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Know Your Variety – Australian Grenache

Having claims to its origins in both France and Spain, Grenache is most famously known in Australia as part of a blended trio with Shiraz and Mourvedre. But, Grenache is starting to break out and go solo with some superb single varietal wines from South Australia.

To help us learn more about Australian Grenache, we reached out to experts Kevin Glastonbury of Yalumba and Nathan Hughes of Willunga 100.

Australian Grenache Infographic

Grenache red wine infographic

Origins

In Spain it is known as Garnacha, in Sardinia it’s Cannonau and in France, where the variety carpets the Côtes du Rhône, it is Grenache. So, where does Grenache actually come from? It’s complicated. Spain has perhaps the strongest claim to producing the first vines, but this is hotly contested and constantly revised by wine academics.

It is, however, France where the variety is most famously grown with Grenache forming an integral part of the classic Rhône blend. In the Côtes du Rhône, Grenache is the star and must make up at least 50% of their prized blend along with Syrah (Shiraz) and Mourvedre.

Grenache in Australia

Grenache is a variety that relishes warm climates and improves as the vines grow old, which is why the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, two of Australia’s oldest regions, produce some of the best expressions. The Barossa, in particular, has blocks of wine with Grenache from 1850 still producing wines, each and every year.

Grenache is a red grape variety that relishes heat and can relatively easily produce ripe, full styles of wine. Perhaps Grenache was grown initially on sites that were more akin to producing a generous crop for fortified winemaking. But, now many wineries are searching for more finesse and picking these Grenache blocks earlier and seeking red fruit rather than riper black fruit flavours. The majority of Grenache in the Barossa is not trellised; it is grown as a bush-vine. These bush-vines tend to take care of themselves, allowing more air flow and light penetration. The Barossa and McLaren Vale are considered the two leading regions for Grenache in Australia. And it is always a great debate as to which consistently produces better quality wine.

- Kevin Glastonbury, Winemaker, Yalumba Family Vignerons

Tasting Notes

With a similar weight and tannin structure to light to medium bodied Shiraz, Grenache is light on the palate and is all about purity of fruit. With aromas like pomegranate, wild strawberries, violets and red fruits and a palate that’s restrained and fine in texture, it is often blended with Mataro/Mourvedre, which provides a heightened element of spice and tannin. But, with careful oak treatment, Grenache can produce be a splendid single varietal wine.

South Australia has old vines, this resource cannot be understated. We work with vines ranging from 50 to 90 years old. Grenache is extremely reflective of where it’s grown. In McLaren Vale, we see lighter bodied, more aromatic styles from Blewitt Springs and Clarendon. Down on the flats of Tatachilla, we see a far heavier, richer, full-bodied styles.

- Nathan Hughes, Willunga 100

Grenache food pairing

 

The heightened alcohol, medium tannin and low acidity that characterise Grenache mean it will work well with a range of dishes from game through to lighter dishes. For Kevin, the perfect match for Grenache is simple - “Pizza, always”. But, he is also fond of pairing it with “Sticky glaze duck with rocket and pear pizza. Pork belly, with buffalo mozzarella, balsamic onion, oregano and radicchio.” The notes of red plum, black cherry and raspberry also mean that Grenache is also a great match for many Asian-style dishes as long as they aren’t too spicy. As Nathan Hughes from Willunga 100 describes, “I love how lemongrass, soy and coriander work with Grenache.”

Recommended Recipe: Stefano Manfredi’s roast spitchcock with bread and truffle stuffing

