The benchmark for contemporary Aussie Grenache. It hails from Blewitt Springs, the Grand Cru of Aussie Grenache if ever there was one. Giles and Fergal have spent years searching out the best vineyard plots in this small Grenache enclave and now have enviable access to many of the best. In any given year, the Vagabond will be the sum of 3 – 4 different vineyards, all old, dry grown, bush vines planted on the characteristic sand. Exhaustive tasting in the vineyard leads to a harvest that is earlier than traditional and a vinification quite unlike any other wine. The core of this wine is wild fermented in a concrete pyramid layered with alternating whole bunches and crushed fruit. Fermentation begins spontaneously, the layers of whole bunches acting like a mesh through which the fermenting juice moves. Without any other form of extraction, this method retains the individual vineyard characters and energy of site that is the signature of Thistledown. More akin to Pinot than old school Grenache, the Vagabond is textural, aromatic, refined yet utterly delicious in equal measure.
This wine possesses a beautifully complex, aromatic nose of violets, wild cherry, rosemary and warming spice. The palate is energetic yet polished and smooth with vibrant cherry, spice, wild strawberry and licorice on the palate. Medium bodied but multilayered and textural with a very long, aromatic finish.
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96 pts Sarah Ahmed – “From old Blewitt Springs’ bush vines on deep sand, with some ironstone. Fermented using whole bunch, whole berry and crushed fruit, then aged in concrete eggs and oak. It has a lively, citrussy undertow and fine rub of sandpapery tannins to the fragrant red cherry and raspberry fruit. Violets, anise spice and fresh acidity make for a long, lifted finish.”
95 pts James Suckling – “A great address for grenache, this stands out from the rest of the range for more pronounced acidity and tannin. The flowers, dried and fresh raspberries and wild herbal flurries on the nose lead to a palate that has a firm spine of tannin and fresh, blood-orange and raspberry flavors. Drink
or hold. Screw cap.”
95 pts Huon Hooke – “Deep red/purple color. The bouquet is reserved and sweet, with herbal, green stem, Turkish Delight and fresh earth aromas. This is medium to full-bodied and quite firmly structured within the Grenache spectrum, a more structured style with length and firmness in the finish. Impressive stuff.”
93+ pts Gary Walsh, The Wine Front – “It’s fair to say the boys at Thistledown surely do love their Grenache. This one also Blewitt Springs. Sage and herb perfume, red frogs and raspberry, cinnamon spice. It’s juicy and lively, light herbal flavor, gentle rasp of tannin, delicious flavor, slightly warm, but long on the finish, a bit of gravel and dried herb kicked up in its wake.”
92 pts The Wine Advocate – “Sourced from two vineyards in Blewitt Springs and vinified in concrete eggs with 50% whole clusters, Thistledown’s 2018 The Vagabond Old Vine Grenache features bright cherry, raspberry and red currant fruit. It’s medium to full-bodied but taut and tart, with firm tannins and a long finish. It’s a Grenache that could use a bit of time to settle down, then drink well for up to a decade.”
95 pts James Halliday
Top 100 Australian Wines of the Year: Number 99, James Suckling
Trophy: Grenache McLaren Vale Wine Show, 2019
Trophy: Best One Year Old Grenache McLaren Vale Wine Show, 2019
Trophy: Best Small Batch Wine McLaren Vale Wine Show, 2019
Gold Medal McLaren Vale Wine Show, 2019
Gold Medal Six Nations Wine Challenge, 2019
From old, dry grown, bush trained vineyards in the revered Blewitt Springs district of McLaren Vale, planted in deep sands with some ironstone. The fruit was all hand-picked and 68% was then wild fermented in a concrete pyramid which had layers of whole bunches and alternating layers of crushed fruit. This ferment had no mechanical extraction. The balance was wild fermented in an open fermenter with 35% whole bunches, and was hand plunged twice daily. This portion was aged in puncheons while the pyramid fermented was pressed back to a concrete egg and oak puncheons for maturation. The resulting layers of complexity and depth of flavor are exactly what was aimed for. Racked from there into blending tank and then straight to bottle, unfined and unfiltered.