Grenache has been flying under the radar for many years. Some may know this varietal as one of the major components of Chateauneuf-du-Pape or Cotes-du-Rhone in France’s Rhone Valley. You may be familiar with this sun-loving grape as part of many wines from Spain, as it is the 3rd most widely planted grape there. Many people do not know much about this “Pinot from the South,” or how this thin-skinned grape can add beautiful aromas and bright red fruit flavors to a wine. Today’s estate we are featuring, from Australia, is trying to change this.
The birthplace of Grenache was in Northern Spain, in a region called Aragon, here called Garnacha. Close to the border with France, it makes sense that it migrated over to the Southern Rhone Valley and found a glorious home in the Mediterranean climate, where winemakers sought a grape to add a bit more fruit, body and alcohol to their wines. Eventually, it made its way to Australia and in the early 1800’s, it became an important part of this country's fortified wine industry. Over the years, Shiraz became Australia’s signature grape and Grenache was forgotten. The government even paid some farmers in the mid 1980’s to uproot many of the gnarly 100+ year old vines that grow best in the bush style shown in the picture. Many farmers took the money, but never tore them out, figuring they would die with neglect.
Grenache is a survivor, however, and is now seeing a revival in Australia with many of the top estates releasing expensive old-vine, single-vineyard bottlings highlighting the fleshy, strawberry, herbal flavors typical of the grape. Thistledown Wine Company admits they are obsessed with Grenache! They produce in small batches not only the wine featured today but five other single vineyard offerings made with 100% Grenache. Owners Giles Cooke and Fergal Tynan are both Masters of Wine, met in a bar the night before they began their first year MW course back in 1998. Both eventually passed their exams and stayed in touch, founding Thistledown in 2010. From the Thistledown website - "Both share a degree in history, a love of Australian wine and the cause of the underdog. Both also shared a frustration that, in many markets, Australian wine was stereotyped as big, alcoholic, and unsuited to premium restaurants. Both knew that this didn’t have to be the case and set upon a journey to create wines of elegance, detail and balance."
The 2020 was recently released and the last six vintages have all scored 90+ points from many major wine writers. Fruit for this year’s wine is sourced from a number of old vineyards mainly from the Riverland region. The vineyards that the grapes are from are called “soldier blocks,” vineyards that date back to World War I and II, when the Australian government gave land to returning soldiers to help them get back on their feet. It has a deep garnet color with bright aromatics and a beautifully layered, textural palate with notes of ripe strawberries with herbs and spices. It is great just as a glass of wine by itself or enjoy it with burgers or grilled vegetables.
92 Points - Ray Jordan
"A delightful wine for current drinking. It’s medium bodied with the fruit sourced from old vines throughout South Australia. Aromas of rustic strawberry with a little rose petal and spiciness. The palate is soft and supple but with good structure."
91 Points - Halliday Wine Companion
“From a portfolio of multiple single-vineyard grenache offerings, this is more your everyday version, built from a range of old vineyards in the Riverland and McLaren Vale. Plenty of winemaking mods here: separation of parcels, wild ferments, a bit of whole bunch, older and larger oak containers, so it’s all about the grenache, lifted with crimson fruit crush, plenty of spice and a willingness to go with the wine’s inherent finishing tannin coating.” - Ned Goodwin MW
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