When people ask me how I got into wine writing, I usually tell them about working for Mr Alfred Peet, of Peet’s coffee, how the owners of Ridge would come in to talk with me about coffee, and how they convinced me to work in their Montebello Road tasting room on Saturdays until I left to hike to Pacific Crest Trail and attend UC Santa Crus where I was a double major in Environmental Studies and Literature/Writing. But the truth is my story is closer to wine from South Australia than it is to wine from the Santa Cruz Mountains. And my story is more about Grenache than any other grape!
In the mid 2000s, I was no longer writing my print newspaper column “Art Predator” but I had started a blog along the same lines: that which engages the whole soul including food and wine! After attending a Grateful Palate warehouse sale where owner Dan Phillips helped me select a case of wine, I started writing about these wines, and learning about the Barossa, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra, and other regions of South Australia, and the southern Rhone grapes that flourish there: Syrah, Mourvedre/Mataro, and Grenache which I fell deeply in love with, especially when blended with Mourvedre and made by Chris Ringland (read more here for Syrah, here for Grenache blend, and here for Mataro). These wines were so amazing to my palate which mostly knew inexpensive overblown California wines.
Grenache, with its spicy and lively fruit, so pretty in the glass, was a revelation to me– even though in 2000 it was the second most planted grape in the world and today is seventh, I didn’t know it at all by name! With the most Grenache grown in Spain (135k acres) and France (195k acres with a significant portion going into rose), 15 years ago it just wasn’t easy to find Grenache in California because not a lot of it was grown here to be made into high quality wines. Instead, it was grown in the Central Valley with high yields to make cheap bulk “red” wines. Today, the US only has 5.5k acres of Grenache, and of that, 2k acres has been planted in the past 20 years in the central coast of California to be made into premium wines.
However, as Jason Haas of Tablas Creek writes, “Grenache does need some vine age to show its best.”
And that’s where Australia comes into the picture. While Australia only has 3.7k acres of Grenache, Australia has preserved and cherished many of their old vines. No surprise after my time at Ridge with their old vine wines that I would be drawn like a moth to a flame to the old vine wines of South Australia, and especially Grenache! I was such a fan of the Grateful Palate wines that I interviewed with them, they hired me, I quit my adjunct college teaching job, and I planned to attend the first Wine Bloggers Conference on their behalf. Well, unfortunately in 2008 the economy tanked and so did the job. But at the last minute, I realized that didn’t mean I couldn’t still go to the Wine Bloggers Conference! And that’s how Wine Predator began.
This year the World Wine Travel group of wine writers is exploring Oceania. Last month, we wrote about Western Australia; find our articles here. This month, I’m leading a jaunt to South Australia, where it all began for me as a wine blogger; read the invite here.
Today’s preview post includes links to participants and their article titles; scroll down to see them! For the preview, here on Wine Predator we have an old vine Grenache from Yalumba located in South Australia, and which features old vine Grenache from the Barossa Valley, the heart of South Australia. Yalumba’s growers preserved the old, gnarled bush vine Grenache, vines which produce small quantities with concentrated flavors. Yalumba recognizes growers like the Schiller family with vines planted in 1935, 1945, 1965 and the Habermann family which planted in 1972. Along with Yalumba’s Tri-Centenary Vineyard planted in 1929, these growers contribute to the complex styles of Grenache that Yalumba prizes.
Yalumba has been around a long time– for five generations– and some of their vines have been around for a long time too! And that says something about their sustainability practices:
Yalumba ‘s fifth generation owner Robert Hill-Smith says: “If we’re to focus on excellence in winemaking, it absolutely requires excellence in environmental management – the two are inseparable.” They’ve been making organic wine since 2005, wines made from grapes grown without the use of artificial chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.
In the mid 1990s, Yalumba began developing their sustainable viticulture program, and since 2005, Yalumba has held an ISO 14001 – Environmental management certificate, which is an internationally accepted standard that outlines effective environmental management systems in place. Today they are accredited by Sustainable Winegrowing Australia and a Member of International Wineries for Climate Action, Yalumba is committed to carbon neutrality by 2050.
2018 Yalumba Barossa “Bush Vine” Grenache
sample for my review
Yalumba is the Aboriginal word for “all the land around.” This wine celebrates Yalumba’s founder Samuel Smith, his spirit of independence, and his conviction to invest in the land and make great wine. These Grenache vines are “head-trained” in a “goblet” shape or like a hand with the fingers reaching up. Grenache can get rambunctious and loves to reach out in every direction; this version of pruning allows Grenache to express itself.
We enjoyed this wine with its easy access screw top on a ski trip to Mammoth Mountain in the Sierras paired with an excellent “meatza” pizza from a favorite Mammoth Italian restaurant, Giorgio’s. They even recommend pizza and their Grenache here with this recipe! They also suggest roast pork but it’s this duck dish that gets my heart beating faster!
So many pairings so little time! Need to open another bottle!
