 (Blewitt Springs)

Since I showed this wine at Prowein in March, winemaker Rob Mack was awarded the 2018 Young Gun of Wine award.  The Grenache specialist produces Grenaches in a range of styles, which I wrote about here. The Confluence 2017 is a blend of Grenache from two Blewitt Springs’ vineyards and three different ferments – one element underwent 60% whole berry ferment, another 20% whole bunch and the balance (20%) was macerated on skins for 3 months.  It has a herbal edge to its crunchy, bright red cherry, currant and berry fruit with bouncy peony (whole berry carbonic?) florals and a gentle, mineral, sandpapery rub of tannin to the finish.  Finely honed, with line and lovely persistence, this is an appetising Grenache whose levity utterly belies its 14.7% abv.  I’m not in the least surprised to hear that most of Aphelion’s range goes to the on trade.  Mack currently makes the wines at Haselgrove.  Just 240 dozen bottles were produced under screwcap.  AUS $40.  The Knotted Vine import Aphelion into the UK.

Aphelion Pressings Grenache 2016 (Blewitt Springs)

Husband and wife team Rob & Louise Mack fashioned four different Grenaches from just 1.2t of grapes  hand picked from 80 year old single vineyard bush vines in Blewitt Springs. Pressings is fresh and crunchy, with a tongue-twisting swirl of juicy red fruits, more tactile pomegranate and tart rhubarb.  Undertones of catering chocolate and forest floor, with a fine mesh of tannins.  Lovely energy.  14.5%  Incidentally, Aphelion Sagrantino 2015 is also worth seeking out.  Like the Grenache, it has a spring in its step – a certainly levity and pronounced freshness.  Not one to let its (iron filing tannins) hold it back. Sappy with anise/coltsfoot to its blackberry fruit.  14.5% apiece.  Tasted in January.

Aphelion Berry Grenache 2016 (Blewitt Springs)

The grapes were de-stemmed and fermented to dryness as whole berries.  Free run juice from this ferment was then matured for 9 months in neutral French barriques prior to bottling in December 2016. Unfined & unfiltered.  Lovely delicate spice and florals to its red cherry fruit, with good, crunchy acidity and ripe but present, fine tannins.  Tasted in September 2017 and, like Pressings, imported by The Knotted Vine.  Tasted in January.

Thistledown ‘The Vagabond’ Grenache 2017 (Blewitt Springs)

Classic Blewitt Springs on sand aromatics and sandy, gritty tannins – real pick to the palate.  A lively Grenache, with red fruits and florals, good line and length thanks to those tannins and its fresh acidity. 14.5% (Tasted at Off the Vine, September)

Thistledown The Vagabond Grenache 2016 (Blewitt Springs)

I reviewed this wine in January this year and April 2017 (here); my notes are super-consistent. All Blewitt Springs, from an aged bush vine vineyard on sandy soils at 300m.  Wild fermented, unfined and unfiltered, the grapes underwent a “passive, layered, 35% whole bunch maceration” in concrete egg, spending a total of 4 weeks on skins. Winemaking which accentuates this sub-region’s firm but lifted style.  Lovely purity, freshness and focus of crunchy redcurrant and pomegranate fruit, with fine florals.  Pared back and pretty with a pithy backbone of (skin contact) fine tannins.  Comes in at a lightly worn 14.5%

Thistledown Advance Release Schuller Road Vineyard Grenache 2016 (Blewitt Springs)

The Advance Release wines (new in 2017 and tasted in January) were inspired by Californian producer Ridge’s Advanced Tasting Programme wines.  For Cook, they “provide the opportunity to bring to the market small quantities of wines made from vineyards that we are trialling….each year we trial at least a couple of new sites with a view to either making a single vineyard wine or for them to become a component of another existing wine. The idea being that each year we will have a small number of Advance Release wines, but they are unlikely to be repeated.”  From Blewitt Springs, this 400 bottle release comes from an 80 year old dry grown vineyard on classic sandy soils at a lower elevation than Vagabond – 200m.  It’s quite different, as was the winemaking.  The grapes were de-stemmed, wild fermented in open stainless steel vats where they spent 15 days on skins; it was bottled unfined and unfiltered.  Schuller Road sports juicy black cherry and berry fruit with anise and clove spices. Fresh and sappy going through.  14.5%

