Wine Advocate Reviews Clarendon Hills Grenache
Erin Larkin of the Wine Advocate recently released two unique reports relating to Australian Grenache and Australian Syrah and Clarendon Hills featured prominently within each article. Lets take a look at the 2021 vintage Grenache report:
Australia: Grenache – A Diverse Spectrum of Excellence
By ERIN LARKIN , September 2023
Grenache. It’s a grape capable of an impressive breadth of stylistic diversity, and it is eloquent of maker and site too.
In Australia, there is a very clear picture of premium Grenache emerging. While the variety belongs to several places in the country, it is ruled by only one. McLaren Vale.
The spectrum of style as I see it looks like this. At one end, you have the early-picked/early-drinking, unoaked, juicy, bright, uncomplicated wines. These move further down the scale into alternate vessels (with clay amphora and ceramic egg as the primary go-to vessels), whole bunch, et. al. The wines get progressively riper as we move further along the spectrum, and the oak regimens pick up pace as well—more of it, smaller format, newer, longer. At the opposite end of the spectrum of the early-picked/early-drinking wines are the later-picked, riper wines that are kept in oak the longest, with the view to long-term cellaring. There’s no right or wrong, and there are plenty of examples of each of these styles, both in this report and in the wide world of wine.
L.A.S. Vino vineyards in Geographe, Western Australia (Photo courtesy of L.A.S. Vino winemaker Nic Peterkin)
The parameters I set for determining a ranking among them is their ability to clearly express site and place. Above all, I want to feel like I am drinking wines that come from somewhere. I express this every time I write.
The best wines in the world are tethered to the place they come from.
The top wines in this report are from McLaren Vale, from three different producers: Aphelion Wine Co (Wait Single Site Grenache), Thistledown (Sands of Time Old Vine Single Vineyard Grenache and The Charming Man Single Vineyard Grenache) and Yangarra Estate Vineyard (High Sands Grenache). Each of these are the best in the country this year, and they brought unmitigated pleasure to this taster on the days they were tasted. So too, three sensational examples from outside of McLaren Vale: two from Barossa (the Alkina Polygons and Cirillo’s Ancestor Vines 1850 Grenache), and one from Frankland River (Cherubino’s Uovo Grenache). The ever reliable and impressive Clarendon Hills was in the mix too, although I believe their wines from the cooler 2021 will be slower to open and longer lived than their more “available” and immediately attractive 2020 wines. I’ll be looking forward to seeing those again a little further down the track. “
Erin goes in much further detail in her Grenache report and goes on to provide the following Clarendon Hills reviews:
2021 Domaine Clarendon Grenache
“The 2021 Domaine Clarendon Grenache is layered with raspberry compote, licorice, jasmine and clove, salted humbugs and black cats. There are loads of cherries and berries on the mid-palate; this is relatively massive, and the tannins are likewise massive (although here, I am a fan). While the oak is a little enthusiastic for my preference, the fruit is excellent (!), and I wish it could be allowed to stand on its own. 14.7% alcohol, sealed under Diam. 93/100
2021 Blewitt Springs Grenache
“The 2021 season in South Australia, and specifically here in McLaren Vale, was sensational. Cool, long and even, the season gifted the producers/growers sunshine, long days and pleasant nights in abundance. I expected very fine, lithe, almost lacy wines as a result, but I think you know what they say about “assume.” This 2021 Blewitt Springs Grenache feels very ripe in the mouth (despite the relative 14.6% alcohol on the label) and is laden with hoisin, star anise, clove, aniseed/arnica, roast beef and pomegranate molasses. The finish slopes off to mulberry compote and cherry kirsch, which is where it feels very (sun) ripe to me. All in all, this is a surprisingly big Grenache, with power to spare. It will benefit from a decant—it already looks better after 10 minutes in the glass. The lingering aftertaste is of red snakes. Sealed under Diam. 94/100
2021 Onkaparinga Grenache
“I remember tasting this next to the Blewitt Springs Grenache last year, and I loved this wine just a little bit more than the other. That is the case again in the 2021 season. This 2021 Onkaparinga Grenache also hails from Blewitt Springs. It initially leads with a nose that was layered alarmingly with hoisin/tamari/wheat/oatmeal/lemongrass/oxalis and varnish—all indicators perhaps of the maturation vessel. However, as this recedes into the fruit, the flavors are mouthfilling and saturating. It extends to the corners of the mouth and shows a supple intensity that is most favorable. There are sensational, interesting qualities woven through the finish here: flowers, orange rind, clove, star anise and raspberry pip. The wine gets better and better the longer it is open. The aromatic qualities that I found initially challenging basically recede to imperceptibility over time. Here, I would insist that a decant prior to service is a necessity. 14% alcohol, sealed under Diam.” 95/100
2021 Romas Grenache
“The 2021 Romas Grenache is spicy and full—fuller than I would have expected given the cooler season that was 2021 (as compared to the previous, much hotter 2020). This is inky, savory and intense, with musk sticks, raspberry cordial, roasted meat juice and plum skin. It is very ripe and plush, with enveloping tannins, and somehow the oak feels round and toasty here. It is earth driven but shaped by oak rather than soil. This is a lovely wine, a big wine! 14.5% alcohol, sealed under screw cap.” 95/100
Overall 2021 is a top vintage and its cool climate origins deliver wines of highly admirable calibre, flair and complexity. In no way do they demonstrate excessive acidity or austerity or excessively harsh tannins usually associated with cooler years. The new vintage abounds with buoyant fruit, lifted perfumes and present deeply layered expressions that tell the story of their Blewitt Springs terroir. The beautiful old vines demonstrate their superiority and showcase substantial depth and complexities already.