2014 S C Pannell The Vale

Grenache and Shiraz and the first wine region I visited. Thirty six years ago, sea breezes and almond blossom and a vague idea wine tasted nice. McLaren Vale was a friendly place, still is, with generous cellar doors ready to pour the good things. This is generous and warm too. Opens with bottle aged old polished furniture smells, then blackberries and spiced plum jam fill the mouth. More complications like a sweet, fertile, well tended garden, quality dark chocolate, cherry liqueur as it warms verging on that childhood cough syrup and roast nuts. All sort of melted together by time. Good natural feeling acidity and chocolate tannin. Idle thought that perhaps I like most Australian red wine in its earlier years. Sometimes things just mellow and sink into each other, comfortable but better, not sure? Nonetheless on a cold winter night, this warmed the proverbial cockles.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $30 at auction, unusually shrewd bid.

93 points.

2019 Ulithorne Chi Grenache Shiraz

Oh well, another of those bottles that tries to convince its quality by sheer heft. First growth Bordeaux fetches a lot more with much less glass. Nonetheless, Blewitt Springs seems to be a sub region producing Grenache of deliciousness, albeit possibly compromised by the addition of Shiraz here. Comfortably medium weight, starting with savoury peanuts, cherry jam, strawberry perfume, spices and a slightly salty finish, holding up well on naturally ripe acidity and velvet tannins. I do like it’s composure and making, less extraction, less oak, more interest. Higher toned perfumes emerge, roses, strawberry juice, a few of my favourite things. Poise and elan rather than weight and muscle, raindrops on roses, that’s enough Sound of Music.

14.5% alcohol but not showing too much warmth. Screw cap. $13.65 at auction which is quite a score these days as more people with Covid avoidance time on their hands plunder the lists.

93 points.

2020 Vinatero Old Vine McLaren Vale Grenache

At the prices Aldi sell their wine, this is indeed a pauper’s Pinot. Initially shows that bubblegum like whole berry carbonic ferment thing, roses, lipstick, cherry juice heading toward kirsch, maybe some sappy stem to cut the fruit sweetness. Grenache suits the Vale so well, naturally hanging onto mouthwatering ripe acidity and a brush of tannin to slice the sweet fruit. Light to barely medium bodied. Really nicely made, a cute wine! Does get a little washy and dilute through the mouth but the perfume resonates and it did hang on over a couple of days without falling apart. Does make you wonder how long bargains like this will continue as McLaren Vale Grenache gets increasingly popular? These relatively small makes of regional specialties may not build a long term brand but they do suit the Aldi way, opportunistically snaffling and putting on the shelf at a price until all gone. Just don’t expect it to be there next time. Good fun for the jaded wine nut.

13.5% alcohol. Screw cap. $11.99.

90 points.

2019 Thistledown Summer Road Old Vine Grenache Shiraz

It’s quite sobering, metaphorically thank goodness, to find that your supposed astuteness in seeking bargains is stuffed. This has a RRP of $75, so scoring a couple of bottles for a lot less at auction meant self congratulation until it turned up on the Vinomofo site for $25, what do I know? Nonetheless, probably a lot less, this is still a finely crafted bit of what McLaren Vale does best. Warm brown spices, stems? Sooty dark berries, purple flowers, don’t mind me, raspberries all flow on good ripe skin tannin and settled acidity. Made with discretion, a tickle of greener stem tannin emerges to stop things being too fruit sweet. Lovely to drink, cheerful and honest, notwithstanding price or a particularly heavy glass bottle. Wish the sensitivity of touch extended to the packaging.

14.5% alcohol. Screw cap. Price, well, variable.

93 points.

2019 Oliver’s Taranga Vineyards Grenache

From one of the long term quality grape farmers in McLaren Vale with over a 100 hectares, the old bush vines have triumphed here. Looked a little uncoordinated at first, musky, handbags and a meaty sulphidic edge. Seemed too big and clunky. Just needed a good deep breath, the second day and the fruit flexed considerable toned muscle. Deep red fruits, a glorious top note like walking into a winery in full autumn ferment, sweet ferrous earth, salty mushroom and fine chocolate. Generous and contained by the sort of skin tannin and acidity that keeps you coming back for another sip. The back label says it’s a mushrooming walk in a pine forest and suggests firing up the pizza oven, nice words. Quality grapes, no wonder they’re on Penfolds’ list of growers for something called Grange.