Thistledown ‘She’s Electric Old Vine Single Vineyard’ McLaren Vale Grenache 2017

McLaren Vale Grenache

Cooke-ing on Grenache – Thistledown’s Giles Cooke MW is a fan

I tasted the first, 2016 vintage in January (see below).  Thistledown’s co-founder, Giles Cooke MW, says this is the wine that has turned sommeliers’ heads and challenged perceptions about Australian Grenache being sweet and structure-less.  Like the 2016, it’s twangy, as befits the name, with more pronounced whole bunch ferment characters – savoury spice/tobacco and textured tannins.  Pale and interesting.  Young.  13.5% (Tasted at Off the Vine, September)

Thistledown ‘She’s Electric’ Grenache 2016 (Seaview)

The story behind this wine reminded me of a rather more tragic, improbable incident – a case I studied at law school about causation.  Man takes fireworks on train, drops them, fireworks ignite, hitting and felling a clock over the platform, which fells and kills a man.  In this case, a bird which caught fire on a power cable fell to earth, igniting an old vineyard below, half of which was lost in the ensuing conflagration.  This wine comes from the surviving 60-70 year old vines on Jackal Hill Road in the Seaview sub-region on sandy loams, ironstone and quartz.  Also located at 300m this, together with early picked fruit and 50% whole bunch, makes for a good freshness to its scented red berry and sour red cherry fruit.  Compared with Vagabond, Electric Chair has greater texture and layer – a little more crackle and bandwidth.  Savouriness too, with tang and toasty resonance (a bit of v.a., said Thistledown’s co-founder/winemaker Giles Cooke MW).  A really intriguing (in a good way) Grenache, with a dynamic mouthfeel and savoury anise/five spice intensity.  It was naturally open-fermented, with some foot treading then twice daily punch downs, spending three weeks on skins in total.  This unfined/unfiltered Grenache was aged in 300l hogsheads, 25% new. No fining or filtration.  13.5%

Thistledown Advance Release Smart Vineyard Grenache 2016 (Clarendon)

This Grenache, tasted in January, underwent pretty much the same winemaking as Schuller Road, but spent 16 days on skins.  But it’s from another sub-region – Clarendon on clay loam, quartz and ironstone.  It’s a denser fruited wine, with deep seated black and red fruits.  Cooke told me the vineyard “looks a big smug”, with a big canopy and dense fruit.  Elevation of 260m brings succulence to its supple palate.  14%

Vanguardist Wines La Petite Grenache 2017 (Blewitt Springs)

McLaren Vale Grenache

Two Grenaches from Vanguardist Wines

Sourced from three parcels of 50 year old dry grown vines which were fermented every which way (some carbonic/100% whole bunch, some 100% de-stemmed and everything in between) in around a dozen different fermenters.  The wine was aged in old oak barrels.  As ‘Petite’ suggests, this is a fresh and jewel bright, with slurpy soft red berry and cherry fruit and fleeting (subservient to the fruit) leaf and spice notes.  Exuberant. 12.8% (Tasted at Off the Vine, September)

Vanguardist Wines ‘MVG’ Grenache 2016 (Blewitt Springs)

A single vineyard Grenache from the elevated Silvers Sands bush vine vineyard in Blewitt Springs.  It was planted by Robert Rende and his father 47 years ago and has been dry farmed with minimal intervention.  The Vanguardist team are now implementing organic practices in the vineyard.  The fruit is harvested in several picks and fermented in small (1t) batches for comlexity and balance. The fermentation processes differed and included carbonic maceration, partial destem and extended maceration of up to 287 days, with minimal physical extraction.  Each batch was aged separately in a mixture of barriques and puncheons, then blended after about a year and bottled without fining or filtration with minimal SO2 (c. 80PPM).  A deeper hue and spectrum of flavours and layers on the palate, showcasing riper, inky fruit, brooding and intense, with a savoury, kelpy/iodine undertow.  The skin contact (I’m guessing) has produced a certain textural breadth to the tannins – almost a graphite quality – quite different to the sandy, granular tannins I typically find in Blewitt Springs’ Grenache.  This wine most definitely needs food – Alexandra Maurisset suggests duck and I can well imagine it playing well with this wine.   13.7% (Tasted at Off the Vine, September)

Wirra Wirra ‘The Absconder’ Grenache 2016 (McLaren Flat & Onkaparinga Gorge, McLaren Vale)

