“It’s a beautiful thing. 96 points.” Gary Walsh, The Wine Front on ’18 Smart
“What a wine! 96 points.” Gary Walsh, The Wine Front on ’18 Old McDonald
I’ve told the story of moving to McLaren Vale in the mid ‘90s and discovering the medium-bodied nature of Grenache countless times. My love for the variety has not diminished, nor has my belief in McLaren Vale Grenache’s place in the line-up of the world’s great varietal wines. Further, I believe it is the variety that best speaks of place in our warm climate by the sea.
But what of my part in bringing that variety to the table? What have I learnt in the last 25 years? There seems to be no end to where Grenache takes me as a winemaker but the more wine I make, the more I understand that to do nothing is the greatest challenge. Gérard Potel, a mentor, once said that it’s a fine line for a winemaker between doing something and doing nothing. For me Grenache best represents that paradigm – but in order to do nothing, the fruit has to be balanced, grown in the right place and managed carefully. Dry-grown, old-vine, carefully managed yields grown by people that care as much as I do: for that I am willing to pay more per tonne.
In the last decade I have purchased 36 French oak vats ranging from 1000 to 9000 litres in capacity. These vats allow me to expand the ‘Potel paradigm’ further. They are my most important winemaking tool. Dramatically reduced oxidation, evaporation and deterioration of sulphur means that we don’t need to add sulphur in nearly the same quantities to preserve the wine or combat potential spoilage. Wines that were once ninety to one hundred parts per million are now up to 30% less at bottling. An unexpected benefit is the preservation of aromatics that would have been previously lost through oxidation and an effect on the tannins that we are yet to truly understand but suspect may be due to the slower ingress of oxygen. The resulting wines are vibrant, energetic and unfurl gradually with air. They speak clearly of their soil and season and demonstrate the potential of McLaren Vale varietal Grenache to age gracefully. – Stephen Pannell
Our 2018 vintage
2018 was a solid year. A vintage without extremes that was kind to both winemakers and vines alike. The fruit had lovely freshness and vivacity, the crops were of an average size and there was consistency throughout, despite the dryness of the soil. Even the winemakers seemed to be enjoying themselves.
2018 S.C. Pannell Smart Vineyard Grenache RRP $62
This is the second release from a 64-year-old, dry-grown, bush-vine vineyard, on the edge of the Clarendon township. The site was planted by Bernie Smart and is managed by his son Wayne. It features Saddleworth formation soils that are up to 750 million years old at an altitude of 230m above sea level. That makes it the highest Grenache vineyard in the Vale on the oldest soils.
Hand-harvested on 14th March, with a Baume of 14.3. Fermented in open top fermenters with just 8 days on skins before gentle pressing with no hard pressings used. Transferred to a 2750L seven-year-old French-oak vat for malolactic fermentation and maturation. Racked once and bottled on the 15th of February 2019. The final alcohol came in at 14.2% with a pH of 3.23 and a TA of 7.4 with 60ppm total sulphur at bottling, 3660 bottles made. – Stephen Pannell
Ripe raspberry, ginger snap biscuits and exotic spice, along with crystallized violet, and roses. Medium-bodied, succulence of deep red fruits, subtle earthiness, swiping left and right with emery board tannin, freshness and vigour, with loads of high pixel tannin teasing out a long, and perfumed chomping-on-a-perfectly-ripe-raspberry finish. It’s a beautiful thing. And I suspect, it will only get better with bottle age. 96 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front May 2020
An outstanding grenache from old bush vines in the Smart Vineyard, perched up on the Clarendon ridge line. This has an edge of white pepper and pomegranate with notes of bright raspberries and fresh leaves. This wine fuses elegance and power with a sleekly defined palate that carries real intensity in 2018. The structure is keenly tailored. Long and taut, red-fruit finish. Drink or hold. 97 points. Nick Stock, JamesSuckling.com May 2020
Deep, dark red/purple colour. The aroma is big, bold and plummy, straightforward and clean, fresh and ripe. The palate is full-bodied and the tannins are firm and assertive, but not astringent. A thread of nervy acidity runs throughout the palate. Young and bolshie, it would benefit from a year or two’s aging. (From 63-year-old bush vines at Clarendon.) 95points. Huon Hooke, The Real Review March 2020
2018 S.C. Pannell Old McDonald Vineyard Grenache RRP $62
The grapes come from a 76-year-old, dry-grown vineyard I have worked with since 2004. It was formerly owned by Duncan McDonald and is now farmed by Matt Hatwell. It features sandy, Eocene-era soils at an altitude of 83m above sea level. I am constantly wowed by the quality of Grenache from this vineyard and the wine it makes. The flavours achieved here are unlike any other vineyard I work with.
