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Thistledown champions Grenache renaissance

Published:  11 December, 2017

Alliance Wine’s Giles Cooke MW will be releasing the first commercially available results of Thistledown Wine Company’s Riverland project, focusing on old vine Grenache, under a Gorgeous Grenache label at M&S this spring.

The wine, produced from a mix of “genuine old vines of 30+ years age”, plus historic Soldier Block vines, planted by soldiers returning from World War Two, represents the first step in an ongoing project to champion Grenache at what Cooke describes as “the very affordable end of premium”.

An enthusiastic proponent of the variety, Cooke told Harpers: “I’m fairly obsessive about it, and we are doing a lot of work with Grenache in McLaren and Barossa, making small batch high-end wines.”

“There is a lot of chatter about Grenache, and cool guys making it in small quantities with punchy prices, but this is aimed at the wine geeky [drinker], not the mainstream, so we thought there is a great opportunity to get the word out about Grenache to the broader consumer,” he added.

One driver of the focus on Riverland Grenache, says Cooke, is that by producing and developing new quality brands based on the variety growers will receive a greater premium for the grapes, helping reverse the uprooting of what he describes as “a fantastic resource”, with old vines capable of “showing an entirely different side” to Riverland and its wines.

The M&S wine under the Gorgeous Grenache label, which will hit the shelves in April, has been developed in collaboration with the supermarket and consultant Ashley Ratcliff, known as a champion of alternative and esoteric varieties at his Ricca Terra Farms winery in the Riverland.

“By paying just a little more attention in the vineyard and winery, using native yeasts, whole bunch ferments and being hands on, we can make vibrant, energetic, Pinot-ey styles of Grenache, rather than old school Shiraz-leaning styles, but at a more accessible and affordable level than in Barossa and McLaren,” says Cooke.

Adelaide Hills-based Thistledown is a partnership between Alliance Wine’s MD Fergal Tynan MW, Giles Cooke MW and winemaker Peter Leske, set up to make small batch wines with a focused on individual site and terroir.

The winery is now making or experimenting with some nine or 10 single site Grenache’s from plots of vines across McLaren, Barossa and Riverland, with more releases to come soon under a label it is developing called “Advanced Release”, which will carry a lot of “technical stuff on it, to convey great Grenache and the individual vineyard site as clearly as possible”.

Gorgeous Grenache is likely to retail at somewhere around the £10 mark in M&S.