Grenachey Pair: S.C. Pannell 2020 Single-Site Wines

Grenache has an ability to bear the hardship of a changing Australian climate. Seeing how it handles each season leads me to wonder why Grenache is compared to other varieties, and why isn’t it the other way round?
We’ve often heard the expression ‘warm-climate Pinot Noir’ used to describe Grenache and used ‘pinot-like’ in previous tasting notes. Perhaps it’s Grenache’s medium-bodied nature or the tendency for some winemakers to disguise the variety’s abundance of tannin. Either way, I can no longer agree with the comparison.
For our team, Grenache more closely resembles regal Nebbiolo or ancient Aglianico. All three varieties have highly speculative origins and all three speak clearly of where they are grown rather than how they are made. I believe they are teaching my team and me to make better wine – to spend more time in the vineyard, to do less in the shed, to be patient and let the wine guide us rather than force our will into the bottle. All three varieties encourage us to further explore varietal tannin which we have come to believe moderates the exuberance of Australian red wine.
Patience does not come easily, nor naturally, to me. It’s a valuable trait to learn and treasure. The imminent releases of the single vineyard 2020 Grenaches has taught me a lot about patience. We’ve waited and watched these wines come to life in the bottle and are excited that the time to unveil has finally come. – Stephen Pannell


How best to describe a vintage in a pandemic? Problematic. A dry start to the season with lower-than-expected winter and spring rainfall followed by a day of intense heat right on flowering lead to some early anxiety around yields. Fires and the devastation they bring struck around Christmas 2019 and seeing many of our growers lose their livelihoods weighed heavy as we went into vintage. Thankfully the days got cooler sooner than anticipated allowing long, even ripening. A year to remember and be thankful. – Stephen Pannell


2020 S.C. Pannell Smart Vineyard Grenache RRP $70 
100% Grenache Noir from a 65-year-old, dry-grown, bush-vine vineyard on the edge of Clarendon, farmed by Bernie and Wayne Smart. The fruit was hand-picked on 17th March. Perfect bunches with no shrivel and a Baumé of 13.7. Fermented in an open-top fermenter with daily pumpovers and 10 days on skins before gently pressing; no hard pressings used. Transferred after settling to a nine-year-old, 2800-litre vat and two extra-large puncheons. Racked twice and bottled, without filtration, in late June 2021.
Intensely perfumed, strangely reminiscent of the ’80s. It shows citrus peel, framboise, kirsch, turned rosewood and musk lollies. The palate is a flavour invasion of citrus peel and raspberry, musk lollies, cherry pips, rosewater and exotic spice. It’s composed, juicy and seductive with velvety tannins and a ‘gotcha’ moment on the back-palate that funnels the tannins into a fine point. Achingly long finish. – Stephen Pannell

From a low-yielding vintage, this wine has such a precise and fragrant style with fresh and lively red currant, cranberry, strawberry and raspberry fruit aromas. Berry pastry and Monte Carlo biscuit here too. Vibrant and succulent palate with elegant tension to the fine, long tannins and arrow-like acidity. Raspberry finish. Uplifting and delicious. Drink or hold. Screw cap. 97 points. Nick Stock, October 2021

Perfume and pretty expression with white pepper, sappy green herbs, red cherry/currants, light-fresh feeling frame and a feathery presence of sandy tannin giving shape. Bright and vibrant expression, pure and glides along beautifully. Lovely, finer expression. 95 points. Mike Bennie, The Wine Front March 2022

2020 S.C. Pannell Old McDonald Vineyard Grenache RRP $70
100% Grenache Noir from 78-year-old vines from the Hatwell vineyard, Blewitt Springs. Handpicked on 29th February at a Baumé of 14.0 with an intensity of tannin and flavour that we have come to expect from this block. Fermented in an open-top fermenter with 23% whole clusters, daily pumpovers and 14 days on skins before very gentle pressing with no hard pressings used in the final wine. Transferred to a 4300-litre vat for settling before being racked off lees and sent to a 9-year-old, 2800-litre vat and a 3-year-old 1000-litre vat for maturation. Racked a further two times and bottled without filtration in late   June 2021. Alcohol 14%; pH 3.46; TA 6.1g/L; total sulphur at bottling 55ppm.
Aromas of ripe raspberry, damson plum compote, candlewax and polished exotic wood, red lipstick, dark chocolate, Turkish delight and violets. The palate is a flavour explosion of cherry, cranberry, spice and rose petals. The tannins are like a skeleton holding the flavour together before sneaking back to the front of the palate and starting all over again. Reminiscent of young Nebbiolo. – Stephen Pannell

A rich blueberry fruit nose with violet, dark nectarine and some exotic tamarillo and papaya too. Pungent and distinctive. The palate has a fleshy core of plush fruit with commanding tannins that have so much power and energy but are delivered with grace. The flavours are blood orange, pink grapefruit, goji and red currant and are concentrated to the very end. Refreshing and packed with interest. Drink over the next decade. Screw cap. 98 points. Nick Stock, February 2022

Bright, medium to deep red/purple colour. Red fruits and sweet herb aromas, hints of brandied cherries, the palate full-bodied, deep, and powerful, with a sheen of fine but firm tannins that run the length of the palate. It’s almost luscious in the mouth. A powerful, impressive wine with a very promising future. The tannins are fine, firm and emery-like. Serious potential here. 96 points. Huon Hooke, The Real Review February 2022

A more successful vintage across the elevated sands of Blewitt Springs than Clarendon. Delicious wine. Kirsch, thyme, dried rosemary, lavender, mint and florals, tiptoeing along a balance beam of fibrous tannins and saline freshness. Nothing drying. A squeaky pucker to the finish. Aussie sweet fruit, to be sure. But tamed. Long, flowing, and sandy of aura. Bravo! 95 points. Ned Goodwin MW, Halliday Wine Companion January 2022


2020 S.C. Pannell Basso Garnacha RRP $32
100% Grenache Noir harvested at 13.7 Baumé, fermented in open-top fermenters with daily pumpovers. Some 10 days on skins before gentle pressing, malolactic fermentation followed by maturation in large French oak vats. Racked twice and sent to bottle without filtration on 8th February 2021. Alcohol 14%; pH 3.54; TA 5g/L; total sulphur 27ppm.
A seductive, vibrant perfume of raspberry liqueur, red apple skin, autumn, dark spice and cinnamon. The palate follows through with a berry freshness from red to blue. It’s youthful and magically medium bodied, with tea-like tannins that are super fine and linger, carrying the red fruits. Beautiful. – Stephen Pannell

2018 S.C. Pannell ‘The Vale’ Shiraz Grenache RRP $41
51% Koomilya Shiraz (Upper Tintara); 49% Aldersey Grenache (Seaview). Both parcels hand-picked on 3rd March and co-fermented, spending 8 days on skins before gentle pressing. Malo completed in a French oak puncheon. Twelve months maturation in 2800-litre vats, bottled without fining or filtration in September 2019.

A 51% Shiraz (Koomilya) and 49% Grenache from 45-year-old bush vines grown in the region once commonly known as Seaview. Puncheons and 2800L French oak vats.
Dark berries and raspberry, saline with some orange and dried floral notes. Plenty of nourishing tannin here built into a chocolate and ferrous flavour base. Nutty too, with a dried seaweed character on a long firm finish. Beautifully made, and appropriately named. 94 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front April 2021