Issue: 90 / Sunday 17 November, 2019
"Trying Grenache could become a
wine lovers next Odyssey"
One of the original grape varieties to be exported to Australia back in the mid-18th century, Grenache has become a lynchpin of Australian wine. Today it’s one of the most widely planted varieties across the world but mainly, and rather unfairly, is known as a workhorse component of the famed GSM blend (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvédre), best known in Southern Rhône but adopted by many Aussie producers due to its natural affinity with warm climates and its ability to retain freshness in these conditions. We take five with one of Australia’s most respected winemakers, Jaysen Collins, who’s tackled Grenache in isolation and with splendid results…
We see a lot of excitement for Grenache in Australia recently. What do you think sparked the hype? Is it here to stay?
I think the hype started with a move to lighter profiled wines and drink now deliciousness. Don’t get me wrong, South Aussie Grenache can pack a punch, but it has a fruit forward, drink now vitality that the market seems to be looking for. It is also so versatile in style – pick it early and get spice and a bit of nervy energy, pick it later and get sweetness and unctuousness - but it always has drinkability. To totally contradict myself, as a ‘hands off’ winemaker, the harvest date, stalks or no stalks, cement tanks, old wood, the list goes on – just a few small decisions early on and Grenache gives a bit of blank canvas for a winemaker to put their stamp on. Grenache is definitely here to stay – I’ve worked with vines planted in 1858 and still going! As we combat climate change in Australia, a drought tolerant, hardy grape like Grenache and its partner Mataro will be mainstays going forward I feel.
Could you describe the distinct differences between the Bluebird, Ferine and Angaston?
Taking from the thread above, I wanted to highlight what I saw in Grenache from a conceptual point of view. I wanted a fun, glugable wine; an aromatic and textural take and then just honouring an awesome old vineyard. Bluebird is destemmed, early picked Grenache from the Adelaide Hills – so a bit cooler, less structure, more fruit-based wine. Picking earlier gives a thicker skin, so a slow ferment and gentle plunging means I can build a slightly savoury component to offset this. Ferine is pretty easy to make – untouched whole bunches in a fermenter, a bit of CO2, lid on and leave it – the ultimate lunchtime wine, as in I don’t have to do anything to it, so I just go to the pub for lunch instead. It’s a Carbonic wine but I do foot tread it at the end, to again build profile on the palate. The Angaston Grenache is my favourite wine at the moment. It’s 150-year-old bush vines on a red sand that collects cool air at night. Hand-picked, whole bunch fermented and just respectfully plunged every now and then. With the stalks and skins in contact with the juice from day one, it builds a structure that sits to support the fruit weight you get from the viticultural history of the vineyard.
What would you say to customers, who have not yet considered venturing into Australian Grenache (or Grenache solo generally), to encourage them? Which wine of yours would you recommend as a perfect starting place to begin that exploration?
I guess with an Old World dominant market like the UK, most people may not know they have had Grenache.
We get a lot of visitors that have tried a really candied Australian Grenache style and tell me they don’t like it, but they love Côte du Rhône, Gigondas or Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Then you explain our labelling differences and the penny drops so to speak. Our Grenache’s are not the same, but with some of the oldest Grenache vines in the world, some ancient soils and some good sunshine, I’d suggest we can offer something different but equally intriguing. As for my style, I’ve sort of unintentionally laid out a path, Bluebird is a great start for pure Grenache joy, Ferine for fruit and structure and if you want to move into something for the cellar or that will sit alongside a special occasion then the Angaston Grenache is the go to.
As we are fast approaching Christmas, what is the dream food pairing for Grenache?
Grenache is also enjoying a bit of its resurgence in that it can go with most foods. In Australia our Christmas is usually damn hot, so it tends to be Riesling and prawns, but when the sun is going down I think simply some left over Christmas Ham or a selection of Charcuterie whilst sipping a lightly chilled Grenache is my idea of a Christmas heaven – and if you happen to doze off it helps avoid the dishes! For the Northern Hemisphere, Grenache can offer a cherry like fruit spectrum, but be savoury as well, so Turkey, cranberry sauce and some good salty roast potatoes and gravy would be on the menu. Outside of the festive season opens all possibilities. We have a lot of Asian influence in Australia and I love some Tea Smoked Duck with Grenache – duck in general I reckon. But, then anything with aromatic spice works - a Lamb Korma, Tagine, Kebab or Massaman curry goes well.