McLaren Vale Grenache

Wirra Wirra The Absconder 2016

The Absconder was first produced in 2010, when the market was not so receptive to premium Grenache.  Even Wirra Wirra’s own wine club, one of whose number enquired “isn’t that the s**t you blend into Shiraz to get rid of it?” I am glad Wirra Wirra persisted, since The Absconder is a consistently excellent, very nuanced old vine Grenache.  Historically, it has primarily come from a 99 year old vineyard in McLaren Flat – the Blagrove vineyard, whose fruit comprised 95% of this vintage.  In 2017, a cooler year with a longer growing season, it will be the sole source.  As you would expect given its principal source, McLaren Flat (which is lower than Blewitt Springs – Blagrove at 105m – with sandy loam over ironstone soils), The Absconder 2016 is a touch darker and fleshier than the Aphelion, with Imperial Leather embedded spice notes and cooler moss and earth nuances to its silky but well-focused, very fluid, red cherry and berry fruit – lovely fruit intensity.  Going through, immersive tannins break the surface, lending texture and gravitas to a long finish interwoven with savoury old vine nuances and a subtle medicinal note too.   A beautiful example of old vine Grenache (my earlier January note here).  14.5% AUS $70;  imported into the UK by Gonzalez Byass  (Tasted in January and March).

Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard Elder Hill Grenache 2016 (Clarendon, McLaren Vale)

McLaren Vale

Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard Elder Hill Grenache 2016 (Clarendon, McLaren Vale)

This wine’s cool climate Clarendon credentials are immediately apparent in its pronounced violet, even parma violet, florals.  It’s a very juicy wine, with a tight, persistent seam of red currant and berry and creamier, fleshier blackberry which builds in the mouth.  Powdery but prominent tannins lend a bit of chew to the finish, suggesting this wine is built for the longer haul (I’m told it is scheduled for release in June).  Plenty of fruit intensity and structure here – a fretwork of tannins and fresh acidity.  It is, incidentally, the lowest alcohol of those wines shown and was made by Charlie Seppelt and (California-based) Chris Carpenter at Yangarra Estate.  14%  I have no details about the price but note that the other single varietal Hickinbotham releases are AUS $75. (Tasted in March).

Bekkers Grenache 2016 (Blewitt Springs & Kangarilla)

Bekkers Grenache 2016 has a deliciously spicy, very layered, complex nose and palate.  Deeply embedded, its Imperial Leather blend of spices (think sandalwood and anise) and old vine earth/moss notes are, like the Wirra Wirra, superbly integrated into the fabric of this wine. It is an outlier in terms of time in oak, spending significantly longer than the others (17m versus 7.5-11 months) in (500l) seasoned french oak.  It makes for a slightly more emphatic savouriness but, although it has greater concentration and fruit weight, its sleek melange of red and black berry and cherry remains lively and persistent – as lingering as the spice, thanks to palate-cleaving fine, granular, very mineral tannins.  An anchor for the flavours.  This wine won most votes at a tasting of McLaren Vale Grenache which I presented in March this year at Prowein – reported here, where you’ll find more background on the region and all the producers and the wines shown at Prowein this March.  Re-tasted again yesterday, it showed more aromatic (turkish delight) lift but yes, this is a fuller bodied Grenache, sleek, polished and ageworthy.   15%  AUS $80

Kay Bros Amery Road Griffon’s Key Grenache 2016 (Seaview)

This maiden premium Grenache won the inaugural James Halliday Grenache Award 2017 and McLaren Vale’s Best Wine of Show/‘Bushing King’ in 2017.  The site certainly brings a richness and sweetness, a hint of confection even, which connects this Grenache with hedonic ‘old wave’ Grenache.  But it brings juicy, balancing freshness too.  Plus, having spent just 10 months in 500l French oak, the oak does not ratchet up the sweetness factor.   Rather, one experiences great purity of fleshy, but supple, not syrupy, motile red berry fruits on a clean, open-knit palate with savoury riffs of incipient leather.  Svelte.  14.5% AUS $45 (Tasted in March).

