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Wednesday 14 September 2022

The secrets of grenache with panache

Grenache is perhaps Australia's most under-rated wine grape variety.

It is such a pity that a juicy, fruity, delicious grape is ignored by many consumers, perhaps because they are not sure what to expect stylistically.

This Friday, September 16, is International Grenache Day and the perfect excuse to get your laughing gear around some grenache with panache.

Yalumba, who produce several fine examples of grenache, combined with Andrew Hardy and his Ox Hardy label for a recent media tasting to showcase the variety and I've also tasted some excellent recent examples from producers including Willunga 500 and Oliver's Taranga.

Other leading producers include Chalk Hill, Chapel Hill, Yangarra Estate, d’Arenberg, Varney Wines and SC Pannell.

In Australia, particularly, grenache seems to be at its best in warmer climes like the Barossa and McLaren Vale.

It is dominant variety in many Southern Rhone wines, particularly in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Grenache, also known as garnacha in Spain, used to be the backbone of many of Australia's best fortified wines; back in the day when we had wines labelled as sherries, ports and tokays.

It is one of the most widely planted red wine varieties in the world but it needs careful work in the vineyard to make sure it is not too high-yielding, given its tendency to become overblown.

Grenache was one of the first varieties planted in South Australia, with plantings in McLaren Vale in the late 1830s and the Barossa in the early 1840s

Here, it is most often seen in GSM blends with shiraz and mourvedre (mataro), but many of the vines have been pulled out. Those that remain are often old and produce intense fruit. Handled correctly, the vines produce wines that are vibrant, aromatic and food friendly.

Yalumba senior winemaker Kevin Glastonbury, and Ox Hardy Wines boss Andrew Hardy agree that grenache is currently riding the success wave of the “the Pinot Noir revolution” with many drinkers looking for red wines of substance that are not too big, or oaky.

One of the keys to "new generation" grenache is picking the fruit before it goes to full ripeness, going for “red fruit rather than towards the black fruit spectrum,” Glastonbury says. "If you lose the fresh acid in grenache, then you lose the magic, because acid is the key.

"There is no doubt that grenache's time has come, particularly when it is made as a more elegant style of wine that is so friendly and drinkable."

Hardy agrees, hailing "lighter, fresher, aromatic and lifted" styles.

Wines tasted were the Yalumba Tri-Centenary Grenache 2019 ($65), Yalumba Vine Vale Grenache 2021 ($40), and two brilliant "value" offerings in Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache 2020 ($28) and Ox Hardy McLaren Vale Grenache 2021 ($38).

Willunga 100 winemaker Skye Salter - who makes outstanding individual vineyard examples from the Trott and Smart vineyards in McLaren Vale - says grenache is "undervalued and underutilised as a stand-alone variety in Australia", adding it is "a variety that never ceases to give me joy."

The Willunga 100 wines are made in tiny quantities and the 2021 wines retail for $55 with the Trott the more elegant style and the Smart a tad more assertive. 

Meanwhile, McLaren Vale’s inaugural Grenache & Gourmet kicks off this month.

The two week-long celebration of the region’s world-class grenache and grenache-blends launches on International Grenache Day and runs through to the Labour Day Long Weekend (1-3 October) with experiences at several wineries and restaurants.

See for details.

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