Recommended Recipe: Bocconcini, cherry tomato and basil pizza

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Will the real Pinot G please stand up
Words by Mark Hughes on 30 May 2016
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To help in this battle to better understand the wines we drink, we asked three Wine Selectors Members (and a guest of a Member) to come into Wine Selectors to join the Panel and taste their way through 16 Pinot Grigio/Gris, handpicked from noted producers across the country.   Long-term members Jeffrey Roberts, Julie Hughes (yes, my wife), and Josh Doolan (plus his guest Linda Thomas) sat down with Wine Selectors T asting Panellists Trent Mannell and Adam Walls , and Selector publisher Paul Diamond for an afternoon of fun and informative vinous examination. Before we even poured a glass, a quick   Q&A confirmed what we had surmised – that the general drinker found it difficult to delineate between an Australian Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris, and that most consumed Grigio more often than Gris, except for Julie, who came into the tasting not really a fan of either style, but admitting she had only tried a few. The wines of the Pinot Gris/Grigio tasting Bracket 1 – Pinot Grigio David Hook 2015 Adina Vineyard 2015 Primo Estate Joseph d’Elena 2015 Tomich T Woodside Vineyard 2015 Norfolk Rise 2015 Bracket 2 – Pinot Grigio Devil’s Corner 2015 Ninth Island 2015 Sam Miranda 2015 Brown Brothers 18 Eighty Nine 2015 Gapsted Valley Selection 2014 Bracket 3 – Pinot Gris Eden Road The Long Road 2015 Austins Wines Six Foot Six 2015 Natasha Mooney La Bise 2015 Pipers Brook 2014 Coombe Farm 2014 Lisa McGuigan Platinum Collection 2013 The Grigio brackets
The range of styles of these wines was on show from the first Grigio bracket. Jeffrey, Josh and Linda were all taken with the plush fruit and savoury aspects of the David Hook Pinot Grigio 2015 from the Hunter Valley , while the Panel felt the Tomich T Woodside Vineyard Pinot Grigio 2015 (Adelaide Hills) and the Norfolk Rise Pinot Grigio 2015 ( Mount Benson ) had more of those Grigio varietal characters: crisp, bright pear and Granny Smith apple flavour with savoury notes and a umami-like persistence. When anyone gets the chance to taste 16 wines in a row opposite some of the best palates in the business, they embark on a real education. Apart from learning about the subtleties of wine, what our Members discover, as do all our guests who come in for these tastings, is that they actually do have quite a discerning palate. They know what they like, and what they don’t, but the main difference is the ability to describe and catalogue all the vinous information. But once they have some understanding of what to look for in the wine, the varietal characteristics, and the differences in styles, they quickly display some real wine tasting nous. This new skill set was on show with the second bracket of Pinot Grigio, as the scores of the Members and Panel started to align. Sourced from cooler climates than the first bracket, these Grigio were tighter and more acidic. Jeffery, Josh and Linda were all taken with the Devil’s Corner Pinot Grigio 2015 (Tamar Valley), which was described as having excellent balance between the juicy fruit and fine acid frame, while the Sam Miranda Pinot Grigio 2015 ( Alpine / King Valley ) also appealed with its bright, ripe fruit and restrained persistence. However, Julie stuck to her pre-tasting mantra and was non-plussed by either of the Grigio brackets, finding it hard to get past a taste she described as ‘bitter’. The Gris The Gris bracket showed the differences in style between Grigio and Gris. While there was the characteristic pear and green apple fruit, the Gris had a fuller texture and almost creamy mouthfeel. Julie came to the party giving great scores to the Austins Six Foot Six Pinot Gris 2015, which she described as dense, layered and soft, as well as the Coombe Farm Pinot Gris 2014 ( Yarra ) and the Lisa McGuigan Pinot Gris 2013, which found favour with luscious soft acid and juicy savouriness. The end result The fact that there were 10 Grigio and six Gris in the tasting is reflective of the popularity of the styles in Australia. Grigio is more trendy, sells better and pairs well with summery dishes such as seafood and mezze plates, while Gris has a more acquired taste, matching well with richer, creamier recipes. However, the big thing to come from this tasting was the development of winemaking techniques that show that noted producers, at least, are making Grigio and Gris more in line with their European counterparts. Perhaps, we can now drop the ‘Pinot G’ label and confidently use Grigio and Gris. Try these wines yourself and see if you agree.  
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Chardonnay Members Tasting
Words by Patrick Haddock on 13 Nov 2017
Australian Chardonnay has undergone quite a transformation since the days of ‘sunshine in a bottle’, coming of age as a world-beating white. I partly blame Selector . For cementing my love affair with Chardonnay , I mean. Seven years ago, Selector hosted the most ambitious Chardonnay tasting ever staged in Australia. In attendance were some luminaries of the industry, including Iain Riggs and Tyson Stelzer and it was my first tasting en masse with a variety I’ve come to adore. It ignited a solid relationship with the many styles and regions in this vast land. Yet weirdly, my affair with Australian Chardonnay had commenced a decade or more before. It was the golden era for Chardonnay and I remember dinner tables being awash with names like Oxford Landing, Koonunga Hill and Rosemount as we slated our thirsts on cheap two-for-one deals in the bottle shops of London. It personified a new taste on the UK wine scene that found an unquenchable thirst. Looking back, it was risible that such overly fruity and highly oaked wines could have made such a splash, but Australia saw the opportunity and grabbed it. The New World invasion of the early 90s was pulled off with aplomb. As the saying went: “No wood? No good.” A Sunny Impression
The other insidious ruse that Australia employed was to label their wines with the variety – virtually unheard of in the Old World and it was a genius bit of marketing. When the English were drinking Burgundy, they may not have known it was actually Chardonnay. A classic example was my mum saying she hated Chardonnay, but loved Pouilly Fuisse – a small sub-region of Burgundy that makes Chardonnay. However, the French are far too proud to put the variety on their bottles, causing mass consumer confusion. UK consumers were also buying into the image of Aussie life, summed up by the phrase for Australian Chardonnay, “sunshine in a bottle.” The label was seen as just as important as what was inside. Australia made wines that were soft and easy to drink with obvious flavours. Australia proudly screamed Chardonnay on the label, most often from South East Australia. We had visions of beaches and sun-tanned sheilas picking the grapes; never mind that it actually came from a mass irrigated desert wasteland somewhere near the NSW border and was machine harvested before being relegated to industrial amounts of new oak or worse still, flavoured with oak chips. A Refining Moment
Yet for all the joy of a tidal wave of wood that Chardonnay brought, it all imploded. The bargain bins remained full as the obvious flavour hit of the New World came crashing down and the wines became increasingly like caricatures of Chardonnay. We had some soul searching to do. Was Australia happy to stand on the world stage offering nothing but bargain basement wines, or did we want to be taken seriously? A decade later, in the middle of the noughties, a seismic shift began. A new wave of Chardonnay producers were re-inventing the wheel, spearheaded by intelligent winemakers in regions like the Yarra Valley , Tasmania and Margaret River . Chardonnay went from being Dolly Parton (buxom and generous) to Kate Moss (skeletal and lithe), although the best example of Chardonnay for mine is the Cindy Crawford – curvy and ample, but still chiselled and toned. Earlier picking, less oak, natural acid and throwing away the process of malolactic fermentation saw the rulebook re-written. It was time for Chardonnay to grow up and make an impression. Then in 2010, one of the UK’s most outspoken commentators, the erudite Andrew Jefford, opined that Australian Chardonnay can “compete effortlessly with the greatest wines of Burgundy.” He went on to exclaim: “There is no variety that responds better to craft than Chardonnay, and the greatest Australian examples are perfect syntheses of grape, place and intellectual understanding.” What a renaissance occurred. And the world took notice. Since then, any Chardonnay producer worth their salt has worked hard to improve the breed. Contemporary Style
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“Although the Chardonnays that come in my regular selections have always been nice, I still have a mental association where drinking Chardonnay equals drinking a tree.”

