One of the more interesting projects currently afloat in Aussie wine at the moment, especially appropriate given the skyrocketing interest in top flight Grenache from the most exciting regions, deservedly so, is the Artisans of the Barossa Grenache Project.
Six winemakers, members of the Artisans, take fruit from the same Grenache vineyard and make a wine. This is a bit like one of those school projects when the teacher made certain that all variables bar one were the same. In this case, the difference is the winemaker/winemaking – the grape, terroir, vintage and all other factors are identical. The winemakers can make the wines in any manner they see fit. So the wines all have a family resemblance, but each also express differences. As the organisers say, ‘we let them off the leash’. The only brief given to the winemakers was that it should be a Grenache that they would want to drink. Fascinating stuff.
The fruit comes from the Rosenzweig Vineyard, a new site in comparison to past years, which is found at the corner of Research Road and Vine Vale Road. It was purchased by James Rosenzweig in 1996. The Grenache vines are trained onto a single wire with a single cordon and hand pruned to 24 buds per vine. Yield for this vintage (2021) was 2.5 tonnes per acre. The vineyard is at an altitude of 283 metres above sea level, with rows that run east-west in direction. The vines are planted on their own roots, in beach sand over deep yellow/red clay soils. No herbicides are used and irrigation is only in very dry years.
The entire project is neatly summed up by Peter Schell (Spinifex Wines) who says, “the growing profile of Barossa Grenache is to me a sign of the maturing of a new generation of winemakers and wine drinkers. They respect the landscape and what it’s best able to produce, rather than imposing the will of the market upon it to yield the latest fashionable variety. By doing our best to make delicious wine, we hope to nurture new audiences.” Personally, anyone who claims to be a winelover and is not yet on the Grenache bandwagon, whether from the Barossa, McLaren Vale or further afield, is giving up all pretence at self-respect.
Again, we have a six-pack of sensational Grenache. At this level, it is all about personal preference, but I would happily drink any of these any day. I also think that the standard across the board here outshines the wines from the Project in 2020 by a good margin. Happy days.
Schell – Peter used 50% whole bunches and 50% whole berries with a two week ferment, hand-plunging and foot treading before maturation in seasoned French oak. Like all of the wines, only 400 bottles made.
This is bright crimson, and attractively scented. Dark berries mixed with red, notably cranberries, smoked meats, florals, spices, bay leaves and delicatessen notes. This is seamless with the most decadent texture and very fine, silky tannins. The tannins and gentle line of acidity are ideally balanced and there is impressive length. This will surely drink well for at least the next six to ten years. 95 Points.
Schwarz – Jason Schwarz used 100% whole bunches for his contribution, with 50% foot stamping. Carbonic maceration played a role here, before six months maturation in seasoned French oak.
Dark magenta in colour, we have aromas of black fruits, dark berries, dry herbs and warm earth. There is a slight rustic note here, which some will adore and others perhaps not quite so much. There is also an intriguing ripeness throughout, good focus and a sweet core of red and darker fruits on the palate, as well as coffee grounds and warm earth notes. Very good length here too with fine tannins so it should drink beautifully for six to eight years. 93 Points.
Hobbs & Hobbs – The name evokes images of a London tailor, and Allison and Greg Hobbs have woven an absolutely glorious wine here. 100% whole berries with a seven day ferment, limited hand-plunging and then maturation in seasoned French oak for six months.
A lovely purple/garnet hue. This is beautifully aromatic with floral perfumes to the fore plus plums, red fruits and exotic spices. The gorgeous flavours continue onto the palate. The wine has length and it maintains its intensity for the full journey with the silky finish lingering wonderfully. This is a stunning Grenache and should easily handle the best part of a decade in the cellar. 96 Points
Stansborough Slade – If Hobbs & Hobbs are London tailors, then Stansborough Slade has to be the name of a secret agent in a 70s movie starring James Coburn. Craig Stansborough and Mark Slade form Purple Hands, although Craig will be better known to many as Grant Burge’s right hand man for many years. They have incorporated 30% whole bunches in this wine and the grapes underwent an eleven day ferment with thrice daily hand-plunging before the seemingly de rigueur six months maturation in seasoned French oak.
Pale crimson, this wine offers classic Grenache varietal aromas. Spices, dry herbs, red fruits, notably strawberries, cloves and florals. Good focus here, this is a wine which has time ahead of it with satiny tannins, good acidity and a gentle fade. Four to six years of improvement ahead and many years drinking after that. 94 Points
Hartwig Engela – We’ve had tailors, secret agents and now surely a character from Hogwarts. Daniel Hartwig and Theo Engela are from Chaffey Bros. Wine Co., and they are welcomed to the Project for the first time with this vintage and a most impressive debut. 50% whole bunches are incorporated here, carbonic maceration and wild ferment in stainless steel with twice daily pumpovers. Then nine days on skins before six months maturation in seasoned French oak.
Pale garnet, this offers a fine, minerally opening with red fruits, especially raspberries, exotic spices and a hint of tobacco leaf. This is very much a medium bodied style, but it certainly has serious length with cushiony, silky tannins to conclude so will offer pleasure for at least six to eight years. A lovely Grenache and perhaps more than any other in the line-up shows just why this variety is so often talked about as a like warm climate Pinot Noir. Perhaps one day, we’ll talk of Pinot as resembling a cool climate Grenache. 95 Points
Lienart – John and James Lienert used 60% whole berries and 40% whole bunches with a cool ferment before the wine spent six days on skins. Even in this exalted company, this wine stands out as an absolute cracker. An appealing bright crimson colour, the nose is all Grenache and glorious stuff. The full spice rack gets the works here, with florals, red fruits including strawberries and cherries, plums and tobacco leaves. Still quite youthful, the wine is balanced, even elegant, but maintains its intensity right through to the cushiony, through ever-so-slightly sandy, tannins on a lingering finish with juicy acidity and excellent length. An excellent Grenache which will drink wonderfully well for a decade or more. 96 Points