Grenache is just about the most exciting category in Australian wine right now, from the bright and forward to the serious and brooding. This wine captures a bit of both. Sourced from three sites, with vines from 55 to 90 years old, Pete Schell crafts the fruit into a democratically priced everyday wine that over delivers in a major way. The emphasis is on approachability, but it’s underwritten by old vine minerality, with crushed red berries and cherries, spices and florals leading to a palate shot through with rocky and earthy minerality, the balance impeccable.
There’s real vibrancy here, with wild raspberries, ripe redcurrants, macerated cherries, red floral notes and a dusting of warm spices. It’s fresh and forward, but coming off old vines there’s plenty of depth and presence, too, with a brooding dark minerality underpinning. Those characters persist on the palate, with rosewater and musk notes very subtly chiming in, grapey, pithy tannins tucking the fruit into line, leaving a neat impression of the bright and the savoury effortlessly intertwined, drinkability at the fore.
Themes of this wine
The great grape of the Southern Rhône, grenache, has also found many homes around the world, from Spain, to Italy, to California, while Australia is home to the world’s oldest productive grenache vines, planted in 1948. Today, a renaissance is seeing the grape championed, with makers in McLaren Vale arguably turning out the most compelling examples.
The Barossa is arguably Australia’s most revered wine region. It dwarfs many other fine wine regions for scale, while firmly maintaining a quality profile, with its distinctive style and character recognised worldwide. It is dripping in history, has far and away the largest resource of old and ancient vines in the country, and fifth- and sixth-generation growers and makers proliferate. It is fair to call it the cornerstone of Australian wine. It is the home of powerful red wines, established names making established styles, but there are also makers finding new meaning in the territory.
There’s no region in the wine world that has a greater appreciation for old vines that the Barossa does. So much so that they have created a regional charter to define the ages. Old Vines are 35–69 years, Survivor Vines 70–99 years, Centenarian Vines 100–124 years, and Ancestor Vines 125+ years. It’s a helpful scale, as 150-year-old vine is going to produce very different fruit to one 35 years old. As vines get very old, their roots will have gone very deep, often resulting in a greater sense of minerality, depending on site, while their ability to withstand vintage vagaries is much improved, drawing water from deep in the soil. They also become very low yielding, naturally regulating their production of grapes with increased concentration in the berries.