Grenache and Rhone blends

Grenache and so-called Rhone blends (GSMs) are arguably the most underrated red wines of Australia. They’re certainly among the best value-for-money.

We’re talking reds based on the Southern Rhone Valley varietals grenache, mourvedre (mataro) and shiraz. Grenache, often dubbed the pinot noir of the Rhone, tends to have a lighter colour and less tannin than the S and the M, so these blends can be paler and very soft and approachable young, the moreso the more grenache is in the mix.

Grenache lends a ripe-fruit sweetness and softness, roundness and often a heady alcohol note that mingles with its superripe perfumes to create a very fragrant wine. Grenache is extremely drought and heat tolerant, so it’s well suited to Australia’s hotter sites – and presumably we’ll being seeing more of it if global warming continues.

I’ve loaded about 50 new tasting notes of these wines this month, and predictably the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale stand out, with top producers such as Tim Smith, Alex Head, Stephen (S.C.) Pannell, Yangarra, Tscharke, Hewitson, Chapel Hill and Teusner all producing the goods.

Ulithorne is one that deserves to be better known, and former Chateau Tanunda winemaker Tim Smith’s own-label wines are stand-out buys. Two new labels from Elderton also impressed me, while the best-value wines are undoubtedly Two Hands Brave Faces, Wirra Wirra Original Blend, Vinrock GSM, Tim Smith MGS and Turkey Flat Butchers Block – all from the superb 2012 vintage. And all below $30.

The surprise packet was Clonakilla’s 2011 Ceoltoiri ($36), a GMS blend from Murrumbateman, which is not an area that immediately comes to mind for grenache and mourvedre. It’s beautiful – and different!

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