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.
92 pts Gary Walsh
90 pts Ned Goodwin MW, Halliday Wine Companion
Bright, tangy and easy. Black cherry, raspberry, orange zest and a grind of white pepper. Feels suave and mid weighted, rather than full. A versatile everyday drinker.
90 pts Erin Larkin, Wine Advocate
Having spent some time with Giles this past week tasting component parcels of each of the Grenache cuvées that he makes for the Thistledown range, I look at this 2021 Gorgeous Grenache in a whole new light. Yes, it is made in a juicy, easy-drinking fashion. However, the fruit quality that goes into this wine (from both Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale) builds a wine of eminent balance in the mouth. This is lighter-framed and shaped by fine powdery tannins, yet laden with juicy fruit. Plenty to love—drink it early. 2022-2027
90 pts James Suckling
A pretty nose of red cherry, rose, chicory root, nutmeg and rosemary. Medium- to full-bodied with silky tannins. Bright and fresh acidity drives the palate. Smooth texture, with a lingering and mouthwatering finish. Vegan. Drink now.
90 pts & TOP VALUE – Huon Hooke, The Real Review
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 soldiers 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.
Rare is the vintage that combines good yields and high quality but 2021 was just that. A remarkable vintage in that it was once again pandemic affected but that it was measured and mild with none of the heat spikes or drought conditions of recent years. With good levels of winter rains filling soil profiles, the mild weather with intermittent rains throughout the growing and ripening season ensured that fruit ripened over a long period of time and the vintage was one of the longest in recent history. The results are spectacular, healthy fruit, moderate sugars and complex flavours, have resulted in wines of beautiful balance, fragrance and varietal typicity.