Grapevine: Enjoy a Grenache
Spain, Italy and France all have claims on making world-class Grenache.
The grape forms the basis for some of the most iconic reds in these countries, but it doesn’t often shine entirely on its own like it does in McLaren Vale.
McLaren Vale is home to some incredible old-vine Grenache, which may not reach the oldest in the world mantle that some vineyards in the Barossa have but are old enough to be at the peak of their potential for quality in the hands of the right growers and producers.
It wasn’t so long ago that the government was providing incentives to rip up Grenache, and many growers took full advantage of what in hindsight was a costly decision.
Over the past decade, a small and growing number of producers began to change their ways, it was only three or four years ago that I attended a masterclass held by passionate Grenache advocates laying out their case for McLaren Vale Grenache and how they may see its star rise in a decade or so.
Here we are, though, just a few years on and interest in Grenache is sky high. Grenache has quickly become one of the most expensive grape varieties to buy for winemakers and is one of the principal tools being used in international markets to show off where Australian wine is at now.
It is the sub-regions of Clarendon and Blewitt Springs further inland that are shining, set at higher altitudes while still getting some of the cooling influence from the coast.
Clarendon tends to be more clay loam, which shows off fuller, juicy fruit flavours, whereas Blewitt Spring tends towards sandier soils producing slightly more aromatic and finely structured wines.
While many growers are exploring the intricacies of each sub-region and even between vineyard sites in their bottled wines, there is still plenty to be said for blends of fruit from multiple sub-regions – each bringing their unique profile that helps to balance the characters from the other constituents.
Many decisions throughout the process have led to the new wave of Grenache that is often a world away from the past. Earlier picking dates changes the fruit spectrum in the final wine as well as the helping to moderate the alcohol levels which in the past have been particularly high and resulted overly ‘boozy’ wines with porty flavours.
The use of older and larger format oak allows for the characters of the grape to shine a little brighter and retain some freshness. The use of whole bunches and longer time on skins again can help to lend freshness and add a savoury component to the flavour spectrum.
Aphelion Confluence Grenache
A blend of two parcels from within the Blewitt Springs sub-region. One is fermented as whole berries resulting in a bright, juicy fruit forward wine showing all the fresh red fruit-sweetness of Grenache along with a whole bunch ferment that lends a more savoury and subtle herb flavour. It’s driven by a fine line of acidity that carries the flavours long through the palate and finishes with a subtle grip of tannin.