The Long Voyage Of Grenache
From Cape St Vincent, Oporto
To Gulf St Vincent, South Oz
by PHILIP WHITE
HIGH SANDS GRENACHE 'CAVIAR' AFTER THE SORTING PROCESS
The first International Grenache Day passed in September.
CABO DE SÃO VICENTE, ON PORTUGAL'S VINCENTINE COAST, SIMILAR IN MANY WAYS TO THE CAPE JARVIS, ON SOUTH AUSTRALIA'S GULF St. VINCENT
St Vincent is the patron of viticulturers; around his Cabo sailed wine shippers for centuries, taking wine to England. Outnumbered two-to-one, John “Old Jarvie” Jarvis (below right), a patron of Lord Nelson and Matthew Flinders, thrashed the Spanish navy off its waters in 1797, and was so awarded the title Earl St Vincent. Flinders named our Gulf St Vincent and Cape Jarvis after him.
When the big English wine families began to turn their home table habit into a booming intoxicant industry, it soon became apparent that fortified wine was much easier to make and store, and provided significantly louder bang for the buck than effete table wines. Grenache was handy, as it made fine port for the mob as well as lighter, drier table wine for the odd posh table.
CHATEAU TANUNDA, BAROSSA, WHERE TIM SMITH MADE THE THE EVEREST BAROSSA GRENACHE 2008, WINNER OF THE WORLD'S BEST GRENACHE AT THE LONDON INTERNATIONAL WINE AND SPIRIT CHALLENGE, 2010
McLaren Vale, with its more Mediterranean levels of humidity, seems to make a softer, more silky and soulful type of Grenache along the lines of the sunny south of France. These are perhaps best studied through the new set of Cadenzia wines, which are Grenache, or Grenache-based, and made by six rival producers who work together in this scheme.
1946 PLANTINGS OF UNIRRIGATED GRENACHE ON THE YANGARRA HIGH SANDS VINEYARD, McLAREN VALE photo STACEY POTHOVEN
If you prefer a cheeky, Pinot-style fruit wine, commence with the Dog Ridge 2008 (88 points), which has more dusty terroir tones than past efforts, in a veritable puddle of those two cherry types. Samuel’s Gorge 2008 (85 points) is a more autumnal wine, with vegetal tones and alluring orange chocolate. Of the three straight Grenache Cadenzias, the Oliver’s Taranga 2008 (91 points) is the most feistily complex and bristly, with its carbide, cordite and blackpepper edge.
SPEAKING OF BEAUTIES, AND THE SMELL OF AUSTRALIA, d'ARENBERG'S CHESTER OSBORN, LEFT, HAS HALF A DOZEN GRENACHE-BASED PRODUCTS
A friend, Davy Dowie, had recently returned by ship from Macquarie Island, where he’d worked for eighteen months, way down on the edge of the Antarctic. They were still some hundred kays off the south coast of Tasmania when they suddenly realized they could smell Australia: that sweet, minty whiff of eucalyptus.
OLD VINES AT CHATEAU RAYAS IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE
We hit the eucalypt big time in the Greenock Creek Cornerstone Grenache 2008 (90 points), along with all those confectioners’ sugars and estery components typical of that tiny old vineyard on Roennfeldt’s Road. Tellingly, I had never noticed such eucalypt in the wine before. It also seemed very jujube sweet and silky, but with staunch, uncommonly natural acidity, before those dry velvet tannins rose.
From just a few kays over the ridge came the deeper, darker, Penfolds Cellar Reserve 2002 (75 points) once again showing quite prominent charcoal amongst all its violets and roses and blackcurrant gel. This wine made me think of Mataro, Mourvedre, Monastrell … whichever moniker you prefer.
And on we went through the great Australians. Torbreck Le Ames 2006 (88 points) coaltar, musk, cherries, raspberry jelly; Charlie Melton Richelieu 2006 (87 points) road kill, summer dust, rusty galvo; d’Arenberg The Derelict Vineyard 2006 (92 points) classic leather, berries and fudge; Clarendon Hills Old Vines Clarendon 2002 (83 points) rude blood, roses, blueberry jujubes, juniper tannins; and then the lithe and wild triumph of the S. C. Pannell 2006 (93 points) rich fruitcake and walnuts, marine limestone, steely acid. (Acid, see?)
Clare, most of whose Grenache was destroyed in the taxpayer-funded mid-eighties Vine Pull Scheme, offered two two tidy wines of distinction: Killikanoon's The Duke 2004 (89 points), which showed a delightful counterpoise of old world sweat, leather and tar against sweet, slender, mulberry and blackberry fruit; and Clos Clare's The Hayes Boy 2006 (90 points) which was open-hearted, if simple, but disarmingly clean and smooth.
The Jasper Hill Cornella Vineyard Heathcote (Victoria) 2009 (85 points) was confusing, if entertaining, with lemons, rocket, and watercress aromas mingling with a seaside whiff, over a squishy beetroot base.
Contini 'Inu Cannoneau di Sardegna Riserva 2005 (91 points) was similar to the Jasper, with its lemony whiff, and bracing aftershave-like witch hazel adding some cutting edge to its juicy, easy, fruitgum-like base.
The serious young insects of Australia’s new swarm of sommeliers came under some derision for their current obsession with listing a few freshly trendy French: their favourite highlights were faulty and shoddy, and not delightful. Domaine De Gramenon l‘Elementaire 2009 (40 points) smelled of seaweed (DMS?) and sulphidey rubber; Domaine Gramenon Ceps Centenaires Le Mémé Cõtes-du-Rhõne 2007 (55 points) smelled of seaweed (DMS?) and cold dripping; Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Cõtes-du-Rhõne 2008 (40 points) smelled powerfully of trichloranisole, and the Bosquet des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2007 (60 points) was simply caramel, with little evidence of grapes.
Most of the Australians blew these recently, suddenly popular Frenchies away. I can see those bright young bullies recommending these to the unsuspecting seekers of the exotic foreigner as funky. Funky, just incidentally, means full of smoke. Blow some up my arse, there's a good fellow.
But it was the Spanish quartet that won the day. These showed more kalamata, satsuma, beetroot and Marello cherry: they were blacker, tighter, in a way a little more threatening and sinister in their polished leather manner.
STEVE PANNELL OF S. C. PANNELL WINES, McLAREN VALE; 'AUSTRALIANS SHOULD LAY OFF DRINKING THE IMPORTS FOR A WHILE."