Sep 20, 2015

Grenache at d'Arenberg, McLaren Vale South Australia

We had a great chat with Chester Osborne of d'Arenberg in McLaren Vale at the First Family of Wine event in San Francisco. It was late in the evening and Chester was telling the story of this old bush Grenache vineyard that they (d'Arenberg) don't do anything to. Nothing? Nothing! We even use a horse drawn wagon and hand harvest the grapes. Sheep take care of the ground crops.

There is an old saying that says 'never let the facts get in the way of a good story'. Well this sounded too interesting to not visit on the upcoming trip to Adelaide South Australia.

Arrangements were made and unfortunately Chester would be gallivanting around Europe but we were to be well taken care of with Vineyard Manager Giulio Dimasi and Senior Winemaker Jack Walton available to take us on a vineyard/winery tour and a taste of some Grenache wines at the Cellar Door.

After meeting Giulio and Jack we climbed into the Ute and headed out to the vineyards. Its the middle of winter in McLaren Vale and the sun is coming out from a little morning fog and as we approach the bush vine Grenache vineyard a mob of roo's give us the "you are in our space look' before hopping of into the next vineyard. The sheep grazing between the rows could not have cared less. We climbed out of the ute and walked into the vineyard with these somewhat decrepit looking gnarly small vines that just happen to be 70 plus years old. After repeating what we remembered from our chat with Chester it became apparent there were a couple minor details that would need some clarification.
Sheep doing their thing in the vineyard.
Look we are as guilty as anyone regards the embellishment of a good story and after a few glasses of wine and some laughs who is not going to go for more. Besides who knew that a couple of wine wankers would actually go check out a story that is set on the other side of the world. Sorry we had to bust your awesome story Chester but that's how we roll. We want the real story out there. So look, here's the thing, the only bust in the story is the fact that the vines are pruned, hand pruned to be sure but they are pruned.. Other than that the rest of the story about that we do not do anything is pretty close. No herbicides. No pesticides. No machinery. No tractors. Pretty much if the sheep cant do it, it is not done. It truly is a minimalist approach to vineyard management and a management model that would make most vineyards seem over worked.
Giulio looking on as Jack gets a taste going. 

These stunted gnarly old bush Grenache vines are something to behold and the story is a good one. They really do almost nothing to the vineyard. Hand prune. Let the sheep and kangaroo's in and pick the grapes by hand. Haul out the grapes with a horse drawn wagon. That's it. so next up is how does the wine taste from this vineyard and how does it compare to the other Grenache that D'arenberg make taste. But first it was a tour of the facilities and a taste right from the barrel. Tasted some 2014 from the barrel and cant wait for it to be bottled. Shaping up nicely.

The lineup of Grenache from d'Arenberg is impressive. No two are alike and the characteristics of each will capture your attention.

First up was the 2012 The Custodian Grenache, a 100% McLaren Vale Grenache. This is a Grenache for the people. From some really old rejuvenated vines comes a wine that connects to the place and shares that special flavor of one that appreciates getting to be old.

Next was the The Derelict Vineyard Grenache (video with Chester) 2011, 100% McLaren Vale Grenache. The name is reflective of just what these vines have been. Derelict. Chester has become a champion for these old 70 plus year old bush vines and the passion shows in the wonderful flavors that show in this deep and complex wine. With all kinds of red fruit and floral notes of rose and violet as well as a wonderful white pepper the palate follows nicely with those same strong red fruits and a tart acidic kick with a nice tannin drawn out finish. Spend a little time with this wine and it will slowly tell you more stories with a subtle minerality and some spice notes revealing themselves. This is a wine with some charismatic character.

Last but not least a Grenache blend The Bonsai Vine Grenache Shiraz MourvĂ©dre 2010
Grenache 48% Shriaz 42% Mourvèdre 10%. This is an intense wine, one that is in a hurry to get your attention and will do best with a little decant or a few more years. That being said it is also a great wine to be drinking with food and has strong character and big flavor. For it's intensity it is quite well balanced and an engaging drop.

Next up was  some more expensive Grenache or Grenache blends and the superlatives keep coming. The Ironstone Pressing and The Beautiful View. Nice!

Thanks to Chester for setting up the crew to show us around and to Giulio and Jack for showing us around these amazing old vineyards and for the great tasting. To anyone near the McLaren Vale area head on over to the d'Arenberg Cellar door and check out these wonderful wines., we recommend you do!

Happy Wine Adventures,


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