Tag Archives: Grenache

McLaren Vale Wines – International Grenache Day 2013 at Kays Brothers

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.

Kay Bothers Vertical Grenache Tasting

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……

McLaren Vale Wine – Sellicks Hill Wines

Something old is new again.  I have been a big fan of Paul Petagna and his wine for a number of years. Both under his “old” label Petagna Wines and the Sellicks Hill Wines label that Paul was making for his in laws.  Now Paul has bought the rights to Sellicks Hill Wines and has opened a cellar door on the Main South Road property (the cellar door sign can be seen just north of the Victory Hotel).

Sellicks Hill Wines Sign

Paul’s wines are part of him – both are full of character and the wines are just so flavoursome.  Interestingly the wines are also kept in barrel and bottle until they meet the standard before sale.  As such the current releases are from between 2006 and 2009.  By opening just one bottle you can share Paul’s passion for his wines and we should be glad for this passion.

The Sellicks Hill vineyard was planted by Paul’s Father in Law and Paul himself – so he knows each and every vine.  During winter I have seen him pruning the vines and even though he expresses his wish that somebody else would conduct the pruning, one can sense that deep down he fusses over each and every vine.  The vineyard has Grenache and Shiraz with the Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre used in the wines come from neighbouring vineyards so the wines are truly from Sellicks Hill.

2006 Valletta (Grenache Shiraz) (on special for $25 normally $30)

When I first saw this wine I was concerned as the wine had 3 years in oak and Grenache and oak do not always do well together.  I should not have been concerned as this wine has turned out to be one of my favourite McLaren Vale red wines.  It is drinking so well as Paul has done the cellaring for you.  The wine shows black and red fruits with some fennel notes and minimal oak tannins.

2009 Dio (Mourvedre) ($35)

I saw this wine in barrel a number of times over the last couple of years and have been consistently impressed so it was not a surprise that Paul decided to bottle this as a straight Mourvedre (noting that the previous Dio was a GSM blend).  Earthy, spicy and mid weight make this wine not only approachable but appealing to a number of different personal preferences.

2008 Diovolo (Shiraz Cabernet) ($35)

The classical Aussie blend that seemed to loose it’s way about 10 year ago as Australia went through the varietal phase.  The blending of these 2 varieties allows the mid palate shortfall of Cabernet (this is a generalisation).  I am glad this blend has begun to win back favour and this example is a beauty.  There is the usual fair of plums and black current and I enjoy the mint character (which comes from a particular barrel of wine from a particular grower that is quite minty).

2006 Piombo (Shiraz) ($40)

Right up front I must say I do not like this label – I understand the significance of the playing card popular with the Italian community, but the label is terrible.  The good thing here is the wine is a cracker – just wonderful McLaren Vale Shiraz.  Plums, spice complexity, liquorice and some chocolate as well.  For me this is one of the better Shiraz wines around and it has been cellared for you.  At the $40 mark I also think this is a steel – many wines of this ilk are well over $50.


McLaren Vale Wine – October 2013 Vale Cru Tasting

A collection of McLaren Vale small scale winemakers have bandied together to form a collective called the “Vale Cru”.  For the last 4 years this group has gathered for an afternoon tasting, during October, at the Victory Hotel.  I must admit I am biased towards this group, even to the point that resistance is useless.  A lot of my original contacts and wines sold from my Taste McLaren Vale venture have come from the Vale Cru’s first annual Victory Hotel tasting.

Mr Brash Higgins himself

In an industry where the small producer spends so much time and effort to make the best wines possible the marketing effort can be at best difficult.  Combining their efforts into this collective makes so much sense.  However making sense and making such a venture work is not always easy or effective.  Over the years there has been a number of winemakers come and go but there seems to be core and stable group.

The wineries at this tasting were:-

  • Brash Higgins
  • Five Geese
  • Inkwell
  • La Curio
  • Lazy Ballerina
  • Samuel’s Gorge
  • Ulithorne
  • Vigna Bottin
  • Waywood
  • Rudderless
  • Wistmosa
  • Rusty Mutt
  • Ministry of Clouds
  • Bekkers

It should be noted that Bekkers are not a part of the Vale Cru but attended under invitation.

There was also a speaker in attendance and in this case it was Nick Stock.  Nick was very approachable in discussions about the wines.  I discussed McLaren Vale Grenache with him before I realised who this guy was.  On a personal note it was also good for me to find out that not only is Nick an Adelaide boy but he also follows the same SANFL team I do (Norwood Football Club).

