What a pleasure to watch the continued evolution of Australian Grenache.
No longer just a blending component, or the bridesmaid, on the undercard. Australian Grenache in 2021 is now the main event.
Most importantly, good Grenache in Australia is following a Pinot trajectory, with ever more vitality. Less oak, less ripeness, more whole berries and bunches, more fun.
I’m all for it.
This smorgasbord of 10 Barossan/McLaren Vale Grenache (and blends) presents a pretty neat collection of quality wines too. Perhaps most importantly, they’re almost universally approachable drinks, with fruit to the fore and artifice largely in the back seat.
And would you look at the prices! Despite many of these wines being sourced from the cream of old vine McLaren Vale & Barossa vineyards, they’re dirt cheap (in context).
Here then are 10 of spring’s best Grenache & Blends (2021 edition).
Juxtaposed Old Vine Grenache 2020
Wes Pearson’s McLaren Vale wines have long been favourites in the Graham house, and this feels like the most grown-up release yet. A long way from the upside down Dodgy Bros labels! From the Wait Vineyard in Blewitt Springs & Smart Vineyard in Clarendon, there’s an interplay of tiny crops delivering excellent concentration. Lipstick, red fruits, chewy tannins for Grenache, a sense of purpose. This is more concentrated, more guttural this vintage yet still has a perfume to it – no cloaking the gentle red fruit that is just excellent. A super wine and looked even better on day two. Best drinking: now and for a good decade. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14.3%, $37. Dodgy Bros website. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Varney Wines GSM 2019
Another winemaker with a deft touch for McLaren Vale reds, and a king of approachability. This Vale Grenache includes 15% whole bunches, some carbonic maceration, some foot treading, with some parcels spending a longer time on skins. A bit of everything. 10 months in older oak. 45% Grenache, 30% Shiraz, 25% Mourvedre. Dark berries are king here – to the point where you expect more Shiraz in the mix. Meaty and vaguely earthen too, with some of the tilled black earth character that d’Arenberg gets. Lovely tannins for that matter too. So much more molten and dark than Alan’s other reds. Long, expressive, mid-weight yet hinting at more too – this is quite some wine. Best drinking: good now, and for a decade. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14%, $32. Varney website. Would I buy it? A bargain. Yes.
The Other Wine Co. Grenache 2020
Previous vintages of this McLaren Vale red have looked a little light on, but the 2020 iteration is lovely. Bright and lively with lucid red fruit, but with more tannins and more presence than you’d expect. It nails that balance of fruit and structure, and showcases the old vine Blewitt Springs fruit nicely. Best drinking: good now and for the next five years easy. 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%, $27. The Other Wine Co. Website. Would I buy it? Shit yes.
Varney Wines Grenache 2021
From two old bush vine blocks at Blewitt Springs and Seaview. 50% whole bunches, spends 6 months in old oak. 100 dozen produced. Bright ruby-purple. Jubey, the carbonic-lifted red raspberry nose of untamed purity. The palate is a delight – unadulterated red fruit, but with fine-grained tannins too. Utterly smashable and yet serious. A real languid generosity here – it’s even quite floral. Just delicious drink-me-now stuff. Best drinking: now, though no chance of it falling over for the near future at least. 18/20, 93/100. 13.8%, $35. Varney website. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle.
Yalumba Vine Vale Grenache 2019
Controversial, perhaps, but I think Yalumba’s suite of Barossan Grenache is even more impressive than their Barossan Shiraz. This comes from the hamlet of Vine Vale and it’s a wonderfully varietal winner. Juicy, berried, bright red fruit with the zing of carbonic maceration and spice of whole bunches. It sings with minimal oak, pristine fruit and subtler shifts of meat and cloves to add shade to the brightness. Bright, shiny, and very drinkable, yet not shallow at all – it’s easy to miss the fruit depth here. Nice wine. Best drinking: now and for a decade. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $40. Yalumba website. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Chapel Hill 1948 Grenache 2020
A celebration of the oldest Chapel Hill vines in McLaren Vale. It’s a robust Grenache too, in the house style, with concentrated dried, berry fruits, furry tannins and a dense and compact profile. It’s a bit burly, especially compared to the lighter styles in this collection, with firm extraction and warmish alcohol – black rather than red fruits. Yet it still pays homage to the old vine Grenache and I can admire the shape and the concentration. Would it have been a better wine picked a little earlier and treated with a lighter touch in the winery? That’s the question. Best drinking: now and for at least a decade, likely much more. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14.5%, $65. Chapel Hill website. Would I buy it? Just a glass.
Yangarra Old Vine Grenache 2020
This collection wouldn’t be complete without at least one Yangarra Grenache, although I’ve covered the big dog releases from this McLaren Vale high flyer a month or so back. This is a deep, moody, quintessentially savoury release of the ‘standard’ Grenache too, maybe to the point of being unapproachable. All sourced from the 70-year-old bush vines, with open ferment and typically extended macerations. Matured in older oak and amphora. Despite the whispers of purple colour, this pitches with blood and bone and dark earth, the fruit more mulberry, the tannins rough-edged and a little astringent. I admire the concentration and power here, even if it’s hardly an easy wine, with all the notes of extended maceration giving this serious structural bite, but at the cost of some fruit expression. Best drinking: I’d consider giving this at least 12 months to come together. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $42. Yangarra website. Would I buy it? A glass or two for now.
Paisley Turntable GMS 2019
The commercial appeal is sky high with these old school, slightly oak-forward and generous Paisley wines. They don’t lack substance and are well-priced. This Barossan red is 65% Grenache, 25% Mataro 10% Shiraz. Rich, with toasty wood that leads into ripe red fruit. Mid weight, but leads with chunky red fruit flavour, even if it’s a bit blunt/tart to finish. Good. Best drinking: good now, likely even better in two or three years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14.5%, $25. Paisley Wines website. Would I buy it? A glass.
Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache 2019
Maximum drinkability again here. A juicy, red-fruited, light Barossan red. There’s a vanilla bean flourish on the nose, but that’s the only oak influence. Otherwise, it’s all languid raspberry Grenache fruit with almost spritzy vibrancy and fine fruit tannins. Not wildly complex. Simple Grenache, unadorned (and delicious). Best drinking: good now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, $28. Yalumba website. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
Varney Wines Entrada GMT 2020
Fun packaging and a very fun entry point to the Varney range. Early picked fruit, some whole bunches, the wine matured in old oak. A blend of 45% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 25% Touriga, all Mclaren Vale, and 265 dozen produced. Light ruby coloured – it could almost be Pinot, except it’s too red. Bright, crunchy lofted red fruit with some carbonic bubblegum. It’s very Booj like really. Light, lithe, plenty of acidity. A little bit of fur to those tannins too. It’s a fraction lean, although that’s the vibe. Vibrancy is sky high too. Crunchy drinking red wine. Best drinking: good now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.1%, $25. Varney website. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle.
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