Please feel free to elaborate or discuss other aspects you feel important…
For me Grenache offers versatility. Don’t forget that some of the best Rosé in the south of France is made from Grenache, go a bit further north and then you’ve got icon wines like Rayas. In Spain, Priorat offers some great, firm styles and the highlands around Madrid produce some great examples. Even Sardinia has a go in the volcanic soils with what they call Cannonau – and they live to a ripe old age. In Australia, the Barossa and McLaren Vale have some of the oldest vines in the world and we produce a panoply of styles. So trying Grenache could become a wine lovers next Odyssey, it’d probably be as enjoyable as the well-travelled Pinot Noir and Burgundy journey, but you’d be sure to end up with some funds left over to go to your favourite restaurant at the same time as drinking the wines.
Angaston Foothills Grenache 2017
Gary Walsh (The Wine Front) "Fancy bottle. 100% whole bunches from a vineyard planted over 150 years ago. Spicy, malty, blackberry and raspberry, fresh mint and sage, new leather. Texture is very good here, with a suede-like feel and density to tannin, red and black berries, a chocolate richness, rosy mouth-perfume, choc-cherry in the aftertaste. Comes over almost like a bold Beaujolais, though that’s only meant as an aside, rather than definition. Compelling wine. So nicely done."
Jaysen Collins (winemaker) - "Old vine Barossa Grenache vineyards are a rare treat. Walking amongst the old bush wines gives me such a wonderment of what has transpired in the years gone by to get to this moment in time. It’s like I am breathing the air of times past – it can be truly something quite moving and somewhat magical.
I’ve been working with Barossa Grenache since my first vintage and whilst versatile, it can easily become overly sweet and some people can even call it lolly water. But not this site – no way jose. It gets cool air draining from the Eden Valley across the red sands, so I’ve found it leans more toward complexity and structure, which is what pushes my buttons. How do I treat such a special site – pretty simply is the answer. 100% whole bunches get a foot treading over several weeks, I press it to large oak barrels and bottle it un-fined and unfiltered. That means when I taste this wine I’m still caught up in the magic from the vineyard that has transpired for well over a century. I’ll wipe the tear from my eye as I have another glass."
£28.95 per bottle
Bluebird Grenache 2018
Jaysen Collins (winemaker) - I always get mesmerised when I see a flock of birds floating and drifting in the wind. It brings a sense of freedom and joy to me. I knew the bluebird is the symbol of happiness so I had a concept for the label – I just needed the wine!
So with this idea floating about in my head, I set out to make a great drink that brings a true sense of delight. I found an east facing vineyard in the shallow soils of the Adelaide Hills that just gets the morning sun – no baked flavours here. I got rid of the stalks and just fermented this as whole berries. Just before coffee in the morning and after a cold beer in the afternoon I quickly give it a plunge by hand, nothing too serious or strenuous. It’s bottled early to catch the brightness I’m looking for, meaning it’s dangerously drinkable whenever you need a pick me up.
£21.50 per bottle
Ferine Grenache 2018
Jaysen Collins (winemaker) - "I love Grenache, I love its versatility and its drinkability. I was mostly drawn to getting involved with the process and leaning to more textural, structured and savoury versions. Then one day I got to thinking, what about just doing nothing and let the grapes do the work.
So I chucked a few bins of hand-picked Grenache grapes into a tank with a bit of CO2, sealed the lid and came back several weeks later. When I lifted the lid I was hit with a whole lot of gassy funk, but in a really good way. It was wild and feral but mostly intoxicating. So for a few weeks after I just jumped on top of these bunches, breaking them up, in real terms to build structure, but mostly to get lost in the ferine like smells that filled the air."
