International Grenache Day 2022 is September 16th. I had to Google that, because all I had written down was ‘late September’. And after tasting through the bracket of Grenache below, I thought, ‘fuck it, I’m not waiting that long’.
I’m impatient because these are wines to shout about. Four celebrations of just how delicious Australian Grenache can be. An illustration of how far Grenache has come in the last ten to fifteen years, rising from ‘blending grape and port backbone’ to ‘fashionable warm climate Pinot contender’.
I’m not alone in believing that Grenache is on the rise. This week, in a high-quality masterclass put on by Yalumba, winemaker Kevin Glastonbury revealed that the winery have been planting Grenache at sites across the Barossa. They’re also pulling fruit out of the GSM blends to make more straight Grenache, such is the rise in demand.
Andrew ‘Ox’ Hardy was also on the panel and described that he has just replanted Grenache in his family’s old Upper Tintara vineyard in McLaren Vale. Of course, not everyone is going to like that, with Ox noting that ‘his father would rise back out of his gave knowing that’, especially given that Hardy senior had spent decades ripping out Grenache (and replacing it with Shiraz).
Everything old is new again.
Now, on the upper sections of the Upper Tintara Vineyard, Grenache is going back in on the sandiest soils. Grenache loves a bit of sand!
Looking at the purity and lusciousness of Andrew’s Grenache below, I don’t blame him. There’s that sensation of ’round peg in a round hole’ suitability when you taste a wine made from the correct variety for a site, and that Grenache is spot on. More, please.
The real honours I’ll reserve for a wine, not in the masterclass, but one of the recent Yangarra releases. For anyone interested in what Grenache can taste like when treated like an exalted god, the Yangarra Grenache below is special. It feels of another realm – one where additions like sulphur or enzyme or even yeast are not required, and you get an unspoken connection between vineyard and winemaker. What a delight.
Ox Hardy Grenache 2021
Made from handpicked fruit from several older vineyards in McLaren Vale. 10% whole bunches included in the ferment, the wine matured for 6 months in old oak. Wow, the lucid raspberry fruit – is delicious. So open and honest,mouthfilling and bright. Juicy raspberry and cherry pith, perfectly ripe and honest. It’s a fruit wine, medium-bodied, Pinot-esque, just a smidgen simple (and I wouldn’t mind a little more tannin), but gee the intense fruit expression is moreish and delicious, with enough acidity for honesty and excellent balance. Bloody well done. Best drinking: good now, no hurry, though. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14.5%, $38. Ox Hardy website. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Yalumba Vine Vale Grenache 2021
A great vintage for this wine. One of the absolute best. Fascinating to try next to the Ox Hardy above. This isn’t quite as come hither in its silken mouthfeel, instead trading in more structuring. Still, it’s open, ripe, red-fruited, with some of that playdoh and raspberry of ripe year Grenache, along with deeper tones of new leather, something stemmy, rhubarb and fennel. Just a fraction warm to finish, but no doubting that it’s part of the story. It’s a more complex wine than the Ox Hardy – less pure, more undergrowth, more acidity and moodiness. It all contributes to a wine of significance – a complete Grenache. Best drinking: good now, good in five years’ time. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14%, $40. Yalumba website. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Yalumba Tri-Centenary Grenache 2019
In recent years, this red – the pinnacle of the Yalumba Grenache range – has had a fascinating evolution. It has gone from a wine matured with barrels as a focus to a wine matured with skin contact as a focus. As Kevin points out, they just don’t use small, new oak with Grenache anymore. In fact, this 2019 version spent 249 days on skins (in tank) in the quest for ever more complexity. That’s not unusual compared to the Yangarra Ovitelli, perhaps, but it is a step away from convention (in a good way). This 2019 release still feels formative too – much less opulent and open as either wine above, but with more to come. Some x-factor. Rhubarb and raspberry, dried raspberry, something pretty. After all that it’s quite mellow – moderate, a roundness of raspberry through the middle before the acidity kicks in. It’s a soft and round wine (besides the acidity) and open and easy, yet there is nuances – something more meaty and firm in there to finish as well. Smashability? Not quite in the same realm. Interest for now and the future? Sky high. Best drinking: worth a wait. I think it needs even more time to get the palate in order. Two years maybe? Probably best you try and make your own choice when to drink this. 18/20, 93/100+. %?, $65. Yalumba website. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
Yangarra Hickinbotham Grenache 2020
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