Grenache | Why we love it so much
Not so long ago, Grenache was the most planted red grape variety in the world. It was the most widely planted variety in Australia until the 1960s, mainly used in fortified wines. Then, with the shift to table wines, it slipped into the shadow of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Thankfully its star is in the ascendency once more.
A workhorse in Australia's fortified wine industry, Grenache has flourished in our soils since the 1840s. It's not that it went away in the 1960s; people often didn't know they were drinking it. In combination with its better-known colleague, Shiraz, I'm sure many of you enjoyed a 'Burgundy' or two over the years. With label integrity coming into force and the increasing sophistication of the average wine consumer, Rhône style wines became popular, and Grenache stepped out of the shadows as the G in the classic GSM blend.
Maligned by some and misunderstood by others, Grenache has a lot going for it, not least its versatility amongst a wide range of qualities. Historically, its vigour and prodigious yield lent themselves favourably to growers seeking volume for large-scale fortification. From a table wine perspective, such overcropping could lead to somewhat simple and basic wine that belied its ability to produce quality. However, in places like the Barossa, the combination of some of the oldest Grenache vineyards in the world and viticultural practices aimed at restricting yields result in a plethora of quality everyday drinkers through to classically structured age-worthy wines.
The changing appreciation for Grenache is exemplified by our own experience here at Langmeil Winery. It has always been a cellar door favourite, and we have offered a Grenache since the 1995 vintage (if you recognise the label, you've been around as long as I have!). Unable to try before you buy, bottle shop and restaurant sales faced the often insurmountable hurdle of punter preconceptions, resulting in stock diverted to the cellar door. Once there, a simple taste swiftly allayed any visitors' reservations. Times have certainly changed. So much so that while we now produce two single-varietal Grenache wines (plus a GSM), I now have to share stock allocations with the broader domestic and international markets. Still, selling out is not the worst problem to have.