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The good folks at Thistledown believe that Grenache is Australia’s signature grape variety and they’re slightly obsessed with it. This is a grape that has been much maligned by the Australian industry over the years. Its traditionally high cropping levels made it a favorite for years with growers and corporate wine entities, and as a result it was never taken very seriously, as few wines of quality were made from it, until recently. While Thistledown is not alone in their endeavors to make great Grenache, they are unique in their methods and it is for this reason that they are now unanimously considered to be Australia’s top Grenache specialist. Much of this has to do with their approach to picking times, to the very detailed, gentle ferments that include their layer cake fermentation method– where they build multiple alternate layers of whole bunches with layers of berries, inside concrete vessels for their ferments. The mesh-like structure of the ferment allows juice movement within the vessel without the need for mechanical extraction and so this process results in a very gentle infusion rather than an extraction – a process more akin to making tea, than to making coffee! After years of experimentation, Thistledown have found that this process results in wines that are most faithful to their site, best able to narrate the stories of the vineyard and of its growers.
Aromatic and lifted on the nose with a beautifully layered, textural palate with wild strawberry and spice.
2020 vintage conditions were perfect in many ways. A warm , dry early season gave way to a mild, sometimes cool, February and March which allowed for ripening at a very relaxed pace. Small yields across all regions concentrated the fruit flavors while the dry conditions led to low disease pressures. Sadly, the season will also be remembered for the devastating bushfires that preceded it and the unprecedented global Covid pandemic that struck right in the middle of vintage. A remarkable season in many ways and one that we hope will be remembered for all the right reasons when you taste the wines.
The fruit for this wine is sourced from a number of really old vineyards, primarily in South Australia’s Riverland region. These “soldier blocks” date back to WW1 and WW2, after which, the Australian government gifted land to returning solider to get them back on their feet. Thistledown has mapped out these old plots and works with the growers on a long term basis to add value to a previously forgotten resource. The result is a sustainable future for the growers and their vineyards, as well as delicious wine. Using the same philosophy and approach as for their top single vineyard wines, Thistledown taste extensively and pick on the way up to ensure that the fruit is balanced and energetic on arrival at the winery. Multiple ferments combine traditional techniques with open, spontaneous, 100% whole bunch cuvees, partial whole bunch ferments and a gentle extraction regime throughout to encourage the more “pinot” side of Grenache to emerge. As with all Thistledown wines, the approach is detailed, sensitive to each site, with winemaking that allows the fruit to sing.
92 points Ray Jordan
91 points Halliday Wine Companion (Ned Goodwin MW)