Nick Stock addressing the crowd

The afternoon is in itself a highlight but the wines of note (for me) were:-

2012 Brash Higgins Nero d’Avola ($42)

After spending 6 months on skins in clay pots (or amphora) this wine style is unlike anything else I have tasted.  With anise character wrapped around what I can only describe as cold tea.  Amazingly every time I taste this wine I think about the special tea blend my grandmother used to drink.  This wine is interestingly good all the way and I recommend this as a must try wine.

2012 Five Geese Grenache Shiraz ($26)

This was my bargain wine pick of the group.  So much depth and character for the price.  The redness and peat character of the Blewitt Springs Grenache mixed with the strength of McLaren Vale Shiraz.  I know Grenache is a hard sell but if you try this wine you will wonder the same.

2011 La Curio Reserve Grenache ($28)

Adam has access to old dry grown bush vine Grenache and makes this special fruit sing with all the love that he can muster.  This wine is consistently one of the best expressions of McLaren Vale Grenache and another must try.

2013 Vigna Bottin Vermentino

Just bottled and a sneak peak.  Straight away it stood out.  A white wine showing such character in McLaren Vale!!!!!  This wine won a number of trophies in the McLaren Vale show (held the week after this tasting).  The wine showed so much with floral rose water notes with minerality mixed with a lemon acid length.  Again I find this variety interesting with an almost salty flavour – just so different.  This was by far the best wine of this variety I have tasted.

2010 Rusty Mutt Shiraz ($25.50)

Rusty Mutt and the Vale Cru

I have previously reviewed this wine and it is again a highlight.  With many wines showing masculine depth this expression of the Shiraz is more feminine depth.  The wine has a softness but complexity that belies this softness.  James Halliday has rated this a 94/100 and I can see why.  Well done Scott.

Buy McLaren Vale Wines – Backyard Shed Cru #9

See the videos below where I review the latest Backyard Shed Cru membership tasting pack.  If you like what you see then check out the Taste McLaren Vale Backyard Shed Cru Membership here.  Every 6 months we send out a wine six pack.  The wines come from little know wineries and are really a tasting pack you you to try new wines from the small artisan McLaren Vale wine producers.

2009 Ruffilli Estates Ambition Cabernet Merlot

2010 Rusty Mutt Shiraz

2009 Handcrafted by Geoff Hardy Shiraz

2010 GMH Founders Choice Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre

2011 Wistmosa Shiraz

2011 Oenotria Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon

McLaren Vale Wine – McLaren Vale III Associates

III Associates Cellar Door

One of the more recent cellar doors to open is from III Associates on Foggo Road (off Kangarilla Road).  They had a facility on the McLaren Vale main street that was open infrequently and when it was I never saw anybody in there.  The new facility neighbors one of their vineyards so you can get some more of the “wine experience”.  The wines are made by one of McLaren Vale’s most well known contract wine maker – Brian Light.  The wines are mainly made from their Foggo Road vineyard (planted to Grenache and Shiraz in 1928), Blewitt Springs, McMurtrie Road (on Bay of Bisque or Cracking Black clays) and even some Sellicks Hill fruit makes an appearance.

The cellar door has an interesting twist for the chocolate lovers out their.  They have a range of chocolates from Chocome.  The chocolate range has quite varied and interesting flavours that when I visited in Late December 2012 the cellar door staff were reviewing different flavours to match their wines.  I suspect there will be a chocolate and wine matched tasting coming soon.

The cellar door is housed in a normal house that has been splashed on the outside with their stark colour used on the Squid Ink Shiraz wine labels.  All the staff are welcoming and the wine is well worth the time to check it out – so next time you are traveling from McLaren Vale to McLaren Flat make a right turn on Foggo Road and check them out.

And now for the wines…….

2011 White Ensign Chardonnay, Semillon & Pinot Gris ($20)

Straight away one could sense there has been no oak used in the making of this wine.  I got very strong white pack aromas followed by citrus, pear and peach flavours.  A very easy to drink wine that should be drunk cold and soon (don’t keep this one in the cellar).

2012 Sabbatical Sauvignon Blanc ($18)

For those Sauvy drinkers out there this one is sold out.  Made from Blewitt Springs fruit this wine exhibits the passion fruit led tropical fruits right across the sense spectrum.  The warmer climate of Blewitt Springs (compared to say Adelaide Hills) produces a different style which gravitates toward the topical flavours and not the cut grass and cats pee character of the cool climate Sauvignon Blanc’s.  Again a very much drink now style that the Sauvy lovers would imbibe with on a frequent basis.

2008 Renaissance Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon & Petit Verdot ($25)

This wine is all about drink-ability.  There is soft cherry and subtle french oak char here that blends into a drink now style – don’t bother to cellar this one.  I can see this as a BBQ wine or an all rounder for a Chinese banquette.

2010 Backbone Grenache, Shiraz & Mourvedre ($35)

The Mourvedre was sourced from Willunga with the Grenache plus the Shiraz being sourced from the Foggo Road property and at time of tasting the wine had only been bottled for 2.5 months.  Even though the wine had been recently bottled and I was unsure if the wine would have settled down after this bottling shock, I was impressed.  The redness of the Grenache was prevalent across both the aromas and flavours.  Two other items stuck out for me.  Firstly there was a real earthyness to the wine (not dirty or gritty) that probably comes from the Mourvedre and the second was the tannin structure.  There were plenty of tannins there but they were relatively soft and did not over power the fruit.  Bring on the Bangers and mash with lots of onion gravy and if you were lucky I might share some of this with you.

2010 Four Score Grenache ($30)

Good McLaren Vale Grenache, like this wine brings a smile to my face.  The fruit was from the Foggo Road vineyard and shows all the redness (particularly cherry and some raspberry) with some interesting white pepper spice.  The tannins play a supporting role and are certainly not overpowering the red fruits.  I had this with a turkey breast stir fry.

Squid Ink Shiraz Range with some Chocome chocolate

2010 The Descendent of Squid Ink Shiraz ($35)

The fruit from the McMurtrie Road vineyard was matured in older American oak (2 and 3 year old) and it shows.  The plum of the Shiraz was obvious and there was some blackberry lingering about.  The American oak influence showed up as coconut and vanilla seeping through on both the nose and the palate.  The wine had a textural feel that almost had a viscous feel in the mouth.  I would not cellar this one for long as it is balanced now.

2008 Squid Ink Shiraz ($55)

All the Squid Ink range get 18 months in new American oak before bottling.  In this case the aromas were quite distinct by their absence – it took a lot of concentrating just to get some oaky character.  The flavours were dominated by very ripe satsuma plums with puckering tannin and loads of oak on the finish.  I considered this wine a little unbalanced and thus I am not sure it will improve with age.

2009 Squid Ink Shiraz ($55)

Certainly different to the 2008 version of the Squid Ink.  The aromas showed a concentrated intensity of plums and oak char with the finish showing elegant herbs of lavender and thyme – interesting contrast.  The flavours followed with the fresh plum and herb characters and there was a distinct mouth feel to this wine – almost viscous in it’s intensity.  Yes there is considerable oak here but the fruit pulls it through.  The cracking black soils showing the intensity that can come from grapes grown in the thick black mud.

2010 Squid Ink Shiraz ($55)

By far the best of the 3 Squid ink wines I tried here.  The aromas showed off the American oak maturation with a coconut sweetness that I do enjoy mixed with the fresh plum intensity.  There is definitely room for American oak use in big fruit wines – the wine has the considerable body to soak up the Americanism.  That fruit character is here.  This wine is a mixture of concentration and viscosity mixed of plum, fresh herbs, tannin and oak char.  I suspect this wine is balanced well enough that it will age gracefully.

NV Sparkling Squid Ink Shiraz ($55)

Good sparkling Shiraz is, for me, a joy.  This bottle fermented living beast is one of the good ones – a serious wine base that has the character and body of the Squid Ink wines above.  It will not be for everybody but for the believers this is one to check out – I can feel turkey breast with cranberry sauce being consumed with the bottle I bought.

2010 Giant Squid Ink Shiraz ($150)

Firstly it was interesting to see a cellar door having a $150 bottle of wine open for the general wine drinking visitor.  It is always a tough call on the benefit of opening such an expensive bottle as most of the cellar door visitors will not purchase this wine.  However I like this move as it shows they want to show their wines and to sell their brand.  The wine has spent time in both new American and then into french oak and the result is definitely one for the “Robert Parker” school of red wines.  Lots of oak character but the intense Shiraz fruit is certainly not shy here either.  Needs time to show it’s best and I will be interested to see how it develops.

Free Blog Notification Subscription