I go for long months without grenache in my glass – well, it might be there as a minor component, but not thrusting itself on my attention. But the last few weeks, for some reason, it’s cropped up quite frequently. First time was in a Mullineux Family Grenache 2013 that was one of the definite take-home-and-drink wines from a recent new-releases tasting with Angela Lloyd (I reported earlier on a few others, including some that I was not overly reluctant to part with). Like the Carignan that we also sampled – and that Angela took home – this wine is normally available only to Mullineux Club members (you can read about the Club here), but there’s a chance that there might be some of these available at some stage, as they were made in slightly largely volumes than is usually the case with Club wines. I do hope so as I’d be a keen customer of a few bottles of each (at R180, I think).
Unfortunately, my notes from the tasting are languishing on my iPad in Riebeek-Kasteel, where I stupidly left it as I crept out in the early morning after a bibulous and marvellous evening. The wine was delightful, however, down to the dregs – fresh and lively, with a pleasing light grip; modestly unassuming and sophisticated. A touch more complex than the Carignan, as I recall (without notes), the red fruit a little less bright red perhaps and with some darker notes, without the touch of rusticity (albeit elegant) of the Carignan.
I should think the Mullineux Grenache should keep well a good few years, but I’m not sure I could resist it young, and certainly wouldn’t think it a sin to enjoy now. The question of ageing had long bothered me on the grenache I drank a few days later: Tierhoek 2007, from the only estate in Piekenierskloof, the area most associated with grenache locally. I’d bought a case of this on release, thinking that it would keep well and improve: in youth it was darkly tannic, though with plenty of sweet fruit. Five years on, I started to think that the tannins would never resolve themselves before the fruit faded.
My last bottle lingered, rather forgotten, and I opened it as part of a programme to clear out stuff that was surely never to be enjoyed. This proved to be the case with a few other bottles opened in that spirit: High Constantia Sebastiaan 2004, where the brett had definitively triumphed; and Numanthia 2002, an over-the-top Spanish wine that I bought for a reason that now escapes me, and that must have collapsed under its own weight a few years back at least. The Tierhoek Grenache proved very good, however: an excellent argument for selectively maturing Cape reds. All was in balance, the tannins firm but fully integrated, and I much enjoyed the wine. The second half of the bottle didn’t survive a day well, however.
The Tierhoek reminded me somewhat of a decent Chateauneuf du Pape, an appellation that I admire more and more, for making big, alcoholic wines that, at their best, maintain a genuine freshness and dryness and mature superbly – sadly unlike the majority of big alcoholic Cape wines. (We need to learn why, but local interest focuses much more on the Northern Rhône.) But the Tierhoek was put firmly in its place by a bottle of Chateau de Beaucastel from the fine 2001 vintage, opened as a special treat. Cruising along at some medium stage on its development, this was a truly superb wine, rich but lively, nobly proportioned and immensely drinkable.
Beaucastel has only about 30% grenache, less than many Chateauneufs, but I reckon that as we get more and better grenache in the Cape our blends along those lines could improve a lot.
My last grenache of recent days was at the tasting of Neil Ellis wines which launched the winery’s very smart Webb Ellis blend of cab and shiraz. I admired that wine, but rather less so the Vineyard Selection Grenache 2011, from Piekenierskloof. Perhaps it is that the winery (with son Warren now the lead winemaker) simply is more at home with the red Bordeaux varieties than the Rhone ones. The Grenache is in the big, ripe mould that the Neil Ellis cabs handle very well, and although there is a definite element of lightness and restrained elegance, I found it a touch too sweet-fruited, lacking genuine concentration, and a touch unconvincing.
But let me finish this tatty collection of tasting remarks with a paean of praise for a local wine that is so far from Grenache that it’s not even red – a chardonnay, in fact, which variety doesn’t usually get me very excited. Haskell Anvil 2011, though, has grown in stature and comportment since I last tasted it a few years back. Any oakiness is a thing of the past, and the wine is pure-fruited elegance, beautifully poised, more on the classic side than I remembered it being. Still plenty of room to go, I should think. Certainly one of the best local chards, I reckon it could put quite a few expensive burgundies to shame.