There are all manner of groups and initiatives that have proposed a collective yet individual approach to a winemaking schemata, but by my reckoning none so far where a single vineyard of grenache has been explored through the lens of six, diverse winemakers. There was the grenache-focussed McLaren Vale ‘Cadenzia’ program some ten years ago, but that didn’t look at a single site, more a regional exploration of grenache wines. You could argue that the multiple bottlings from Ricca Terra Farms, Chalmers Heathcote vineyard or something like the suite of nebbiolos off Malakoff vineyard are less structured investigation of multiple expressions from site, but this Grenache Project comes as a single six pack, from a single vintage, from a single site – narrow bandwidth. It’s a strong PR move for Artisans of Barossa first, of course.
The vineyard in question is Quarry Hill vineyard in Angaston. It was planted in 1971 and vines are dry grown on red clay over limestone soils. Yields are typically low, though some of the six wine producers involved in the project decided to drop yields even lower. By chance, or by organisation, the same picking date was used by all; a ‘late-ish’ 21st of March.
The winemakers in question are a who’s who of modern Barossa, with the Hobbs family (Hobbs), John Duval (John Duval Wines), Jaysen Collins (Massena), Jason Schwarz (Schwarz Wine Co.), Corey Ryan and Simon Cowham (Sons of Eden) and Peter Schell (Spinifex), involved. The wines were tasted blind, aside John Duval’s as the screwcap had broken glass off the lip of the bottle, with shattered glass in the screw also found under the cap. The wines and winemaking were as follows.
John Duval Wines: faulty seal/broken glass in wine – not tasted
‘Collins’: Jaysen Collins opted for 100% whole bunches left to ferment in a sealed tank for four to five weeks. It was then foot stomped and pressed, then settled in tanks and left to rest in old oak to finish its short maturation pre-bottling.
Shows scents of game meat, green herbs, green grape stems, red cherry and rose water. Pretty sort of thing, decidedly savoury and herbal. The palate is ultra silky, very fine and fresh in fruit character, hemmed with succulent tannins, long and glossy through its lingering, sweet-sour finish. There’s a pinosity of sorts here. It’s a superb wine, so fine boned, delicate yet character filled. Delicious drinking. 95 points, 2018-2025+
‘Schwarz’: Another 100% whole bunch ferment here. The wine under went carbonic maceration for nine days then was trodden on and left for five days before being basket pressed.
Light and fresh in style, it’s a understated expression of grenache, crisp in texture, a little washy in fruit character but wholly pleasing as a charming drink. The perfume is pretty, set up with red cherry, satsuma plum, fennel, Chinese five spice and briary characters. The palate does feel a bit ‘watery’ in flavour, and the finish a bit watercolour, but overall you can’t help but like the feel of the wine, pretty, fine and fresh feeling. 92 points, 2018-2023
‘Hobbs’: Shiraz is the metier of Hobbs, so a grenache from them is a dalliance, in some respects! Here, the intent was to see ‘how far we could push the boundaries of flavour concentration, without losing the innate character and appeal of Grenache”. Bunches of grapes were dried on racks for five days, then destemmed, then fermented in open tanks before being pressed to older oak barrels.
A full figured, resolute grenache, with richness and dense fruit character on its side. Bouquet shows dark berries, ripe plum, a hint of fig and date, some mocha scents. The palate is generous in sweet fruit flavours, quite velvety upfront though it finishes with some brick dust tannins, a puff of breathy warmth and a light zing of lemony acidity. There’s still a prettiness to the wine, but it’s definitely the most athletic on the table. 91 points, 2018-2025
‘Ryan/Cowham’: Another one for the 100% whole bunch ledger, though this time the ferment occurred in an ‘egg-shaped fermenter’ (material of such non specified). The wine was left on its skins for a significant 65 days, then pressed off and sent to old oak for four months.
A sappy grenache of sweet fruit, sweet perfume, suggestions of game meat strong in both bouquet and palate. There’s a generosity here though the wine does feel relatively fresh and perky, despite the heft of concentrated fruit and skinsy, grippy tannins, though a sherbetty acid tang to finish is a bit distracting. The wine is pretty pleasing though a touch angular and brutish, it looks less pretty and readily accessible than the first two wines with their pretty herbal notes and silky textures. That being said, the attractive sweetness and general vibe of the wine is pleasing. 90 points. 2018-2023
‘Schell’: The wine saw 50/50 whole bunch and de-stemmed grapes fermented in a single vessel. It spent ten days on skins, left alone, then the wine was foot trod and pressed, then sent to large, old oak to mature. Simple stuff.
It’s a fine boned, lithe grenache of complex structure and a swish of firm tannin. The wine smells of red cherries, red currants, clove, brambles and pepper. The palate is savoury, just ripe red berries under dried herbs and brown spice. It’s got some depth to it too. The grip that finishes the wine is quite addictive, and a light amaro note is pleasing too. It’s a very good grenache, perhaps the most serious of all here. 94+ points, 2018-2030
All wines arrived at a consistently labeled 14.5% alcohol.
Each pack contains a single bottle of each plus an exclusive storybook detailing the story behind the Project and each wine.
Price is $250 per pack plus $10 delivery.
Mike Bennie - Winefront