Vale McLaren; Barossa claims Australia’s grenache crown

Posted on Apr 27, 2020

Maybe it’s boredom after weeks of pandemic-related confinement.

Maybe it’s the change in season.

Either way, the thought of following the script with another list drawn from the wine show categories just wasn’t lighting a fire under your correspondent’s keyboard this week.

Time for something different, we thought. A wine delicate enough to see out the dying days of our Indian summer yet with enough presence to see in autumn’s increasingly chilly nights.

That wine is grenache.

Grenache has enjoyed a huge renaissance over the past three years.

Since winning 2017’s best-known wine show prize – the Jimmy Watson trophy for young reds – a grenache was also crowned at the head of a certain critic’s annual wine list last year. As if to prove the point the 2019 Jimmy Watson was also given to a grenache blend.

It’s a cavalcade of accolades for a grape once relegated to fortifieds, red blends or – more recently – the increasingly popular rose segment.

Yet, for all that, grenache rarely commands enough respect for consideration within its own class.

Wine shows typically lump it in with “other reds” such as tempranillo, montepulciano, malbec and durif.

The one specialist show devoted to the grape, the James Halliday Grenache Challenge, notes the diversity of the grape’s expression. Top examples ranged between “lighter, perfumed wines and richer, more textural” styles.

It is generally reckoned that McLaren Vale is the premier home to grenache in Australia. This appears to be confirmed by the Australia-wide Grenache Challenge which awarded every one of its 11 gold medals to a McLaren Vale label. (The challenge is hosted by the McLaren Vale wine show after all.)

However wider wine show results indicate the Vale’s claim is less clear cut. In fact it was arch-rival region Barossa Valley which exhibited slightly better examples once all other shows were taken into account.

Looking at the top 25 wines ranked by our compilation of the 681 grenache exhibits assessed by 39 different shows in 2019, Barossa labels were ranked on average one level higher than McLaren labels.

Moreover, they were on average 10 per cent cheaper at $35 per bottle.

Autumn is the perfect time to enjoy Australia’s modern take on grenache. As the style veers away from heavy, hot and jammy wines, today’s fragrant, medium-bodied reds can be served chilled to reflect the transition between summer and the colder months ahead.

These were the top 25 grenache labels as shown at Australian wine shows last year and ranked by us:

Rank Label Origin Price
1 Pinnacle Drinks Blood Brother Republic Blewitt Springs McLaren Vale Grenache 2018 McLaren Vale $17
2 Peter Lehmann The Barossan Grenache 2017 Barossa $23
3 Hentley Farm Villain & Vixen Grenache 2018 Barossa $22
4 Robert Oatley Signature Series McLaren Vale G-18 Grenache 2018 McLaren Vale $18
5 Richard Hamilton ‘Burton’s Vineyard’ Old Bush Vine Grenache 2018 McLaren Vale $40
6 SC Pannell Basso Garnacha 2018 McLaren Vale $28
7 St Hallett Old Vine Grenache 2018 Barossa $30
8 Serafino Reserve Grenache 2018 McLaren Vale $45
9 Hentley Farm The Old Legend Grenache 2018 Barossa $60
10 Aphelion The Confluence Grenache 2018 McLaren Vale $33
11 Turkey Flat Grenache 2018 Barossa $40
12 SC Pannell Smart Grenache 2018 McLaren Vale $60
13 Yalumba Samuel’s Collection Barossa Old Bush Vine Grenache 2018 Barossa $24
14 Warrabilla Reserve Grenache 2018 VIC $27
15 Bethany First Village Grenache 2018 Barossa $24
16 Geddes Seldom Inn Grenache 2018 McLaren Vale $25
17 Seppeltsfield Village Barossa Grenache 2019 Barossa $24
18 Yalumba The Tri-Centenary Grenache 2015 Barossa $71
19 Reynella Basket Pressed Grenache 2018 McLaren Vale $73
20 Fox Creek Limited Release Grenache 2017 McLaren Vale $38
21 Chaffey Bros Pax Aeterna Grenache 2019 Barossa $28
21 Hemera Grenache 2017 Barossa $35
23 Heirloom McLaren Vale Alcala Grenache 2018 McLaren Vale $62
24 Yangarra Old Vine Grenache 2017 McLaren Vale $31
25 Scarpantoni Oxenberry Farm Doringo Valley Grenache 2018 McLaren Vale $25

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