£21.50 per bottle
Read JC's story 'From the Barossa & Beyond'
Winemaker at Nocturne
For Alana Langworthy, the significant events happen over multiple states and weeks, so they require some coordinating. “We have a unique festive season in that we’ve got four sets of grandparents - half of them are in Adelaide and the other half are here in the west,” she says. Fortunately, she’s an unflappable character and takes it all in her stride, however, there was one occasion that left her flustered. “The funniest scenario I can recall from this time of year is taking Jules [husband Julian Langworthy, winemaker at Deep Woods Estate and co-founder of Nocturne] to meet my family for the first time. While he comes from a family that loves food and cooking, mine are not that into it. At this lunch, my mother took a store-bought turkey roll straight from the freezer and put it in the over without defrosting it, so it didn’t cook fully, served it up with roast vegetables and then followed it up with a supermarket pudding and custard. Lunch was over in half an hour - I remember being absolutely mortified and thinking, this guy is definitely gone after this visit. As a result, now when we go back to South Australia, we always do the cooking.”
These days, the festivities are usually at Alana and Julian’s place. “We’ve got views over the lake, and there’s plenty of space for the kids to play. We always start with oysters and Champagne, followed by a late lunch that features lots of seafood given our proximity too the ocean in Western Australia, and whatever interesting wines we’ve found along the way. The day then concludes with some competitive card games.”
Bubbly and rosé are regular features of the season. “In the first year of Nocturne, we brought out a magnum of the rosé - being our first release, that was special.” Alana shares.
For the coming events, though, they’ll be mixing things up with crisp Mediterranean whites and bright reds. “We’ve just come back from Lisbon where we were drinking lots of vinho verde with seafood, so we might have that sort of style and maybe some Albariño. We’ll also have Grenache from Yangarra, reds from the Mount Etna region of Italy, and Burgundy from Domaine Dujac.”
Alana says that while they don’t have many “non-drinking friends’, they do make a refreshing lemonade each year for the kids and to keep hydrated. “We have lots of lemons and limes at home, so we mix those ups with sparkling water and sprigs of thyme. With soft drinks you need to offer water as well, whereas this covers all the bases.”
The Langworthy family is heading a little further field for this year’s celebration. “We’re going to a property called Smithbrook in Pemberton, which is about 90 minutes from where we live. It’s this quirky, 1980s brown-brick house with a beautiful vineyard close to Karri forests - it’s a bit like glamping. We’re migrating over there for a few days to chill out. The oven is not brilliant, though, so we’re just going to do a big spread of cold seafood and cured meats.”
Keep it simple
“My best advice for entertaining over the season is not to overcomplicate things! Everyone freaks out about putting on a perfect event, but people aren’t going to remember what the tablecloth looked like, or which silverware you used. What they will remember are the company, food and wine. Go in with an open heart and happy disposition and you’ll have a good time.”
Soumah Equilibrio Pinot Noir 2017
Platinum Medal at Decanter World Wine Awards 2019
& Top Rated Pinot Noir at the 2020 Halliday Wine Companion Awards
98 Points - Stuart McCloskey “A Yarra Valley Pinot Noir of exquisite beauty and delicacy. The bouquet is opulent and invites you into an exotic medley of dark fruits, sous-bois, a flicker of sweetness from dried strawberry, savory herbs and a lovely lift from a floral perfume. The palate is flawless – Not a hair out of place. The tannins melt like sorbet as the red stone fruits wash across your palate. The winemaking is effortless which shows in the finished product. The cohesion is divine, as is the texture. It is important to note this is far from a delicate flower as the fruit and structure are impressive. This will turn all Pinot Noir haters into lovers. An astonishing wine for the price tag and will certainly be high on our ‘2019 wine of the year’ list. So far, one of the best show stopping Yarra Valley Pinot Noir’s I have tasted. Sadly, we are almost sold-out, and it arrived on Friday. Even more alarming is the fact that we will have to wait until the Autumn of 2020 for the 2019 (no ’18 I'm afraid). Drinking beautifully today and I'm not convinced further cellaring will benefit. Let’s test it! Sampled using Zalto’s Burgundy glassware”
97 Points - Decanter "Generous, varietal, savoury and persistent with a bright red fruit and sweet spice perfume and palate. Very bright and harmonious. It's a brilliant wine with sterling development potential."
97 Points - James Halliday "A strictly limited amount of Equilibrio is made each year with the aim of capturing the best pinot noir of the vintage. Here MV6, with splashes of D4V12 and 777 all from the Hexham Vineyard are wild-fermented and matured in French oak (20% new) for 1 year. It is a beautiful wine, lusciously polished and vibrant in its flavour and mouthfeel, bringing red fruits wearing a wreath of foresty spices and superfine tannins."
