While its roots are firmly entrenched in the soils of Barossa history, Grenache has previously been seen somewhat as the shy, younger sibling to it’s confident and undeniably successful brother, Shiraz. A blending wine, stalwart rosé variety, Grenache’s more serious potential has been overlooked except by a few, dedicated winemakers. There has happily been a significant shift of late, with a new focus and desire to celebrate this variety; to put it simply ‘Grenache is so hot right now’.
Spearheading the charge of Grenache, is Turkey Flat winemaker, Mark Bulman. While Mark’s biography can now proudly boast “2017 Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy Winner”, it is a sentence in the concluding paragraph, unchanged for years, that tells you most about this man; “he has developed a love for Grenache that borders on obsessive”. Once you get to know him, you’ll realise that this is quite an understatement.
Coming from a background of cooler-climate regions, Mark’s courtship with Grenache began in Barossa. Fascinated by the complexity of the variety, he began to research Grenache from the old world. “The intensity of wines from Southern France, particularly Gigondas and Vacqueras and Spain’s Navarra made me sit up and take note. Here were wines that were unapologetically tannic, herbaceous and spicy yet held in the most perfect balance. It was utterly inspiring. Barossa Grenache is all these things, when you take it seriously enough.”
The natural symbiosis of this style of Grenache and their regional food compatriots further fanned the flames of Mark’s love. Like the couple who have been blissfully married for 60 years, some food and wine matches bring out joyful qualities in each other that aren’t there individually. Complex Grenache is one of those wines that can achieve such dizzying gastronomic heights. “Try a Grenache with Manchego” says Mark “Grenache brings out elements of fruit and delightful olive type characters in the cheese. The tannins are tamed by the cheese, highlighting other nuances of spice, leather and red fruit in the wine that otherwise hide. It’s no coincidence that Grenache is widely grown in La Mancha, the home of Manchego.” With a booming, artisanal food culture and European roots, Barossa’s culinary landscape is no different. Mark takes time to note, however “we’re often guilty in Australia of believing that a wine has to stand up on its own, where the real rewards can actually come from wine enjoyed with food from its surrounding landscape. This is something the French and Spanish do very well, it’s so ingrained into their way of life they don’t even stop to think about it. Perhaps we should.”
Confidence in Grenache locally, is at an all-time high, with plantings and grape prices on the increase. Barossa Wine Show results from the past two years also reflect the changing landscape Wine of show in 2017 was Bethany Wines, Old Vine Grenache while in 2018 Most Outstanding Barossa Red Table Wine was awarded to St John’s Road The Resilient Grenache.
April’s Barossa Wine Auction will showcase some true Grenache gems; the Barossa Old Vine Grenache lot; 60 wines from 20 producers and some of the oldest Grenache vines in the world, Barossa Wine Show trophy winners from Bethany Wines and St John’s Road. The Turkey Flat Grenache (yes, including the Jimmy Watson winner) will feature in a very rare vertical collection, alongside Turkey Flat Shiraz and their flagship, The Ancestor Shiraz. The Turkey Flat Shiraz has a fine pedigree of its own, awarded “Australian Red Wine of the Year” by Langton’s Fine Wine in 2018. Evidence of Mark’s protective winemaking philosophy of freshness, balance, structure and drinkability paying tribute to the outstanding old-vine material of the Turkey Flat property which dates back to 1847.
Where will this newfound confidence lead Grenache? Mark sees Grenache continuing to build on today’s momentum, “Grenache’s popularity today isn’t a flash in the pan, we can only look up from here” adding “I’d love to see at least 5 top Australian Grenache included in the Langton’s Classification. There are certainly enough premium quality Grenache wines made throughout Barossa and Australia that deserve a place in the hearts, glasses and cellars of wine-drinkers globally.”
As for what Mark would choose to line his own cellar with? Check out his selections here