The golden age of grenache


GQ (Australia) - - TASTE + TRAVEL -

When you write about booze for a liv­ing, peo­ple treat you like a wine guide turned flesh. And the one bit of ad­vice I’m asked more than any other is this: “What’s the best pinot noir un­der $50?” My an­swer is al­ways the same: “Grenache.” One of the most widely planted grape va­ri­eties in the world, grenache has been rooted in Aus­tralian soil since our ear­li­est wine­mak­ing days and has been woe­fully un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated for too many years. But that’s chang­ing. This is a golden age of grenache, a blessed time when in­sight­ful and pro­gres­sive wine­mak­ers are giv­ing it the re­spect it de­serves. It’s the va­ri­ety’s propen­sity for per­fume and juicy sup­ple­ness that in­vites com­par­isons with pinot noir, but the dif­fer­ence is, grenache can thrive in places where pinot would sim­ply lose its shit. In sun-drenched Spain they call it gar­nacha and it’s the most planted va­ri­ety in the coun­try. It pros­pers through south­ern France, in places like Langue­doc-rous­sil­lon and the bot­tom half of the Rhône Val­ley, and is at the heart of one of the world’s great ap­pel­la­tions, Châteauneuf-du-pape. Here in Aus­tralia, just like un­re­li­able en­ergy sup­ply and the abil­ity to cor­rectly pro­nounce words like ‘dance’ and ‘chance’, truly great grenache is a pe­cu­liarly South Aus­tralian thing. While there are small pock­ets of grenache in places like Heath­cote in Vic­to­ria, the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of plant­ings are in South Aus­tralian soil – and of those, the great­est num­ber are found in ur­ban Ade­laide’s viti­cul­tural book­ends, the Barossa Val­ley and Mclaren Vale. Both re­gions have a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of old grenache vine­yards, a legacy of the early days of Aus­tralian wine when va­ri­eties use­ful in the pro­duc­tion of for­ti­fied wines were favoured. Where once those vines pumped out large crops of su­per-ripe fruit to make port, now they’re trained for much lower yields, giv­ing up just a few bunches of con­cen­trated and deeply flavoured grapes. In smart wine­mak­ing hands, this fruit pro­duces wines with se­duc­tive per­fumes, lively tex­tures and dan­ger­ous drink­a­bil­ity. Now, it’s time to dodge the pinot aisle and try for your­self.

Grenache can thrive in places where pinot would sim­ply lose its shit.

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