14%. Screw cap. $30.

93 points.

2017 Yangarra Estate Shiraz

South Australia may have built a formidable reputation for rich, generous Shiraz but it’s Grenache that seems a better fit to climate for my less than populist geek view. So, a few bottles in a damaged label six pack at the wholesaler’s annual clearance, or frenzy as it’s known hereabouts, promised a good chance to see what a favourite producer are doing. Very well in short. A touch of dusty bottle development already, tar and deep brown spices. Tangy plums suit the spice well. Sucking in oxygen over two days and it freshened up to include rich summer and autumn berries touched by chocolate. Terrific shape through the mouth with settled acidity well moulded to a sweep of stem and skin tannin. Any oak influence a mere afterthought. Sweet earth to season and a purple haze lingers. Compact and very well made. So different to those booze soaked, oaky, acid adjusted monsters of yore. Very happy to have another waiting a few years. Beautiful grape growing.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. $35 RRP and still great value at that.

94 points.

2018 Paralian Grenache Shiraz

Yet another from Blewitt Springs, McLaren Vale that is. Busy place. In the glass, there’s loads of dried herbs with an Australian bush accent. Very frisky red fruit, spices and aniseed. Good crack of bright acidity, little bit citrusy and some grip from those herby stems. Something like a lemony oak note or crashes the party a little for this fusspot. Probably won’t trouble most. In broad terms, it’s good to see the grapes picked for fresh red fruit, the Shiraz bit seems, well, almost racy. Enough depth of flavour to satisfy, still full of generous plum and pomegranate fruit. Paralian’s a good new word to add to the vocabulary for us living on the margin by the big ocean.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. 555 gms of glass which seems about average for most Australian bottles. After weighing a few, I’m going to stop, only to note those with virtuous lightness or berate those show off heavyweights. As a Campbell Mattinson Winefront review described one obese effort, “for those with more money than confidence”. This bottle was $30 at auction.

94 points.

2016 S C Pannell The Vale

Going back to the blends of Grenache and Shiraz that would have been labelled Burgundy last century, this one shows itself more than the sum of its parts. Spiced poached cherries, dark brandy soaked fruit cake, tar, aniseed and chocolate. Plums galore as it sits in the glass, not for long though, delicious. The structure seems naturally grippy and large enough to handle the generous ripe blast of fruit. Big heart, broad shoulders, firm handshake and no artifice.

14.5% alcohol. Screw cap. 593 gms of glass. Clearance special at Dan’s for $27.88

93 very solid points.

2018 Jericho GSM

A blend of 85% Grenache, 12% Shiraz and 3% Mourvèdre which means it could be simply labelled as Grenache under Australian labelling rules which apparently allow 15% of something else without having to declare it. Not much chance of real ingredient labelling anytime soon then. Nonetheless, kudos to the Jerichos for being this concise. The label also says it’s from the Blewitt Springs sub region where nearly every McLaren Vale Grenache I’ve enjoyed seems to come from. Smell and flavours thus, leather, earthy, dried cherry and a sort of clove or nutmeg feel. It comes alive on the tongue with really bright rich raspberries, florals, hot cross bun spice and leathery dried grape skins. Good whack of natural feeling, stalky acidity cleans up nicely. Second day and the rich fruit’s quite lolly sweet to the point of almost cloying but that stalky cut organises it well. Delicious but you have to like that youthful power of full throttle sweet Grenache, honest, rich and probably typical of the Springs of Blewitt.

14.20% alcohol. Screw cap. 548 gms of glass. $26, good value.

93 points.

2019 Bondar Rayner Vineyard Grenache

An example of Grenache made in the less extraction is more way. Just cooked strawberries or as those Frenchies with a word for everything edible say compôte, makes me think of compost though. Roses verging to musk, raspberries and cherries too. Sweetly transparent fruit running up against fresh cut fennel sap, dried up by no nonsense acidity and stem tannin. Second day and just the same, just balanced. Such a long way from what you’d traditionally expect from a McLaren Vale red, polarising for some maybe. Pale and interesting.

14% alcohol. Screw cap. 707 gms of glass. $35.

93 then 92 points.