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07.17.2004

2002 Turkey Flat Grenache, Barossa Valley, Australia

Turkey Flat Vineyards was established in 1847, giving it some of the oldest vines in Australia, which contribute to the glory of their Shiraz, which I've already reviewed here. On the strength of that wine, I picked up a bottle of their Grenache recently and little did I know what a treat I was in for.

Let me say right off the bat that I am not a fan of this varietal. I've tried it dozens of times on its own at the Rhone Rangers tastings and elsewhere, and I've never really found a wine that holds my interest -- they tend to be austere, flat, and uni-dimensional.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with Grenache. I happen to love Rhone blends that include a good measure of Grenache, and the acidity it brings to these wines is admirable and essential. But it doesn't seem to me that many people know what they are doing when they use it all by itself.

That is very much not the case with the Turkey Flat wine. Someone clearly knows how to manage this grape on its own. Perhaps they are helped by the fact that these vines are 90 years old, with trunks as thick as my thighs, and grapes that grow to bursting with sugar in the hot Barossa sun. Or perhaps, unlike their American counterparts, they are willing to treat the vines the way they want to be treated: harshly. It turns out that Grenache (also known as Grenache Noir) likes to be abused. It grows best in hot, windy, poorly irrigated and poorly fertilized soil, and also loves to be severely pruned.

Historically, Grenache has generally used as a blending grape in the Rhone region of France, where it is combined with Mourvedre and Syrah to in the Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and in Spain, where it is mixed with Tempranillo and forms the basis of most Riojas. For many years it was Australia's most planted grape, and the world's second most planted grape by acreage. It has lost its standing in Australia to Shiraz and I haven't seen recent world data, but it most certainly remains in the top three.

Tasting Notes:
Bright ruby in color this wine has a spicy nose of oak, cherry, pine, and dried herb aromas. On the palate it has a great acidity with flavors of redcurrant, plum, cherries, and sawdust. The finish is long and lingering, with elements of the spices from the nose returning as it makes its way through the back of your throat.

Food Pairing:
This is a fantastic food wine that will go well with a lot of international food. We happened to bring it along to a Mediterranean-North African restaurant and it went very well with most of the dishes there. Try it with a Moroccan chicken tagine.

Overall Score: 8.5/9

How Much?: $25

I picked my bottle up as I wandered through the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant on my lunch break one day. It is also widely available on the Internet.

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