One of Australia’s most prestigious wine awards was won this year by a 2016 High Sands Grenache from Yangarra Estate. Awarded the title of 2020 Halliday Wine Companion of the Year, the wine demonstrates the revival of a classic Australian wine, often overshadowed by more popular varieties like Shiraz. Yangarra Estate winemaker, Peter Fraser, explained that Grenache is regaining popularity because of its ability to communicate a sense of place and the subtlety involved in making it. So why did it drop off the radar, and why is it now making a comeback?
When considering Australian wines, many red wine drinkers think first of Shiraz or Pinot Noir, while those who buy white wine might think of a Chardonnay or Riesling. However, Grenache vines were amongst the first to be planted in Australia in the late 1800s, and the world’s oldest vineyard, located in Adelaide, still runs today, producing a Grenache Shiraz blend. Grown in warmer climates, both Grenache and Grenache Blanc were traditionally used in the production of fortified wines, which meant that their subtle and spicy character was often overlooked, with attention turning to the wine produced in Australia’s cooler climates. As a result, fewer new Grenache vineyards were planted, but this meant that the average age of the vineyards increased, leading to the production of superior wines and fuelling the varietal’s resurgence.
Because Grenache pairs well with other varieties – notably Shiraz – it still features heavily in blended wines, but with the wine community beginning to recognize its strength as a single varietal, high-quality wines like High Sands are beginning to take center stage. While in the past, Grenache was sidelined for its paler color and lighter style, these qualities now make it popular amongst those who favor lighter, easy-drinking wines. However, the range of Grenache produced has extended, and rich, full-bodied wines are now also available. With cherry, white pepper and raspberry often noted amongst its flavors, it pairs well with grilled meat and charcuterie. Grenache Blanc, meanwhile, is often associated with flavors of dried herbs, lychee and citrus zest, and pairs well with spiced dishes and fish.
Producing a bottle of Grenache or Grenache Blanc at the dinner table is likely to be a popular move over the coming year, with Australia’s Halliday Wine Companion Awards boosting the trend for the varietal amongst wine lovers across the world.