2016 Thistledown “The Vagabond” Old Vine Grenache, Blewitt Springs, McLaren Vale, South Australia.
The rich and full bodied (The) Vagabond Old Vine Grenache is a wine of serious hedonistic appeal with opulent ripe layers and pretty floral accents and with a smooth luxurious tannic structure, making this a wine with a ton of wow factor for an incredibly low price. The Blewitt Springs terroir is one of the most significant in South Australia and made famous by the legendary Clarendon Hills bottlings of the late 90s and early 2000s, and its high elevation location and deep sandy soils over a core of ironstone makes it a perfect area for profound Grenache, which has been growing here for close to a hundred years, it’s an area that marries the complexity and density of Chateauneuf du Pape and the sweet fruit intensity of California cult stars Saxum and Sine Qua Non. This 2016 The Vagabond is very singular and impressive offering, which has been getting a ton of buzz at home with great reviews, is a special limited wine that was produced by Thistledown wine company, which was founded by two Masters of Wine in 2010, Giles Cooke MW and Fergal Tynan MW, who along with winemaking talent Peter Leske, make hand-crafted small-batch wines that highlight some of Australia’s most prized regions and distinctive sites. Without knowing the details, I took the plunge here, because the price seemed ridiculous for the pedigree and I only wish I had got a few more bottles of this stuff! The main profile here is one of immense flavor with classic, for Blewitt Springs, character showing raspberry jam, strawberry, pomegranate and dense plum fruits along with an array of spice and herbal notes, there is melted black licorice, menthol, pepper and crushed flowers as well in this deep Grenache, that Cooke and Tynan say was influenced and inspired by old world Spanish Garnacha(s) and Rhone wines.
The Thistledown Australia project obviously relies on the highly regarded Peter Leske, he is a well-known face in Australia wine circles, and his experience working for the likes of Nepenthe, Grosset and Domaine Dujac in Burgundy made him a perfect partner and a solid base from which to make these interesting wines, like this Old Vine Grenache. It is noted by Thistledown, that in 2012, Leske took over the old Nepenthe winery located in Lenswood, Adelaide Hills and re-named it Revenir, where he makes his own wines and those of Thistledown. The winery is, as Cooke and Tynan explain, very well equipped with all the toys needed to make brilliant small batch wines, making it this a perfect home for Thistledown project. The mission here was to create unique bottlings that showcase Australia at its best, pulling away from the stereotypes and focusing on authentic terroir driven wines, these include a series of varietals and blends from Merlot to Shiraz and Grenache Blanc to dry Riesling, all from different regions. They also produce some very rare Aussie versions of Zibibbo and Nero d’Avola, which are Sicilian grapes as well as a classic GSM, all of which sound interesting, and after tasting this The Vagabond Old Vine Grenache, they make my mouth water, I can only hope some of them make over here to California. This wine was sourced from a single 70 year old bush vine and dry farmed parcel in the famed Blewitt Springs sub-region of McLaren Vale and was fermented in a combination of cement and small bins with partial whole cluster and all indigenous yeasts, after which the wine was raised in both cement eggs and French oak puncheons to allow the purity of place to shine though. This Grenache, which shows a hint of subtle stem inclusion, gets better with air and much better with food, especially hearty BBQ dishes.
($15 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive