Like the more famous Shiraz, the wines of Australia made from the Grenache grape are often uninhibited, ostentatious, and show copious amounts of ripe fruit and alcohol. Grown all over South Australia, the best grapes similarly achieve the greatest heights from old vines in the McLaren Vale and the Barossa. Unlike Shiraz, they generally contain lower levels of tannin and less dense color.
Wines in the Grenache Skirmish exceeded my high expectations with richness, bold flavors, and high octane. My notes on the wines are rife with quotation marks enclosing vivid and unique descriptions.
The top wine was a clear winner, but two wines stand on the second place podium this month. The first and second place finishers were also the highest in alcohol content.
In addition to four regulars, two seats were occupied by guest tasters who established themselves as excellent substitutes.
First Place: Clarendon Hills Old Vines Grenache Clarendon Vineyard 1998 (Clarendon). The oldest bottle of the night, and the only wine from a single vineyard, this exhibited complex aromas of cinnamon, pears, licorice, popcorn, moss, caramel, and red hots. Gilles felt it smelled of "old manís aftershave", while Kristin noted "old cracked leather". Very thick in texture, dusty, and tasting of blueberries, peppercorns, dark ground spices, and cherries. Stays lively in the mouth, with great balance. Gilles suggested it "tastes like and old wet sweater". Three tasters gave this their top rating, and everyone gave it at least 1 point. 15% alcohol. Received 26 total points. Davidís bottle. About $40.
Second Place (tie): Turkey Flat Grenache 2002 (Barossa). Josephine described a nose of flowers, suggesting "violets and red rose", while other tasters noted walnuts, lead pencil, and an inky quality. David proclaimed that it had a "powerful blast of ripe blackberries" on the attack, and Ali added "grape Popsicle", and "high-end jam". The finish reminded Kristin of black tea, to which Josephine noted more precisely, "Keemun tea". Both David and Jo praised it for its long finish. Everyone gave this at least 1 point, and was Davidís favorite of the night. 15% alcohol. Received 18 points. Gilles brought this entry. About $26.
Second Place (tie): Trevor Jones "Boots" Grenache 2002 (South Australia). Reminiscent of dust, butter, oak, peppercorns, cinnamon, nutmeg, dry earth, campfire smoke, caramel, and rosewater on the nose. Powerful mid-palate that is heady, with cherry liqueur, blueberries and a slight vegetal note. Alcohol stands out, showing a little heat. Josephine was reminded of "Turkish delight". Aliís favorite of the tasting. 15% alcohol. Received 18 points. Andyís entry. About $18.
Third Place: Yalumba "Bush Vine" Grenache 2003 (Barossa). Redolent of cherry liqueur, pepper, dust, and black raspberries. Tasting of blackberries, peppercorns, dry wood, blueberries, leather, tobacco, cumin, cloves, and cherry syrup. Gilles felt that it would be "fantastic with a steak", and David noted its softness and accessibility. 14.5% alcohol. Received 12 points. Aliís bottle. About $15.
Tim Adams "The Fergus" Grenache 2000 (Clare Valley). Tasters felt this wineís aromas were reminiscent of sandalwood soap, dry toast, graphite, strawberries, and cloves. Josephine noted that it was "more ethereal" on the nose than the others, and Gilles countered that it was "sexy, seductive". Ali simply felt "it smells like Gilles". Cherries, blackberries and spices on the palate. Slightly hot. Gilles gave it his top vote, and called it "a comfort wine". Other tasters thought it was broadly appealing and not as distinctive as the rest. 14% alcohol. Received 7 points. Kristinís bottle. About $18.
Charles Melton Grenache 2000 (Barossa). Eliciting the strongest reactions of the tasting, Ali immediately exclaimed "dishwater", and "Iím just getting kitchen here". Andy chimed in with "wet wood or cardboard", to which Josephine added "wet wool or socks" and "raw red meat". Aromas of mold, wax, fungus, matchstick, dirty sponge, and burnt rubber. Tasted the way it smelled. Kristin said it "just kind of dies on your tongue", and Ali felt it was reminiscent of "troll juice". Gilles noted "beef consommť", with Andy finding an "inky finish". Josephine described "Chinese food thatís been left in the fridge overnight". Ali ridiculed it as being "heinous". While the wet, moldy aromas seemed to fade a bit with aeration, David felt the bottle was at least slightly corked. 13.5% alcohol. No points. Josephineís bottle.