Welcome back Grenache: The Top 25 red blends

Posted on Sep 19, 2019

Grenache is to Australian wine what paisley is to the fashion industry.

Once Australia’s most widely planted black grape, grenache fell out of fashion in the 1960s as public tastes swung away from sweet reds towards the dry “table” styles preferred today.

But – just as mid-20th century fashion and furniture is resurfacing among the avant-garde – grenache is also enjoying a renaissance as a medium-weighted, juicy alternative to Australian staples such as cabernet and shiraz. Single-varietal grenache wines have been accorded the industry’s highest honours on both the Australian show circuit and critical acclaim over the past two years.

However it is in blends with shiraz and mataro (or mourvedre) that grenache’s sweet, rich fruit has found its most regular home.  Simply known as “GSM”, the blend produces a spicy, robust and relatively “warm” (read ‘somewhat alcoholic’) wine traditionally codified in France’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Roussillon appellations. Grenache lends its warmth, spice and juicy texture to shiraz’s weighty mouthfeel while mataro finishes the mixture off with some tannic grip and perfume.

Back home, GSM blends appear to suffer dichotomous views. This is best illustrated by consistent gaps between critics and wine show assessments. Reviewers seem unmoved by GSM’s “bold, bright colours” and “dense, sweet fruit” and regularly mark such wines up to two medals (10 points) lower than corresponding wine show scores.

Critical appreciation is not impossible. Reviewing a McLaren Vale GSM label, one critic said the wine “richly deserved its gold medal at [last year’s] National Wine Show…it has the special texture that this medium-bodied regional/varietal blend creates. The texture is a cross between silk and sand,” he said.

Grenache-based combinations are the stars of the “red blends” class.  Their average weighted score is 30 per cent higher than the next best subset of the category – that is, blends that are dominated by neither cabernet nor shiraz – and account for are 17 per cent more entries than the next biggest subset – cabernet-based blends. But that partly reflects the composition of the class itself which is defined more by what it is not than what it is.

What it is not are cabernet merlot, cabernet shiraz, cabernet blends or shiraz blends – where the latter two are defined as either cabernet or shiraz blended with no more than one other grape other than merlot or shiraz (in cabernet’s case) or cabernet in shiraz blends. All these variants are classified separately.

That leaves the rest including exotic brews of Mediterranean grapes and some less common cabernet and shiraz-based blends. One of the most successful of these is cabernet, shiraz, merlot as popularised by Wynn’s Coonawarra and Houghton’s “Red Classic” labels.

Wine show judges assessed 1443 exhibits of 681 different red blend labels last year. These are the top 25:


1 Robert Oatley Signature Series McLaren Vale Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro 2016
2 Sieber Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro 2016
3 Lake Breeze Arthur’s Reserve Cabernet, Petit Verdot, Malbec 2016
4 Yarra Yering Dry Red Wine No3 Touriga Naçional, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Amarela, Alvarelhão, Sousão 2017
5 Shingleback Red Knot Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2017
6 Pinnacle Drinks Cat Amongst the Pigeons Barossa Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2017
7 Blue Pyrenees “Estate Red” Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot 2015
8 Calabria Saint Petri Barossa Valley Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2016
9 St Hugo Barossa Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro 2016
10 Serafino Grenache, Mataro, Shiraz 2017
11 Medhurst YRB Pinot, Shiraz 2018
12 SC Pannell Grenache Shiraz Touriga 2017
13 Brand’s Laira August Tide Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot 2015
14 Hamelin Bay Rampant Red Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot 2017
15 Lindemans Coonawarra Pyrus Red Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec 2015
16 Giant Steps Yarra Valley LDR Pinot Noir, Syrah 2018
17 Dandelion Menagerie of the Barossa Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro 2017
18 Rosemount GSM Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvedre 2016
19 McGuigan Shortlist GSM Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2016
20 Bleasdale The Broadside Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec 2016
21 Bleasdale Frank Potts Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot 2017
22 Heirloom King Garden Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre 2016
23 Bleasdale Wellington Road Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro 2017
24 Wirra Wirra Original Blend Grenache Shiraz 2017
25 Robert Oatley Signature Series McLaren Vale Grenache Shiraz 2017

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