£35.95 per bottle per bottle
Pooley wines are truly special and one of the leading family-owned wineries in Tasmania, renowned for their exquisite Single Vineyard examples of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. The Cooinda Vale Chardonnay once formed an integral component of the famous Yattarna Chardonnay from Penfolds. Since 2016 Anna Pooley (winemaker) has kept the fruit separate to produce a single expression from this immaculate site. Their Butcher's Hill Chardonnay is another beauty. Similarly, the fruit from this block was once used for Penfold's Yattarna Chardonnay…Pooley’s Pinot Noir’s are pure, impeccably balanced, crystalline and eminently cellar-worthy
Butchers Hill Pinot Noir 2018
Cooinda Vale Pinot Noir 2018
Butchers Hill Chardonnay 2018
Cooinda Vale Chardonnay 2018
Unravelling the story behind the exotically named Soumah, it is in fact an abbreviation of South of Maroondah, hinting its location in the heart of Yarra Valley.Their wines however are far from exotic and instead they brim with a cool climate character and provenance of the majestic Yarra Valley. The perfect state of balance, calmness and composure of Soumah wines are expressed across the range, with the flagship wines receiving a graceful name ‘Equilibrio’. The global press wax lyrical with a strings of medals including the Decanter Gold winning Equilibrio Chardonnay and Decanter Platinum Equilibrio Pinot Noir.
Single Vineyard Hexham Pinot Noir 2018
Single Vineyard Upper Ngumby 2017
Single Vineyard Hexham Chardonnay 2018
Single Vineyard Upper Ngumby 2017
Ben Glaetzer discusses his famous old vine Shiraz, Amon-Ra, and why he refuses to put the prices up despite its popularity…
As featured in The Drinks Business
Speaking to The Drinks Business, Ben explained: “I’m thankful that Amon-Ra has developed a massive following as it sells out pre-release each year – 2017 was fully allocated before I harvested the grapes!
I released the inaugural 2001 vintage at AU$100 and haven’t put the price up since then despite people telling me that I should due to its popularity, limited supply and huge secondary market. I think AU$100 is expensive enough for anyone. I don’t see the need to put my prices up. I made a pact at the beginning to keep them consistent. There’s always the temptation to do it but you lose customer trust that way.”
Glaetzer admitted that he finds the prices Amon-Ra commands on the secondary market “frustrating”, given its $100 release price. “I saw the 2003 vintage at a US retailer recently on sale for US$1,500 and they had apparently sold four bottles of it in the last six weeks. I walked out of the shop and cancelled the retailer’s allocation,” he told db.
The old vine Shiraz grapes used in Amon-Ra are grown on white sand in the Ebenezer sub region of the Barossa Valley, and yield less than a tonne per acre. Just 1,000 cases of the wine are made each year.
“I didn’t want Amon-Ra to be a wine you could stand a spoon in. I don’t like making or drinking those kinds of wines. I want to harness the wine’s concentration but also to make elegant, approachable wines,” Glaetzer said.
**Delivery available for delivery w/c 25th November**
"A profound example of Ebenezer fruit
and skilled winemaking"
Glaetzer Amon Ra Shiraz 2017
Joe Czerwinski (robertparker.com) "A profound example of Ebenezer fruit and skilled winemaking, the 2017 Amon Ra Shiraz is full-bodied and velvety in texture, picking up more nuances the longer it sits in the glass. Floral and mint notes appear on the nose, along with a mix of raspberries, blackberries and baking spices. There's plenty of new oak, but it's been mostly absorbed into the wine, leaving a drink that's rich and sumptuous. And just when you think it's over, a bit of licorice appears on the long finish to add a pleasant finale."
* Only 10 x 6 packs available *
With delivery certainty in mind, please place your order(s)
by 3:00pm Thursday 19 December.
Emergency online orders: 12:00 noon Friday 20 December.
Weekend Shop &
Christmas Opening Hours
Saturday December 7 & 14 - 10:00am to 4:00pm
Saturday December 21 - 9:00am to 5:00pm
December 23 - 9:00am to 5:00pm
Christmas Eve - from 9:00am to 2:00pm
HQ Christmas Hours
(These differ from our shop opening hours).
Our HQ will close from 5:00pm Friday 20 December returning 2 January 2020 (*Telephones & emails will not be staffed during this period).