S.C. Pannell’s 2021 Single Vineyard Grenache Release

I am writing to you on the launch of my 2021 Smart Grenache and 2021 Old McDonald Grenache. Setting these wines free is always a moment of great release, and a signal that the current vintage is over. But this year it is not so, and I find myself asking questions: Firstly, will my 43rd vintage ever end? A year of inopportune rain and unseasonal cold culminating in a late harvest, reduced yields and too much time for reflection and contemplation, and amongst the swirl, a second more persistent question: Why do I prefer making Grenache in cooler years? 

The current multi-year La Niña weather system was declared in September 2020. A similar pattern occurred from 2010 to 2011. Knowledge that prepared us for the possibility of a long ripening period in vintage 2021. In warmer years the difference between Grenache wines of distinction and confected lolly water can be just 48 hours. No such thing in 2021 with the luxury of time afforded by a cooler harvest and, with the words of Burgundy legend Gerard Potel ringing in my ears “if you think it’s ripe you’ve missed it”, we nailed the harvest date for all our Grenache vineyards.  

Grenache is the most difficult variety I work with, and that challenge makes it the most rewarding. This year’s finish line is in sight and by the time this reaches intended recipients our Adelaide Hills Protero Nebbiolo will have been harvested and vintage 2023 can be drawn to a close. The cooler years may well be more challenging for the mind than the warmer years, but the resulting wines will always rank amongst my favourites. – Stephen Pannell  

2021 Vintage 

Mostly joyous but not without its challenges. Good winter rain led to strong growth with good cover in the mid row and under vine well into summer. Nervous expectation after two low yielding years muted conversations about the potential for a good year right up until harvest. No disease pressure, good canopies and plentiful bunches lead to a long ripening season. Some varieties tested patience and drew out vintage well in to May. The greatest challenge was having enough hours in the day and people to help with harvesting the plentiful and perfectly ripe fruit. – Stephen Pannell  

The Wines  

2021 S.C. Pannell ‘Smart’ Grenache RRP $80
The fifth release from a 66-year-old, dry-grown, bush-vine vineyard on the edge of the Clarendon township, 230m above sea level facing Southeast, farmed by Bernie and Wayne Smart to whom McLaren Vale owes a debt of gratitude for preserving and persevering with Grenache. Hand-picked on the 17th of March with a Baume of 13.3. Fermented in an open top fermenter with daily pump overs and 10 days on skins before gently pressing with no hard pressings used. Transferred after settling to a 2800L 9-year-old vat and two old puncheons for malolactic fermentation and extended maturation. Racked twice and bottled, without fining or adjustment on the 14th of March 2022. The final alcohol is 13.5% with a PH of 3.3, total acidity of 6.9 and total sulphur at bottling of 50ppm. 

Aromas of frankincense, incense, raspberry leaf tea and orange peel transported some of us to our youth and time spent sitting or kneeling in pews. Pomegranate, persimmon, sage and white pepper, an alpine stream and fresh flowers took others to time spent in mountain air. Aromas and flavours that have the power to transpose time and place. The tannins are coiled and restrained by a corset of acid that releases on the back palate to reveal a bustle of fruit. The texture is polite and restrained but you can’t help but feel an edginess. Its light on its feet, exquisitely balanced, salivatingly moreish and definitively medium bodied. In the words of Stephen Pannell “Geez that’s pretty”. 

Very lithe and fine, pure and frisky, sheathed in silty tannin, juicy in a way and with weight set to medium or just under. Succulent red cherry, brick-ish dusty elements in woody spices and twiggy, dried herbs, a faint fennel note, salted liquorice faintly there. Fragrant too, oh so very much. Savoury scents through with just ripe cherry underlying. That tension is so appealing and refreshing. Compelling drinking.  96 points.  Mike Bennie, The Wine Front 

 2021 S.C. Pannell ‘Old McDonald’ Grenache RRP $80
So good that CellarHand’s Patrick Walsh has this 2021 is his top 5 Australian wines he’s tried EVER! 

Hand harvested on the 25th of February and immediately crushed. Fermented in one stainless steel open-top fermenter with regular pump overs, 20% whole bunch. Left on skins for 15 days before a gentle press. Settled in tank for 20 days before transfer to an old French oak vat for Malolactic fermentation and extended maturation. Racked twice and bottled without fining, filtration, additions, or adjustment on the 13th of December 2021. 
All the Rothko colours all at once and everywhere in your mouth: Ripe red raspberry pushing to black fruits with a bowl of pink watermelon and musk lollies, rose-tinted Turkish delight, dark toffee, brown spice, and shiny black cherry. There’s a push and pull between the dark aromatics and the red fruited palate. Everything left on the table! Generosity, power, grace, perfectly weighted, seductive velvety tannins that have an earthy warmth and are loaded with McLaren Vale sunshine. Width and breadth and length, wow! This vintage’s ‘Old McDonald’ Grenache ranked top Red Wine in James Suckling’s Australian Wine for 2022.  

A gloriously detailed, focussed and concentrated rendition of Grenache, this has a punchy and energetically youthful stance. The nose has such fresh and vivid raspberries and boysenberries, together with some red plums, floral bursts and a gently sappy edge. Such pure fruit here. The palate has a smooth outer layer that glazes compact, fine and layered tannins seamlessly. Super-fresh finish with bright acidity. The fruit power here is supercharged. 99 points. James Suckling, jamessuckling.com