International Grenache Day – what gives? SC Pannell Grenache 2004

So it’s the final day of Landmark.  Yesterday’s sessions on Riesling, Pinot Noir and “Single Vineyards & Sacred Sites -v- Blending” were so fact-filled, the latter provocative, that I’m not even going to try and condense my thoughts into a blog – sorry folks.  Report to follow.

Instead, International Grenache Day (today) is the perfect excuse to talk about Steve Pannell’s wondrous way with Grenache, whether it’s blended with Shiraz or flying solo.  So, OK, he’s making wine in McLaren Vale, which is renowned for its Grenache.  But with Pannell at the helm, in the cockpit (you know what I mean),  fly it does!  It was Pannell who first introduced me to the concept of Grenache as “warm climate Pinot Noir” and, with not an ounce of confection or flab to his wine, just bright red fruits and floral aromas, he’s got a point. 

Pannell joined us for dinner on Wednesday evening, when he showed his maiden 2004 SC Pannell Grenache.  Made from the fruit of 64 year old vines grown on sandy soils, Pannel came to know the vines when he was Chief Winemaker at Hardys/Tintara.  With Grenache, he believes that most of the work to be done is in the vineyard to get even ripening and reduce alcohol levels. 

As for winemaking, McLaren Vale naturally gives a big mid-palate, so Pannell’s approach is to “retard” its natural tendency to fullness by fermenting the wine relatively reductively (rather than oxidatively, which fattens the wine) at temperatures up to 35 degrees.  Only after the malolactic fermentation does it go into large old 500 litre barrels.   It’s a lovely wine, floral, textured and spicy with red fruits, taffeta layers/tannins and good freshness and definition on the finish.  By the way, his McLaren Vale Shiraz Grenache blend is also excellent.  Earlier in the week, the 2008 SC Pannell Shiraz/Grenache blew everyone away with its elegance, structure and line.

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