Saltram, Pepperjack Grenache 2018
Much has been said about climate change, and perhaps more so since the recent bushfires during the Australian summer. And irrespective of any personal view as to the relationship between the warming phenomenon and drought, the impact on the Australian wine industry is undeniable. Even before the bushfires, entire regions have had severely reduced yields due to lack of rainfall, and in some regions, such as the Granite Belt, no crop at all. As a lover of wine and a supporter of the industry, it saddened me to watch the devastation caused by our summer of fires, especially in places like the Adelaide Hills and the Canberra high country. Wineries were razed, crops ruined by smoke taint and many old vines and entire vineyards, totally lost in the flames.
But if there is a silver lining to climate change it is that for all the losers, there must be a few winners. Where regions have historically enjoyed ideal climatic conditions for growing varietals that enjoy those conditions, a couple of extra degrees of heat and periods of lower than average rainfall means that once ideal environs may become sub-optimal. I’m guessing that the pinot noir producers of Victoria’s Yarra Valley and a tad nervous about what is to come, and likewise those on the Mornington Peninsula. But for all the doom and gloom, the good news for our viticulturalists is that there are varietals that will benefit from the dryer and hotter conditions and we have many regions where the terroir will be perfect for production of quality reds.
For some decades, the big name in Australian wines has been our shiraz – and those from the Barossa in particular. But if drought becomes more common or if temperatures continue to climb, will it always be our flagship style? I may be howled down and my views met by raucous fits of laughter, but I reckon that in time, grenache will be the next big thing and not just those from the Barossa – the hotter drier growing seasons may see regions like the McLaren Vale, Heathcote and Clare Valley excel as well.
Grenache is thought to have originated in Spain where the hot, dry conditions suit because of its propensity to ripen much later. Once vinified, grenache wines are attractive because of the combination of ripeness, spice and soft finish. They might generally be higher in alcohol (15–16%) but as long as you’re sensible, it’s a worthwhile trade-off for such a soft and luscious mouth feel.
And I’m guessing that our winemakers are already on board the grenache train given that one of our biggest producing and best-known shiraz brands, Pepperjack, has just released their first straight grenache under Saltram’s red wine label. For a company whose tagline is “Bold, Rich Reds”, it says a lot that they’ve chosen to now branch out with a single varietal grenache. The 2018 Pepperjack Grenache is bright and shows a reddish-purple hue in the glass. On the nose there are mulberries and a hint of brambly Ribena but once on the palate, the juicy raspberry characters take charge and march their way through a conclusion laced with cherries, strawberries, white pepper and even some cinnamon notes. Given the lack of tannin, it’s not a style that you’d expect to get better with time, but at the modest $20-$25 asking price, why wait?
Given what many of our Aussie winemakers have endured in recent times, they deserve to see a break in the clouds, and if there’s cause for optimism in our local industry, perhaps it’s the opportunity to gain international acclaim for a style we borrowed from the Spaniards?
Winery Website: www.saltramwines.com.au
Travis Schultz is a wine reviewer for the Sunshine Coast Daily and The Grape Hunter extend their thanks to the Sunshine Coast Daily for allowing re-publication of his reviews