“Beguiling – that’s probably the word that sums it up,” says Stephen Pannell of a grape variety with which he is, he confesses, obsessed. The beneficiary of this obsession is the winelover, with the S.C. Pannell range spanning several guises of Grenache – from rosé and the natural-feeling, super-slurpable Basso, via a traditional McLaren Vale blend and Mediterranean-inspired assemblage, right up to single-site expressions with exceptional transparency and definition.
Such faith in the grape is rarer than you might think; despite Grenache’s versatility and universal appeal, it accounts for just 6% of plantings in McLaren Vale (and even less in the Barossa).
“I think it’s come into its own now that many people have ceased making wine as a status symbol, instead growing it essentially as a food. Grenache grows well here and suits our way of life – which is not unreasonable when you think of where it originates from, in Sardinia or Spain.”
A notable addition to S.C. Pannell’s colourful palette of Grenache is the 2017 Basso, which just cleaned up at the Royal Queensland Food & Wine Show, taking out three trophies including Best Red Wine of Show. “The idea for Basso has been bubbling away for a few years,” says Steve of this ultra-low sulphur, unfined and unfiltered number. This was a chance to marry Pannell principles – joyful-drinking wines of character and complexity – with the vibe of the natural wine scene.
At the other end of the spectrum, the same harvest spawned a second top-tier, single-vineyard old-vine Grenache. The Smart Vineyard of Clarendon appears in mesmerising contrast to the Old McDonald offering from Blewitt Springs. “2017 was a really good year to put stake in the ground and showcase what Grenache can do,” says Steve.
Diverse but uniformly distinguished, the results are in – and they’re quite something to savour.
2017 S.C. Pannell Àrido Rosé McLaren Vale RRP $27
The 2017 vintage was a very cool, mild and stress-free occasion for vines, not winemakers! Good winter and spring rains were followed by a very mild, long summer. The results are wines with ample fruit complexity and great natural acidity. Most importantly however is the delicious fruit freshness. Highly-perfumed with aromas of rose, strawberry, blood orange and Campari. A pink white-wine rather than a light red. The palate is immediate, with balanced acidity and a driving finish beckoning for the second sip. – Stephen Pannell
2017 S.C. Pannell Basso Garnacha McLaren Vale RRP $28
Best Red Wine of Show – Royal Queensland Food & Wine Show
Best Grenache, Rhône Varietal or Rhône blend – Royal Queensland Food & Wine Show
Stodart Trophy for Best Young Red Table Wine – Royal Queensland Food & Wine Show
100% Grenache from Blewitt Springs and McLaren Vale. Hand harvested at 13.5 Baumé. Free run juice with minimal pressings vinified, with malolactic fermentation in stainless steel and only 25ppm liquid sulphur dioxide added through the process. Raised in 2500L French vats for six months, racked and sent to bottle without filtration. – Stephen Pannell
This is Pannell’s take on a modern Grenache, which is sourced from McLaren Vale. It’s designed as an early release and has no filtration at bottling. It’s a beautifully seductive expression of Grenache, with perfumes on the nose and succulent medium-bodied fruit right on the palate. So, so good for current drinking. 93 points. Ray Jordan, The West Australian February 2018
2016 S.C. Pannell Grenache Shiraz Touriga McLaren Vale RRP $31
Steve blended the 2016 GST on 26th April 2016 and it drank well straight out of the tank. Fruit ripeness and flavours are good but the highlight to the 2016 reds – especially GST – are the beautiful tannins. The blend itself has the most Grenache and the least Touriga Nacional of the previous releases.
Steve Pannell has always aimed at that indefinable “drinkability” factor in his wine, so open this for an hour or so before drinking. Then you’ll see the best of this: the earth, blood and stone characters of the Grenache (54%) revealing themselves as higher notes of violets and pleasing wafts of darker exotic spices lift from the glass before you sip in the sticky, dark cherry-like juices. 4/5 stars. Tony Love, Herald Sun November 2017
2016 S.C. Pannell ‘The Vale’ McLaren Vale RRP $39
This comprises 70% Grenache (74-year-old vines on the Old McDonald site in McLaren Vale) and 30% Shiraz (from our Koomilya site in McLaren Vale). The Grenache spent 13 days on skins while the Shiraz spent 16 days. Blended in February 2017 and bottled on 26th June 2017. The Grenache was aged in a 5000-litre French vat and the Shiraz in 4-year-old+ French puncheons before being blended back to vats and settled for four months before bottling. Alcohol 14.7%; pH 3.48; TA 6g/L. – Stephen Pannell
This is a blend of Shiraz and Grenache from McLaren Vale. It’s smooth and medium-bodied, with Grenache dominant. The lifted perfumes of rose petal and spicy plum are alluring. The palate is seamlessly structured, with smooth tannin integration and subtle oak – the result of the use of a very big 5000L French oak vat. Super stuff. 95 points. Ray Jordan, The West Australian February 2018
2017 S.C. Pannell Smart Grenache Clarendon, McLaren Vale RRP $62
100% Grenache from 62-year-old vines on the Smart Vineyard, Clarendon. Hand-harvested on 11th March, traditionally vinified in small, open-top fermenters with no whole bunches. Spent 10 days on skins before gentle pressing and transferred to a 2500-litre, six-year-old French-oak vat and four-year-old French oak puncheons for maturation before being bottled without filtration or fining 11 months later. Alcohol 14.2%; pH 3.39; TA 6.3g/L. – Stephen Pannell
A finer boned, musky and spicy expression of Grenache here. It’s medium bodied, almost strict in structure, with firm dry tannin, pitch-perfect acidity giving energy, fresh raspberry and something like black tea, or that elusive ‘mineral’ thing, a pleasant perfumed herb character as a counterpoint, and a crisp and very long finish, closing with gustatory tannin and subtle bitterness. Wow. 96 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front May 2018
2017 S.C. Pannell Old McDonald Grenache Blewitt Springs, McLaren Vale RRP $62
100% Grenache from 75-year-old vines from the Old McDonald vineyard in Blewitt Springs. Perfect bunches were hand-harvested on 4th March, early for Grenache. Traditionally vinified in small open-top fermenters with 20% whole bunches. Eleven days on skins before gentle pressing. Transferred to a 4500-litre, eight-year-old French-oak vat for maturation before being bottled without filtration nine months later. Alcohol 14.5%; pH 3.62; TA 5.7g/L. – Stephen Pannell
It’s pretty, kind of rosy in perfume, a little bit juicy, but also dry and beautifully structured. There’s fine insistent tannin giving it shape and texture, almost to Nebbiolo character with its gentle brick dust grip, red fruit and cherry, a layer of spice, new leather and scrub herb, and a long cool, composed finish. Flat out beautiful. Succulence with a serious nature. Bravo. 96 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front May