The aim at Thistledown is to make wines of great purity, precision and energy. Their fruit for this 2019 Thorny Devil Grenache comes from some of the best vineyard sites in McLaren Vale. They focus on picking the fruit on the way up, rather than the way down which allows them to couple concentration of flavor with balance and elegance. In the winery, it’s very much a low intervention, small-batch approach as befits high quality fruit, picked at the right time. Natural (wild) ferments, whole bunch inclusion, gentle or passive extraction followed by judicious use of oak and a few concrete eggs, which are used for their unique “layer cake” fermentations. In 2019, the fruit for Thorny Devil came from a variety of some of the finest and oldest vineyards in McLaren Vale. Old bush trained vines and sandy, mineral strewn vineyards ensure that this is amongst our most delicious Grenaches.
This has the characteristic McLaren Vale perfume and spice with bright cherries and raspberries. Good juicy fruit flavors and broad texture, with
savory, sweet tannins. Delicious drop!
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93 pts Nick Stock, JamesSuckling.com – “A very fragrant, aromatic style with attractive, fresh red flowers and sappy, bunchy raspberries and boysenberries. The palate has a very complete, supple and smooth-honed feel with a seamless build of finely layered tannins. Drink now. Screw cap.”
93 pts Halliday Wine Companion – “Fermented with 30% whole bunches, matured in French oak, the best barrels selected for this wine. A fragrant bouquet and fresh red fruit palate. Counterintuitively, significant tannins add a dimension to the juicy fruit.”
92 pts Gary Walsh, The Wine Front – “Seems to have moved from the Barossa to McLaren Vale in 2019. Ripe raspberry, brown spice, subtle earthiness. It’s ripe and spicy, ripples with tannin and raspberry ripple, a bit of meatiness and minty perfume, slightly saline, plump and juicy finish. Rock solid. Good
91 pts Huon Hooke, The Real Review – “Deep purple/red color, bright, the bouquet showing youthful dried banana estery notes as well as purple fruits – dark plum and dark cherry. It’s medium to full-bodied and firm in the mouth, with intensity and bold flavor that lingers on. It needs a little time and/or protein-rich food to soften it at this juncture.”
Though the season was late, cool and sometimes damp, it ended with lower than average rainfall. Above average rainfall in July and August filled soil profiles and dams but from then on the season was very dry. Dry weather characterized the 2018 vintage and the low disease pressure coupled with ideal conditions for flowering and early development set the vines up excellently. With virtually no rainfall between January and April, fruit quality in all areas was very good though some heat stress in February led to isolated defoliation.
Thistledown’s strong relationships with the growers of some of the finest vineyard in McLaren Vale provide the foundations for this wine. Giles is always looking to maximize fruit purity, texture and finesse rather than making another rich red wine and, while there is no denying that Grenache is more burly than Pinot, he always has the vision of making Pinot style wines within the, albeit, challenging framework of Grenache! That pursuit is made all the easier when you have access to numerous old vine, dry grown, bush trained vineyards. Extensive walking and tasting is done pre-vintage to ensure that the fruit is picked on the way up to capture the brighter fresher personality of the variety. Though the vineyards are seriously low yield (1.5-3 ton/acre) the approach is let the fruit infuse rather than extract too hard. Fruit is hand-picked, and each vineyard is separately vinified. Wild fermentation are preceded by cold soak, gentle hand plunging ensures subtle tannin extraction prior to pressing off to larger French oak barrels where the wine remains for 10 months before being bottled unfined and unfiltered.