Tomorrow is International Grenache Day. Even though grenache is one of the most widely planted red grape varieties in the world it’s still considered a bit of an unsung hero?
As a lover of Rhône wines and especially Châteauneuf-du-Pape, of which grenache is typically the dominant grape, I applaud efforts to help the variety become more widely appreciated!
In Australia winemakers are doing wonderful things with grenache. Take Barossa based Agathist Alchemy, a fairly new label from Torbreck senior winemaker Chris Isbel. Chris has just released two grenache wines from the 2015 vintage: the early drinking style Agathist Alchemy First Wine ($31.95) and the cellar worthy Agathist Alchemy Second Wine ($57.95) – a wine that is matured in puncheons for about 9 -12 months before bottling.
Chris is keen to create wines that reflect the essence of old vine Barossa grenache; hence the unusual name of his label. ‘Agathist’, by the way, is someone who believes that all things tend toward the greater good (sounds like a very helpful philosophy!). By making the wines in a very minimalist way – eg. natural ferments, no additives except a small bit of sulphur after a malolactic fermentation – Chris relies on the grapes and the ferment to “choose their own path to greatness.”
A great lover of grenache, Chris believes it’s the most suited grape variety for the Barossa. He was delighted to secure the produce of an exceptional vineyard of mature grenache vines, owned by his friend and vigneron Nick Radford.
Nick organically farms his one hectare Seppeltsfield vineyard, where the soils of heavy red clay have lots of blue stones scattered throughout. These 60 plus year old low yielding dry grown vines produce fully ripe fruit with concentrated flavours. Add Chris’s feather touch approach to winemaking, and the results are wines that are beautifully expressive of their terroir – lusciously fruity, yet elegant and complex with subtle savoury notes.
By Merrill Witt, Editor