It’s an exciting time to be a Grenache maker, and even more exciting to be a Grenache grower. But as the popularity of Grenache increases, I find myself wondering: Does it need to be a ‘session wine’? Have we fully embraced the unique opportunity to make Grenache Australia’s own medium-bodied wine of place from a warm climate?
Varietal wines made from Grenache are a rarity in the wine world. In McLaren Vale this comes down to scarcity, with only 6% of the region planted to the variety. I’m doing my part by replacing old-vine Cabernet Sauvignon with Grenache – taken as cuttings from the Smart vineyard in Clarendon – at Koomilya.
I like the character of Grenache grown on red soils, and can’t wait to see these vines mature. Hopefully more people will take the same chance and the opportunity to learn from people like Bernie Smart. Bernie was responsible for planting many of McLaren Vale’s Grenache gardens and still hand-prunes his magical bush vines at the age of 86.
It is people like the Smarts that we should turn to and celebrate not only their foresight but also their temerity. It becomes increasingly important to acknowledge the wisdom of our forefathers in planting Grenache and looking to their mistakes and successes.
The two wines below are my attempt to claim place over winemaker as the most significant influence over a wine’s quality. All I have to do is continue to eschew the two extremes of sweet and syrupy and under-ripe, tannin-free giggle juice. Truly great Grenache is neither; truly great Grenache has aromatics and texture with vibrance and energy. It unfurls gradually with air and, most importantly, speaks clearly of soil and season. – Stephen Pannell
OUR 2019 VINTAGE
A winemaker’s vintage with every scrap of experience tested and measured. Lower than average winter rainfall set us up for a dry growing season resulting in dramatically reduced yields. In low-yield years acidity is generally good, setting the resulting wines up for stability and long lives. – Stephen Pannell
2019 S.C. Pannell Smart Vineyard Grenache RRP $65
100% Grenache from the Smart Vineyard in Clarendon, farmed by Bernie and Wayne Smart. It’s a southeast-facing slope at 230m above sea level. Soils are up to 750 million years old, Saddleworth Formation – laminated dark grey and green siltstone. These dry-grown bush vines were planted in 1956. Some 5.12 tonnes of fruit were harvested by hand on 16th March 2019.
Fermentation of 100% destemmed fruit took place in open-top stainless-steel pots. The fermenting must was pumped over three to six times per day. The wine spent a total of 12 days on skins. It was matured in a 2800-litre old French oak vat and puncheon. It was racked four times and the only addition was a pinch of sulphur at bottling, which took place on 22nd July 2020. pH 3.62; TA 7.2g/L; alcohol 14.5%; total SO2: 46ppm.
The aromas are bold; there’s no holding back: raspberry, strawberry and blackberry, beeswax, rose petals, citrus rind, mandarin and cumquat perfume. The palate introduces Turkish Delight, musk lollies, rosewater and exotic spice, including mace. It’s exotic. Super-fine tannins make their presence immediately known and carry the amaro flavours on an astonishingly long finish. – Stephen Pannell
Elevated old-vine Clarendon sourcing. Intense aromas of molten cherry liqueur, orange amaro, bergamot and cranberry. A fine vinous pulse, drawing the fore with the aft. Long attenuated filigreed tannins, sandy to be sure, but very fine. This is exceptional Grenache that, with a few others, sets the regional high tone. 96 points. Ned Goodwin MW, Halliday Wine Companion May 2021
So exotic. So much spice and perfume. Cherry and berry pie, apricot, roast beef and roses. Juicy flavour, lots of spice, oranges, dense and tightly wound tannin, citrus peel and zesty tang to acidity, generous flavour but with a bony feel, very long with fresh raspberry and dried herb in the aftertaste. There’s a minor level of warmth here, but nothing of concern. Give it a little more time in bottle, and it will shine like a ruby. 95 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front July 2021
2019 S.C. Pannell Old McDonald Vineyard Grenache RRP $65
100% Grenache from the Hatwell Vineyard in Blewitt Springs, farmed by Matt Hatwell. The southeast-facing slope sits at 80m above sea level. The soils are up to 56 million years old, Blanche Point Formation – glauconitic, fossiliferous, calcareous siltstone over limestone. The dry-grown, wire-trained bush vines were planted in 1943.
Some 5.6 tonnes of Grenache grapes were harvested by hand on 22nd February 2019. The fruit was fermented in open-top stainless-steel pots, with 20% whole clusters included. The fermenting must was pumped over three to six per day, and the wine spent a total of 13 days on skins. It was fermented in a 2800-litre old French oak vat and puncheon. It was racked four times and saw no additions bar a pinch of sulphur at bottling, which took place on 12th December 2020. pH 3.42; TA 7.8g/L; alcohol 14%; total SO2: 38ppm
The aromas are brooding and slow to reveal themselves. You get the full whack of summer fruits including cherry and pomegranate. There’s beeswax candles, orange zest and delicate spice. The palate has flavours of musk, raspberry compote, pomegranate, molasses, terracotta and nori. The texture is all about the bass notes. The soft entry is a ruse, belying the powerful and textured tannins that gradually unfold. The finish is a contradiction with delicate rosewater and salivating length. – Stephen Pannell
Dark cherry, raspberry, liquorice root, clay, and sweet spice. Firm, dried rose perfumed and packed with ripe red fruits and cherry, plenty of stony tannin here, with a sort of pumice stone feel, serious yet charming. a cranberry freshness to acidity, and a long fragrant finish. Quite a wine! 96 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front July 2021