Grenache 2018 Aphelion ‘Confluence’ McLaren Vale, South Australia
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In the hands of the right maker, Grenache is tantalisingly good. Delicate, silky, flavoursome and luscious. Aphelion is a Grenache specialist and leading the charge.
Sebastian Crowther, Master Sommelier
Grenache (Gre-nash) is one of the worlds most planted grape varieties, this is in part to do with its ability to survive in harsh, hot and dry climates. It’s surprising how little Grenache we see around given the amount of land that’s been planted to it. More often we see this grape being used as a blending component rather than a single varietal wine.
There is currently a battle underway, but not one of great severity, rather a battle of words around the origins of this humble grape. On one side the Spanish claim its roots are firmly in Aragón, north east Spain. The Italians dispute this, claiming it hails from the picturesque island of Sardinia. Who is right might take some time to figure out, but what is for sure is that it is firmly a Mediterranean variety, which thrives in such a climate.
Enter the McLaren Vale. Situated about 40 kilometres south of Adelaide, this region does a good job of mimicking some of those Mediterranean areas north of the equator. You’re never too far from the coast here, which provides an adequate climate to grow grapes, but there is no hiding from the fact this is a warm region capable of producing full and powerful wines. Generally speaking these aren’t styles of wine that appeal to me a great deal. I find more satisfaction in fresher wines that are lighter in bodied. However, where the fruit for this wines comes from, it walks a majestic line between both styles. The Blewitt Springs sub-region of the McLaren Vale is the highest point of the region, in addition to that the area is blessed with a unique soil profile, sand. The elevation provides a ‘coolness’ retaining acidity and freshness, while the soil gives the wines a special spicy character, not found elsewhere in the region.
Rob Mack, the man behind the label. Clearly a talented individual, who since 2015 has captured the attention of the wine world with his take on this region and grape. After having a wine epiphany over a bottle of Barolo (I can’t blame him!) he threw away his previous career, jumping head first into a winemaking degree at Charles Sturt University. Rob picked up hands on experience along the way working at places like Kilikanoon in the Clare Valley, but his voice and direction became well honed on his own label, Aphelion.
This wine, the ‘Confluence’ is made from hand picked fruit. With around 70% of that coming from a cherished vineyard of 80 year old bush vines. The remaining 30% comes from a slightly younger, but still significate, 50 year old block in the same Blewitt Spring sub region. Whole bunches are foot trodden, to extract the precious juice. Fermented to dry and aged for a short period in old oak barrels.
This is one seductive little sucker. Extreme perfume and vibrancy jump from the glass. The first fruits you encounter are in the form of purple cherries and raspberries, but this is backed by some classic spice and savoury complexity. The use of 100% whole bunches in the fermentation process adds detail, with a herbal streak, without being green. It is wines like this that truly demonstrate the ‘real’ character of Grenache. It doesn’t have to be a big, jammy style of wine that has lashings of new oak. These wines are for Pinot Noir lovers. Light to medium bodied, fine soft tannins, with layers of complexity that have you sniffing like crazy to try and pick out the subtle complexities. Certainly a wine that shouldn’t be served warm, in doing so you would burn off some of these fine spicy characters. 16 – 18ºC is just fine. Drink from Pinot Noir glasses. For this wine, because Rob chooses not to fine or filter his wines, you might find a little sediment. For this reason a gentle decant just prior to drinking will help keep this out of your glass.