REGION BRINGS FRENCH FLAIR
NO LONGER DO WE HAVE TO TRAVEL TO THE OTHER SIDE OF GLOBE TO SAMPLE A DROP OF CHATEAUNEUF -DU-PAPE
Fans of the comedy series, Frasier, would be acquainted with the French style, Chateauneuf-du-pape; the red wine that Frasier Crane is frequently observed ordering while eating out at French restaurants.
It’s a blend of red varietals from a region in the southern Rhone area near Avignon which was granted its own appellation by the governing AOC body in 1936.
It’s not just a fave of TV comics, as the blend enjoys international acclaim for its earthy and savoury characters and beautiful balance of fruit and tannin.
But like many iconic French wines, a good bottle will set you back a pretty penny and the product of the more famed producers is priced out of reach for most of us.
The good news is the “Australian version” of Chateauneuf-du-pape is not just delicious, but also inexpensive.
While many regions will produce a so called “GSM” blend, the Barossa Valley in South Australia is perhaps the premier producer of grenche and shiraz in the country.
So it stands to reason that if you are looking for high quality grenache, shiraz and
mataro (or mourvedre) fruit, then the valley to the north east of Adelaide is the obvious place to start your search.
While the winemakers of the southern Rhone are bound by AOC rules to use and blend any of nine different red varietals, they typically make blends that are dominated by grenache and supported by varying amounts of syrah (shiraz), mourvedre (we call it mataro) and a few other “bit players” like cinsault.
Perhaps one reason for the dominance of grenache in the French style is the sheer volume of grenache they grow – it accounts for more than 70 per cent of vines in the region.
In the Barossa, shiraz is the dominant grape by area under vine by a large margin. So it probably makes sense that many winemakers prefer to make a “SGM” blend in which shiraz dominates.
But if you ask me, to borrow an Aussie colloquialism, that’s just not cricket! I much prefer a Rhone blend in which the perfumed grenache can open the batting.
During a recent visit to the Barossa, I tried more than a few of our version of the Southern Rhone blend, and one of the stand-outs was from a winery in Greenock called Murray Street Vineyards.
Their version of the “Holy Trinity” sells about $30 a bottle and is a very approachable wine in its youth. Sold under the name 2017 Red Label The Barossa, the blend is 60 per cent grenache, 38 per cent shiraz and laced with 2 per cent mataro.
There’s little of the stalky leathery characters that are often seen in the French version of the famed blend, but plenty of spice on the mid-palate to titillate the tastebuds. The grenache lifts the nose with hints of mulberry and redcurrants up front, while the shiraz adds body and flavours of plum and stewed cherries to the middle.
In true Barossa form, there’s a delightful jammy ripeness to the conclusion, but enough tannin and savoury characters to balance the ripeness of the fruit.
Anyone got Frasier Crane’s postal address? If he enjoys a Chateauneuf-du-pape, I reckon he’d love this one.