September 2oth 2013 – one of my favourite days of the year. The International Grenache Day and McLaren Vale makes some excellent Grenache and Grenache based blends. The concept behind International Grenache Day is to raise the profile of Grenache to the wine drinking punters. Here in McLaren Vale, Grenache has a long history. Grenache was found to be drought tolerant and could produce high cropping and flavoursome fortified wines. As the transition from fortifies to table wines occurred Grenache still played it’s role, though not all would have known. Many McLaren Vale wines were labelled as Burgundy or Claret had significant amounts of the unknown blender called Grenache. Even into the varietal phase Grenache was widely used – I hear stories that a Shiraz / Grenache blend would hit the bottlers and when the labels ran out for one wine (say a blend) they just changed the next label (say Shiraz). Then the label integrity program was introduced and made such practices difficult. However, even today one can label their wine Shiraz and have up to 15% of something else in it. Over this time of change Grenache has changed into a difficult sell to the average wine punter and out of favour.
For me the best Grenache shows red fruit character and has minimal oak influence – thus producing a velvety smooth but complex red wine that is not as heavy as the standard Shiraz or Cabernet. Interestingly today there is a group of the wine drinking public that do not know much about Grenache – mainly as the “G” in a SGM blend. I have shown a number of friends a good McLaren Vale Grenache (without telling them what the wine was). Invariably the comments are around such things as what is that – it is not so heavy, but so nice.
This year I was lucky enough to be invited to a vertical tasting from Kay Brothers. A vertical tasting is tasting the same wine from the same winery over a number of vintages. Kay Brothers have been a bit of a favourite of mine over a long time – and part of that is their commitment to, what has become, my favourite grape variety.
All the Kay Brothers wines at this tasting have been basket pressed and the grapes have come from the vineyard block (planted in 1998) so the wines show the variations of the vintage and winemaking practices.
2006 Basket Pressed Grenache
The aromas were showing some oxidised almost the same rancio expected of a good fortified style. Interestingly as the wine spent time in the glass there was a faint whiff of strawberries and spice. The flavours were dominated by spiced and slightly burnt caramel – not flabby at all as it had good acid.
This wine intrigued me and I kept coming back to it many times over the tasting. This wine challenged me and I really liked it. I would have loved to try this with food.
2009 Basket Pressed Grenache
The wine exudes deepness in colour and in character. In the mouth the wine really sung a different tune. I got red liquorice, black liquorice and lots of “All Spice” with a black finish. What really stuck me was the buttery aroma that developed in the glass. A good offering from a really hot vintage.
2010 Basket Pressed Grenache
Red and spice and all things nice that is what this little red wine is made of. Low tannins, redness all over the place (even liquorice) subtle spice and a floral intrusion. A good example of what I call “Good McLaren Vale Grenache”.
2012 Basket Pressed Grenache
The most complex aromas of the group so far – all spice, red liquorice, fresh herbs (coriander and parsley), florals all mixed with the fresh red fruit compote. The palate showed finesse but with good fruit intensity (particularly on the mid palate) and a drying finish (showing good but soft tannins).
It was a toss up for me between this and the 2006 as my preferred wines of the tasting. Unfortunately the wine is sold out at the winery.
2013 Basket Pressed Grenache
The winemaker tried a few different things with this fruit. Cool ferments and extended skin contact (4 weeks) produced a wine that had fennel and cold tea characteristics. The flavours were more cherry based than the previous wines and some slightly grainy tannins – possibly from the extended skin contact.
I look forward to seeing this wine settle down a little before release some time later this year……