Color: Very pale and translucent, ruby sapphire, very pale light pink rim
Nose: Highly perfumed and effusive, like a summer garden, floral perfume, roses, fruit; raspberry, plum, spice, river rock,
Palate: Ripe fruit, but this is not a jammy wine. Spices are present mid palate. Clean minerals, rose water, tart raspberry finish.
Pairing: Camembert was all right, but not our favorite with the wine. Nice with the aged gouda, we were thinking that Comte would be a great match for the wine. Blue cheese brings out lovely bright fruit in the wine. Fantastic with a beet salad topped with blue cheese and fried Spanish chorizo, what a great combination. Very nice with a bit of squash casserole. Really meets its match with an excellent meat pizza filled with layers of flavors.
How did you fall in love with Australian wine?
What are some of your South Australian red wine favorites?
Check out these articles from the World Wine Travel group of wine writers, and join our #WorldWineTrvel twitter chat on Sat. 2/26/28.
- Allison on AdVINEtures pours “The Great Australian Red Wine: Cabernet-Shiraz”
- Camilla goes “Beyond Shiraz in South Australia with Dagwood Dogs, Rissoles, and a Limestone Coast Cabernet Sauvignon” on Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Cindy has “Powerful, Prestigious Barossa Valley Shiraz” on grape-experiences.com
- Jeff brings “Riverland Surprises in South Australia” on Food Wine Click!
- Linda offers “Barossa Shiraz from ‘All the Land Around’ on My Full Wine Glass
- Nicole will be “Splurging with Penfold’s Bin 389 and Oxtail Stew” on Somm’s Table
- Robin suggests “South Australia – Cabernet from Coonawarra & Fortified Shiraz from McClaren Vale” on Crushed Grape Chronicles
- Susannah shares “Barossa Valley Memories” on Avvinare
- Terri has “Penfold’s Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet and Busy Day Soup” on Our Good Life
- Wendy is “Visiting South Australia; Home to one of Australia’s Oldest Wineries” on A Day in the Life on the Farm
- and on Wine Predator: “Celebrate Family Fun with Eight at the Gate: 2 Shiraz with Pie Floaters #WorldWineTravel “
Twitter chat questions:
G’Day, Mates! Join #WorldWineTravel this weekend as we chat about red wines from South Australia at 8am Pacific 2/26/22. Participants and chat questions here: https://wp.me/pj3XZ-8G5
- 8a Q1 G’day and howzitgarn! Welcome to the February World Wine Travel chat on red wines from Southern Australia! Say hi, introduce yourself, share a selfie, and a link to your blog if relevant. Remember to use the #WorldWineTravel hashtag.
- 8:05 Q2 Q2. In 2022 #WorldWineTravel heads “Down Under” to OZ and NZ! Today we focus on reds from #SoAUS like Clare Valley, Barossa, Eden Valley, Adelaide Hills, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Wrattonbully. Are #SoAus wines new to you? Where’s your wine from? Invite https://wp.me/pj3XZ-8EH
- 8:10a Q3 Southern Australia is justly famous for its shiraz but Grenache, Mourvedre, and Cabernet Sauvignon are also grapes grown there. What varietal did you taste? Or was it a blend? #WorldWineTravel
- 8:15 Q4 In five words, can you describe your #WorldWineTravel tasting experience this month with red wines from South Australia? Please share the link to your post with us!
- 8:20 Q5 Did you observe differences between these international varieties grown in their home countries, in the US, or from So Aus? Please share! #WorldWineTravel
- 8:25 Q6 Did you prepare something special to enjoy with your #SouthAustralia wine? Share tidbits about the pairing, a pic, and a link to the recipe if you have one. Did you try or learn about any traditional #SoAus or #Australian dishes? #WorldWineTravel
- 8:30 Q7 Did you find the paring successful? Why or why not? What did you learn? What would you pair with this #SoAustralian red wine a second time around? #WorldWineTravel
- 8:35 Q8 What did you learn about the producer behind your #SouthAustralia red wine? #WorldWineTravel
- 8:40 Q9 Have you visited #SouthAustralia? If so, please share a fun fact about the trip! Remember, we crave travel photos! If you haven’t gone yet, is it on your bucket list? What are highlights for you? #WorldWineTravel
- 8:45 Q10 In the spirit of reconciliation, @eight_gate acknowledges the First Nations people, the Bindjali, the traditional custodians, and their spiritual relationship with the region. Please share about the First Nations people there or other facts about the wine. #WorldWineTravel
- 8:50 Q11 Shoutout to #WorldWineTravel bloggers who participated today: @allison_wallace @CrushGrapeChron @WendyKlik @tsteffes @linda_lbwcsw @sommstable @Vignetocomm @foodwineclick @culinary_cam @GrapeExp_Cindy
- 8:55 Q12 Any last comments or questions? Have you written about wine from #SouthAustralia before? Share your thoughts, comments, questions, inspirations or links! #WorldWineTravel
- 9a Thank you for joining us at #WorldWineTravel today! Find links to our published articles here: https://wp.me/pj3XZ-8Pa See you next month as Lynn at @Savortheharvest leads our discussion on white wines from #SouthAustralia.