There are a few good reasons for making Grenache at Faber.
Grenache makes an “old fashioned“ style of wine. Since the eighties, Australians have enjoyed big dark bold full-bodied red wines. Lighter coloured, more gentle red wines have not been considered serious red wines and we’ve forgotten about them. But slowly we have started to develop more interest as our winemakers have learnt to make modern attractive styles from varieties like Pinot Noir, Grenache and Touriga.
We like to drink to Grenache. Grenache offers such a contrast to our traditional fruity, full-bodied Aussie Shiraz and cabernets. It’s savoury – dryish, it is gentle, it is flavoursome and moreish to drink. It doesn’t have the richness, fruit sweetness and weight of modern Aussie reds – but it has plenty of flavour. There is an earthiness and suppleness and softness to the best examples.
At their best, they are delicious and highly drinkable.
Grenache is well suited to the Swan Valley and we have some fantastic old Grenache vineyards on the coffee rock soils on the eastern side of the valley. It fits the Faber ambition to make the style of wines for which the Swan Valley is best suited, to take advantage of the Valley’s strengths and make the style of wines we can excel at.
Making Grenache is a different challenge from all our other wine styles. Grenache grapes are very different and a unique winemaking approach is required. Grenache is a tease because it seems such a simple grape that comfortably produces an attractive simple fruity wine, yet the possibility of making a more complex interesting wine beckons.
There is a difficult equation of when to harvest, how to ferment, and how to age the wine to achieve a balance of simple fruity and riper, richer flavours, of suppleness and dryness, of freshness and heat and grip.
Grenache grapes are so completely different to Shiraz and Petit Verdot. Grenache has big tight bunches of large round berries. They are a purply pink colour, not dark or black like shiraz, PV, Cabernet or Durif and much larger. Most bunches even have some white berries on them.
The flavours are typically rosehip, red berry, and raspberry. This is quite attractive, but there’s another level of character we are trying to obtain, an extra dimension of spice and earthiness to give the wine an extra degree of deliciousness.
It can get very ripe whilst still being in good condition on the vine – the risk of picking too late is that you end up with quite an alcoholic wine, and it doesn’t have the rich fruit sweetness necessary to balance this, resulting in a wine that feels hot or bitter on the finish. Grenache doesn’t lack for tannin either. If the fermentation is overworked then the wine can be quite tannic and like too much alcohol, too much tannin can make the wine unbalanced. Similarly, oak must be managed very carefully – excess oak flavour can swamp the fruit characters and without the fruit richness of say, Shiraz, the palate can become dry and unbalanced.
Our 2020 Grenache was our best to date and our 2021 is a magnificent follow-up. Each year we are lucky to buy a small quantity of Grenache from the dry grown vineyard across the road from Faber. Andrew Pruno and his grandfather Joe Sita planted these vines about 15 years ago from cuttings taken off older vines on the vineyard. The fruit has always been great to eyeball and taste in the vineyard and John’s been happy with the wines, taking what he calls a “low key” approach to the winemaking and letting the result just “fall out” rather than a more forceful approach.
These last couple of years he’s done two things differently. He’s not crushed 20% of the bunches, instead of putting them in as-is at the bottom of the fermenter and crushing the rest in on top. This really changes the whole fermentation/extraction process. There are now stalks in the fermenter whereas previously they were all removed. The whole uncrushed berries undergo “carbonic maceration” – a unique enzymatic process that creates a specific almost raspberry-like character in the wine. And bottled very early after just 5 months in old barrels – because the wine just looks ready to go!
What’s the point? Well, the aim is to attempt to increase the complexity of the wine with the overall ambition of moving beyond a simple fruity wine to a richer more nuanced style. And we think it has been a great success!
Keep an eye out and an ear to the ground when searching for a lighter-bodied red in Australia, Grenache is at the top of a lot of gatekeepers minds right now and rightfully so. The quality of the style is climbing fast and there are some wonderful new wines to be discovered. If you find yourself out our way, why not drop in and discover our new 2021 Grenache?
If you can’t make it out to the Swan Valley, fear not – we ship for free, Australia wide.