Alternative facts: Australia’s best “other” reds

Posted on Oct 2, 2019

Deepthroat’s famous advice to journalists Woodward and Bernstein was to “follow the money”.

The scent of cash, he suggested, would lead them through the maze that eventually uncovered Richard Nixon’s role in the Watergate break-in and subsequent cover-up.

It seems the same is true of winemaking.

Grenache’s recent revival following a welter of wine show golds and subsequent critical acclaim has seen the once unfashionable grape overtake tempranillo as the most popular alternative single red variety on the wine show circuit.

Winemakers entered 550 grenache exhibits at wine shows last year – up 15% on the number shown in 2017. Tempranillo, which had topped the category in 2017, fell back to second place with 478 exhibits ahead of perennial third placegetter sangiovese with 251 exhibits.

The ascension of grenache – as perhaps with all alternative reds – was kicked off by the grape’s surprise selection as the winner of the Royal Melbourne Wine show’s famed Jimmy Watson trophy in 2017.

It was the first time the cup – given to the show’s “Best Young Red” exhibit – had been awarded to a grape outside the familiar faces of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, pinot noir or a traditional blend such as cabernet merlot.

The spotlight swung grenache’s way again this year when a well-known critic picked a McLaren Vale example as his top wine of the year.

The alternative red category has become a happy hunting ground for winemakers seeking wine show glitter. It was the best of all the red categories in 2017 and third-best category overall after riesling and fortified.

“Other reds” enjoyed a median wine show score of 87 that year with a medal strike rate of 61 per cent. Those figures slipped in 2018 with the median score falling two points to 85 and the medal strike rate dipping to below 60 per cent. Still, it wasn’t all bad. The category recorded a 2 per cent rise in overall exhibits to fall just short of 3000 in total.

The best of the major varieties in 2018 was montepulciano with an average score of 87.2 followed by malbec. That echoed the pattern of 2017 although both grapes scored higher the previous year.

Wine show judges assessed 2930 exhibits of 1374 different alternative red labels last year. Here are the top 20:

1 McWilliam’s Alternis Tempranillo 2017
2 Millbrook Geographe Tempranillo 2017
3 Tamburlaine Orange Reserve Malbec 2017
4 Shingleback Kitchen Garden Mataro 2017
5 Calabria Private Bin Montepulciano 2017
6 McWilliam’s Alternis Touriga 2017
7 Reynella Basket Pressed Grenache 2016
8 De Bortoli Deen Vat 1 Durif 2016
9 Turkey Flat Grenache 2017
10 Jacob’s Creek Our Limited Release Barossa Valley Grenache 2017
11 Brown Brothers Vintage Release Durif 2015
12 Calabria Private Bin Nero D’Avola 2017
13 Bleasdale Second Innings Malbec 2017
14 SC Pannell Basso Garnacha 2017
15 Tamburlaine Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2017
16 Vinaceous Voodoo Moon Malbec 2016
17 Moppity Lock & Key Reserve Tempranillo 2017
18 Ricca Terra Bullets Before Cannonballs Tempanillo 2017
19 Serafino Reserve Grenache 2017
20 Nugan Manuka Grove Durif 2015

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