Exclusive interview with
Jaysen Collins of JC's Own wines
"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'