Yangarra Estate High Sands Grenache 2015 (Blewitt Springs)

McLaren Vale Grenache

Yangarra Estate High Sands Grenache 2015 (Blewitt Springs, McLaren Vale)

Teensy weensy yields – just 15hl/ha – produced a firm, bright, acid-driven High Sands in 2015, a relatively early, compressed vintage (picked on 3rd March, a fruit day).  Jewell bright, polished and pure red currant, cherry and berry fruit is persistent, almost in a hurry, as if to reflect that compressed vintage.  Teasing savoury, spicy nuances simmer beneath the surface and, doubtless, will be unlocked with time in bottle (or air).  Classic sand-papery tannins ruffle and snag the tongue on the finish.  I’d leave this for five years before broaching it again.  Bristles with potential.  14.5% AUS$140.  Yangarra Estate wines are imported into the UK by Boutinot, who tell me stockists include Noel Young WinesHighbury Vintners & Whole Food Market. You can find my recent note on the terrific 2014 vintage here. (Tasted in March)

Barossa Grenache

Bethany First Village Grenache 2017 (Bethany)

Barossa Grenache

Bethany Wines First Village Grenache 2017

Sourced from 50-80 year old bush vines from the Schrapel family’s vineyards.  Located in the Bethany sub-region on the eastern slopes of the Barossa Ranges, the vineyards face the prevailing weather coming from the west, resulting in increased rainfall catchment and humidity. This aspect and cooling gully breezes – it’s always windy, said MacClelland – make for medium-bodied wines.  The fruit for this wine was hand picked into 2 to 4 tonne grape trailers, then crushed and de-stemmed immediately after the morning harvest. Fermentation on skins using a selected yeast type occurred for 8-9 days at 20-25 degrees to maximise colour and flavour extraction.  A portion was  aged for around seven months in seasoned oak, a portion in stainless steel and a small percentage in new French oak equivalent to 4% of the total blend.   This is a vibrantly fruity, svelte Grenache, with sweet, supple black and red berry, cherry and currant fruit, lifted turkish delight notes and a lick of lightly creamy strawberry soda on the finish.  With soft, talcy tannins, this is a super-approachable, buoyantly fruity Grenache. 14.5% (Tasted in September)

Bethany Blue Quarry Grenache 2017 (Bethany)

Barossa Grenache

Bethany Blue Quarry Grenache 2017

The new Blue Quarry range sits between the Village wines and Bethany’s icon Shirazes.  MacClelland told me this range is all about having a bit of fun, trialling new processes and exploring best parcels.  It underwent the same fermentation process as the Village label.  So what’s the difference?  Because it smells and tastes very different. First, it is mostly comprised of fruit from the centenarian parcel on sandy over yellow clay (the other vineyards two parcels are younger and feature red brown clay over limestone).  Second, it is mostly comprised of the heart of the pressings.  Last but not least, it was aged for a further six months (so 13 months total) with a higher proportion of new oak – 13%.  It’s a deeply savoury, drier-seeming Grenache, spicy with white pepper and earth notes to its fresh, pared back red currant and berry fruit.  Grittier, sandy tannins make for a firm, focused, intense finish.   I wondered if its restrained expression of fruit was partly down to being bottled a few weeks earlier but, for MacClelland, the centenarian vines produced “almost a shell…it looked almost clustery [indeed, I assumed it featured a not insignificant amount of whole bunch ferment].” This is an exciting new Grenache from Bethany; a good foil for the Village classic.  Great work. 14.8% (Tasted in September)

An Approach to Relaxation ‘Sucette’ Barossa Valley Vine Vale Grenache 2017 (Vine Vale)

Barossa Grenache

Richard & Carla Betts of An Approach to Relaxation

I first tasted Sucette in 2015 when I was visiting the Barossa and McLaren Vale in search of new wave Grenache, but this was my first meeting with the thoroughly charming makers. Richard and Carla Betts.  The Americans, both former sommeliers, now live in Amsterdam but the Barossa project has become their all consuming mission.  It includes an outstanding old vine Semillon by the way.  Pure as pure.  Sucette Vine Vale Grenache 2017 is mostly sourced from their own vineyard, the 150+ year old, dry grown Rza Block, situated in the heart of the sandy Vine Vale sub-region.  The small percentage of remaining fruit comes from a highly aromatic 90-year old vineyard a few blocks away.  The couple own 4.5ha and are replanting the 500 odd Rza Block vines that have perished with cuttings from their surviving vines.  They also plan to plant another 4 hectares of Grenache next year.  This is a pretty, silky, perfumed Grenache, with sweet red and blue berry fruits and a beautifully balanced rub of sandy tannins to the finish.    Lithe and immensely likeable, drinkable, with interest and depth.  It was fermented with 25% whole clusters, basket pressed and spent 12 months in old French oak. 850 cases were made.  14.5%  (Tasted at Off the Vine, September)