The grapes were hand-picked on 4th March 2018, with a Baumé of 13.9. The fruit was fermented in open-top fermenters with 12% whole bunches, and spent a total of 11 days on skins before gentle pressing. No hard pressings were used. The wine was transferred to a nine-year-old 5100-litre French oak vat for malolactic fermentation and maturation. It was racked once and bottled without filtration on 23rd January 2019. The final alcohol came in it 14.5% with a pH of 3.35 and TA of 6.5 with 60ppm total sulphur at bottling. – Stephen Pannell
From a 76-year-old dry-grown vineyard in Blewitt Springs. The old aphorism that says McLaren Vale Grenache is like Burgundy holds some merit, but in the safe and gifted hands of Steve Pannell, they come over more like Barbaresco. Powerful, insistently and delightfully tannic Grenache. It falls more to savoury, earthy and stony, pecans and exotic spice, succulence of fruit reined in by structure and earthy bass. Pumice stone and pomegranate, power and presence. And the finish is a landslide of shale and forest berries. What a wine! Choosing between this and the Smart is sort of like being asked which of my two sons I like best. The answer is, of course, that they are both great, but different. I love youse all. 96 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front May 2020
Very vibrant aromas of purple flowers, blueberries, plums, raspberries, forest wood and bracken, as well as some white-pepper notes. The palate brings a bright, crisp rendition of blueberry and raspberry flavors with a smooth, velvety and crisp feel to the deep, succulent fruit. The firm tannins on the finish reflect the vintage. Drink or hold. 96 points. Nick Stock, JamesSuckling.com May 2020
Deep, youthful red/purple colour. There are cherry liqueur aromas plus some berry jam hints and some spicy, smoky notes, some of it possibly due to charred oak. Developed chaffy aromas after airing. The wine is medium to full-bodied and endowed with abundant tannins. A touch of firmness. A serious grenache, one that will develop well with keeping. (from 76 year-old dry-grown bush vines). 93 points. Huon Hooke, The Real Review March 2020
OTHER GREAT GRENACHE…
2018 S.C. Pannell Basso Garnacha RRP $28
Raspberry, iron-filings, flowers and spice. It’s medium-bodied, juicy and lively, exuberant, but not sweet, with an under-current of ironstone, fine-grained tannin, cranberry acidity, and a musky perfumed finish of solid length, a stroke of emery tannin keeping it neat. It’s flat out delicious. Highly recommended. 92 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front March 2019
2017 S.C. Pannell ‘The Vale’ Shiraz Grenache RRP $39
Such deep and impressive, rich raspberries and blackberries with freshness and red-flower perfume here, in attractive plush style. There’s a very elegant, seamless and deeply spicy feel to this with such effortless depth. A blend of 75% Shiraz and 25% Grenache. Drink or hold. Screw cap. 96 points. Nick Stock, JamesSuckling.com December 2019
2017 S.C. Pannell Smart Grenache RRP $62
From 62-year-old vines on the Smart Vineyard in Clarendon, small-batch open-fermented, no whole bunches, 10 days on skins, 11 months in French oak. This is the bees knees, the bouquet surging from the glass before you have had time to collect your wits, gathering pace on the vibrant palate and lingering aftertaste, the sultry perfume with exotic spices is initially brushed aside by the intensity of the palate where fine but persistent tannins sweep up pomegranate, cherry and wild strawberry as they pass through. 97 points. James Halliday, Halliday Magazine November 2018
2017 S.C. Pannell Old McDonald Grenache RRP $62
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 2018
2015 S.C. Pannell Old McDonald Grenache RRP $62
Red fruits of every description lead the wine out of the glass. Plenty of black cherry too. The colour a bright ruby. The wine is mid-weighted with growing sweetness as bright acidity and fine, sandy tannins propel the wine across the gums and down the throat. Long! The core of this seductive elixir is liquid kirsch, pomegranate and a tang of whole-cluster spice. Plush and hedonistic on one hand; finely tuned, savoury and restrained on the other. 96 points. Ned Goodwin MW Halliday Wine Companion 2018