Groovy grenache

Winemaker Kym Teusner (Photo: Teusner Wines)

Good grenache has a succulence and softness that should ensure it’s on the menu of wine-lovers far and wide. And yet it’s not. Indeed, the plantings of grenache vines in Australia have been declining in recent times.

Grenache is a grape well-suited to Australian conditions, loving hot and dry climates. It grows well without irrigation in the driest vineyards of the globe, many of which are found in Spain and southern France.

Australia has had grenache in our vineyards since the earliest days of the wine industry, and the vigorous export trade to the UK in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was fuelled by grenache and shiraz-based big reds.

The decline in grenache plantings is probably explained at least in part by the decline in ‘port’ style wines, as these were traditionally made from grenache – especially the wood-aged tawny styles.

In Europe, people have long drunk vast volumes of grenache-based red but without realising it, as the wines bore regional names such as Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

However, grenache is emerging from the shadows in Australia now. Increasingly, top vineyard sites with old bush vines are being isolated and more care is being put into vinifying these wines. We now see producers such as Toby Bekkers marketing a pure grenache wine for AUD $80 (tastings). Another top McLaren Vale winery, Samuel’s Gorge, has long made a pure grenache, and lately released two AUD $65 grenache-based blends under the sub-brands Kaleidoscope and Mosaic.

The Barossa’s Dean Hewitson has been making superb Rhône varietal reds for years and has recently, with the 2014 vintage, re-branded his great value-for-money wine Miss Harry’s, as Harriet’s Blend. This is because, with five grape varieties in the mix (grenache, shiraz, mourvèdre, cinsault, carignan) it had become ridiculous to list them all on the label. The 2014 is especially good and just AUD $25.

Another reliable producer in McLaren Vale is Willunga 100, whose 2015s are well worth chasing down. The regular grenache is just AUD $22 and there are two single vineyard grenaches labelled The Hundred at AUD $30 – one from Clarendon, the other from Blewitt Springs.

My latest grenache and blends tasting includes several fine wines from Yangarra Vineyards (tastings), Coriole (tastings), Pertaringa (tastings) and Schwarz Wine Co (tastings). The latest Richard Hamilton Burton’s Vineyard Grenache 2014 is also a ripper.

Two wines which always show well are the Teusner pair of GSMs, Joshua and Avatar. The Avatar is basically the Joshua with a year or two’s extra ageing. Joshua 2016 (AUD $35) is unwooded, while Avatar is oak-matured and released older. The current Avatar is 2014 (AUD $40). Both are excellent wines.

Equal top wine with the 2015 Bekkers Grenache was the 2013 The Old Faithful Northern Exposure Grenache, a real hum-dinger of a wine.

These are some of the 30 grenaches and grenache blends reviewed in the latest uploads to the app. You’d be mad to miss them.

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