Tomfoolery Wines ‘Young Blood’ Barossa Valley Grenache 2017

Barossa Grenache

Ben Chipman of Tomfoolery Wines

Sourced from two vineyards in Nurioopta (40 years old) and Lights Pass (58 years old), this Grenache was naturally open fermented with 30% whole bunch in the mix at very cool (for red wine temperatures – between 8-14 degrees centigrade to keep the fruit and aromatics. After 7 days maceration post-ferment, it was gently basket pressed and racked to stainless vats (50%) and old French oak hogsheads (50%) for 6 months maturation.  It’s an exuberant expression of Barossa Grenache with creamy strawberry soda and bouncy red berry fruit.  Going through, the whole bunch notes emerge, adding savoury, medicinal nuances of dried herbs and an attractive, balancing bitter hint of chinato.  A light brush of tannins to the finish gently reminds you that, despite its reputation, Grenache has structure.  Still, this is made for upfront drinking and well executed. 14.3% (Tasted at Off the Vine, September)

Frederick Stevenson ‘Vine Vale’ Barossa Valley Grenache 2017

Barossa Grenache

Steve Crawford a.k.a. Frederick Stevenson

Sourced from 80-130 year old vines and naturally fermented with around 20% whole bunch, this pale garnet, translucent Grenache has a distinct saline and star anise notes to its sweet red cherry and minerals-sluiced palate.  Nice intensity without resorting to flesh and muscle, which is a joyous hallmark of Australian new wave Grenache like those featured in this post.  14.2% (Tasted at Off the Vine, September)

Thistledown Thorny Devil Grenache 2016

In my note from January’s tasting I found this vivid and juicy, with intense fruit, a creamy palate and immersive tannins which gently build on the finish, lending nice structure.  Not the edginess of the Vagabond Grenache from McLaren Vale.  More generous. And so it was yesterday, with fleshy black cherry – generous, say my notes again, but also some intriguing hints of forest floor/savouriness to the tannins.  14.5% (Tasted March and at Off the Vine, September)

Turkey Flat Grenache 2016

An aromatic nose with exotic orange peel and liquorice characters, which follow through on a bouncy palate with carbonic peony lift/buoyancy, sour cherry, a wild, gamy hint and savoury finish with a kick of spiritous alcohol. The wine was fermented with 15% whole bunch with half the remaining stems also included in the ferment. Maturation took place in a combination of neutral oak foudre and 20% second-use Burgundian barrels for 12 months. 15% (Tasted in January)

Clare Valley Grenache

Adelina Grenache 2017 (Clare Valley)

Grenache

Col McBryde of Adelina – a fan of concrete

This wine spent 22 days on skins and is fermented in 2000l and 3500l closed concrete tank. For the first time, it was racked back to concrete tank (as opposed to barrels) for nine months. Ageing it in concrete means it has evolved much slower, said Col McBryde.  As we discussed during my visit in 2015 (reported here), the winemaker is not a fan of whole bunch (“this site is too sandy and the tannins are too aggressive”).  Adelina 2017 Grenache was fermented with 50% whole berries.  Whilst it ticks all the Grenache boxes with its sweet and silky red cherry and berry fruit and gently savoury, earthy old vine nuances, it has a measure of restraint about it.  A sweep of fine, rising tannins suggests this wine will age very well.  Lovely poise and persistence.  13.8% (Tasted at Off the Vine, September)

Riverland Grenache

Gorgeous Old Vine Small Batch Grenache 2017 (Riverland)

Heading north of the Barossa, this Grenache comes from 50 year old Riverland  vines.  Cooke and his winemaker partner, Fergal Tynan MW, are hunting down old vine material in the Riverland with Ashley Ratcliffe of Ricca Terra farm, who is consulting for Thistledown, mapping out the old vine plots and helping manage the growers and harvest. Cooke told me “[O]ur intention is to try and provide an incentive for the oldest plots in the Riverland to be kept in the ground whilst providing the growers with a more sustainable income from that fruit. In return we get genuinely old vine fruit (35 years or older) that we process in the Adelaide Hills using many of the same techniques as we use for the premium fruit of McLaren Vale and Barossa. This allows us to produce wines made in the same, delicious Pinot like style but at a more affordable price which hopefully brings more people in to the Grenache category, some of whom will also want to try our more premium offerings.” Gorgeous Grenache comes from a 50 year old vineyard in Berri.  Though pale, it’s fruitier than its colour suggests, with buoyant but not sweet berry and cherry fruit thanks to 30% whole bunch ferment, wild ferment and ageing in seasoned oak.  Marks & Spencer £10.  (Tasted in January)

 

 

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