- Krysty Bryant, Wine Selectors Member
Guest, Lisa Currie was of a similar mind, saying, “Chardonnay has always been a variety that means an intense oakey, woody flavour, very buttery and heavy, which just isn’t to my taste.” To help bring our doubting guests around to the charm of Chardonnay, we were fortunate to be joined by Usher, who offered some insights and, as luck would have it, his Reserve Chardonnay 2016 – a unanimous crowd favourite. To explain why Usher personally loves Chardonnay, he offered a succinct analogy:

“If Shiraz and Cabernet are like Kings, then Chardonnay is the Queen – like the chess piece, it can do anything from anywhere! It’s the most interesting variety to make and to drink.”

- Usher Tinkler, Hunter Valley Winemaker
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History The Credaros from Northern Italy settled in Margaret River in 1922, making them regional pioneers. Having made wine from their family vineyard for years, they became commercially involved in the wine industry in the 1980s. Today, the family manages 140 hectares of vines over seven separate vineyards across Margaret River, in the regions of Wilyabrup, Carbunup, Treeton, Yallingup and Wallcliffe. The Credaros produce all of their own wines in their 1200-tonne winery in Northern Margaret River. Tasting Notes Their Kinship Chardonnay presents a fragrant bouquet of white flowers, nectarine and pear with underlying cashew and citrus notes. Medium-full bodied with stone fruit, fresh citrus and creamy biscuit characters from lees influence, it has an elegant, refined structure and finishes with fine mineral acidity.
The 2016 Vintage Higher than average rain late in winter was followed by more in early spring, increasing soil moisture. October was unseasonably warm, and combined with the increased soil moisture caused slightly higher than normal vine growth. The long, mild growing period favoured earlier ripening varieties. Overall, the cooler vintage has resulted in Chardonnay being a standout, with extraordinary flavour depth and length at lower Baume levels. + Food With its wonderful complexity, Chardonnay is sumptuous with flavoursome white meats – try chicken tagine with almonds and preserved lemon.     2715 Caves Road, Yallingup, WA credarowines.com.au 08 9756 6520 
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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