Why we’re crushing on South Australian grenache blends
This once chronically underrated grape makes a mighty fine wine on its own. But in a blend? Well, that’s a party in a glass. And some of the world’s best grenache blends are coming out of our own South Australia.
Here’s why you need to get a South Australian grenache blend in your life, stat.
Why South Australian grenache?
We’ve got a serious soft spot for the dark house that is grenache. The varietal has been kicking around in the Mediterranean since Medieval times, but the location of the oldest surviving vines might surprise you. Forget France or Spain – they’re growing in South Australia. Yup, it’s in the state of Farmer’s Union, churches and serial killers that you’ll also find the world’s oldest grenache vines, with plants in the Barossa Valley dating back to the 1840s.
These vines escaped the phylloxera blight that wiped out Europe’s vineyards in the 19th century, mostly thanks to the fact that our border control was uber paranoid even then. The surviving vines languished forgotten in South Australia for a hundred years or so, until a handful of local winemakers realised these gnarly, tough old vines were producing some of the best grenache on the planet. And so, the South Australian GSM blend was born.
An all-Australian blend
Here at the ’fo, we love an acronym almost as much as a nanna learning to text. And one of our most loved has got to be ‘GSM’. You’ve got grenache providing softness and lush red berry flavours. Then shiraz, with those big, bold spicy flavours. And finally, the savoury mataro/mourvèdre (different names for the same robust Spanish-born grape). Best of all, this blend has become something of an Australian specialty.
While single-varietal grenache struggled in the popularity stakes until only recently, a small group of South Australian winemakers started recognising the grape’s blending chops in the late 1980s. Inspired by a classic blend from legendary southern Rhône wine regions like Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Barossa winemaker Charles Melton was one of the first to slap a label on an Australian GSM.
Others followed suit, and the combination of South Australia’s old-growth vines (the state also claims some of the oldest shiraz and mourvèdre vines) and ideal climate for all three varieties made for a blend that the wine world couldn’t ignore. If you want to get a handle on South Australian red blends, start with a GSM.
Grenache and other friends
Although GSM is the most recognisable combo (sometimes shuffled into SGM if shiraz is the prominent grape), there’s no reason to stop there when tasting your way around South Australian grenache blends. Many of the big wineries of the Barossa, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley and Langhorne Creek were adding grenache to their shiraz way before it became fashionable to admit it. Now the shiraz grenache blend has come into its own, with the more delicate fruit flavours of the grenache and the full-bodied fruits of the shiraz combining into one smashable red wine.
A blend of grenache and the aromatic Portuguese grape touriga nacional is also starting to gain ground, as well as a blend of grenache, shiraz and touriga (we’re predicting it, keep an eye out for ‘GST’ wines). Whatever else is going into the bottle, if there’s a South Australian grenache in the mix, you know it’s going to be worth a taste.
Want to get into grenache? We’ve got what you need.