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Despite once being the most planted variety in Australia, Grenache is now just 1% of plantings. It’s decline, from the 1950’s through to the 2000’s, saw many of the oldest plantings disappear and when Giles & Fergal first started Thistledown, they committed to helping Grenache recover and to establish it as the signature variety for South Australia. Early on in their Grenache journey, Giles and Fergal were introduced to Sue Trott’s Home Block in the Blewitt Springs sub-region of McLaren Vale and have been refining how they vinify this fruit for many years, resulting in the first release of Sands of Time in 2017. It faithfully narrates the story of this remarkable vineyard, where, despite the paucity of the soils, the old bush vines flourish, producing small yields of intensely flavored fruit which Thistledown coax through a uniquely gentle fermentation. In just 3 vintages, this wine has established itself as one of the benchmark Grenaches in Australia, helping to fulfil Thistledown’s commitment to the long term future of the variety.
This wine offers a faithful expression of the site – beautiful, haunting aromatics, fine sandy tannins and wonderful, memorable length on the palate.
All fruit for this wine was sourced from a single 75 year old vineyard of bush vine Grenache grown on pure sand. It’s beautiful aspect, raised elevation and free-draining deep sandy soils are the perfect spot for this grape and Giles and Fergal were really lucky to be offered the opportunity to purchase a little fruit from here. Hand-picked, on the way up (to optimal ripeness), the wine was vinified naturally in concrete eggs, where whole bunches were placed alternately with destemmed fruit to create a layer cake. A very gentle, slow, wild fermentation took several days to complete, following which the wine was transferred to a combination of barrels and concrete eggs. 10 months later, following the assemblage, the wine was bottled unfiltered and unfined.
95+ pts Gary Walsh, The Wine Front – “From 76 year old vines planted in Blewitt Springs, which is perhaps the epicenter for quality Grenache in this country. Bit of a loaded word of late though, is epicenter. A total of 930 bottles produced. Mine is 923. I was hoping for either 930, 007 or 001. Oh well. Medium-bodied, perfume and ripe raspberry, some biscuit spices and wholesome earthiness, almost like wet clay. It’s carrying some puppy fat as a very young wine, succulence of raspberry, but there’s bass and depth, kitten’s tongue tannin, a smattering of dried herb (thyme and the like) and dried flowers on a long and gently, but insistently, tannic finish. Fantastic, and it feels like it will develop beautifully.”
95 pts Nick Stock, JamesSuckling.com – “This is a wine that resonates in the way that old-vine wines sometimes do. Transcending the weight of fruit and the various aromas and flavors, it delivers x-factor presence. The bright red berries are tinged with wild herbs. Stone and forest-wood notes, too. The wine has a succulent, bright entry and then expands in all directions to really claim the palate in full, showing fine yet sinewy tannins, all juicy, defined and persistent. Fresh red-berry flavor holds long. Just needs a year or two to bed it all in. Drink or hold.”
95 pts Huon Hooke, The Real Review – “Deepish red/purple color, with a dusty earth, peppery, dry-bark aroma. The wine is firm and tightly structured with a decent grip, the finish and aftertaste very drying. A fairly full-bodied wine with a stiff spine, and a long-lasting finish. Food suggested. Big potential here. (930 bottles made. Grown by Sue Trott. Wild fermented in concrete eggs using 30% whole bunches).”
95 pts Gourmet Traveller Wine – “Grown by Sue Trott; wild fermented in concrete eggs using 30% whole bunches, this is a fuller bodied, well-structured grenache. Dusty earth, pepper, dry-bark aromas; a good solid grip and a long finish. It should age superbly.
93 pts Wines & Spirits Magazine
24 Vinous Highlights of 2020