This column was submitted to the May issue for National Liquor News by Wine Australia’s, Manager Market Insights, Peter Bailey.
This month, Australian Grenache will be taking centre stage at Vinexpo Hong Kong. The second day of the international wine fair will be dedicated to the variety, with three master classes exploring the complexity and flexibility of Australian Grenache.
Grenache has a distinguished history in international and Australian wine production, and recent trends are suggesting a resurgence in its popularity.
Australia has some of the oldest Grenache vines in the world and up until the late 1960s it was the most widely planted variety in Australia, as it was well suited to the fortified wines that dominated Australian wine production.
With the boom in red wine consumption in Australia in the 1970s and a swing to white wine in the 1980s, Grenache plantings were soon overtaken by Shiraz, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The extraordinary growth in Australian exports in the 1990s saw vineyard plantings of these four varieties increase further.
Over the past 20 years, attitudes to Grenache have gradually changed. In 2017, almost 18,000 tonnes of Grenache grapes were crushed nationally – an increase of 33 per cent compared to 2016. The proportional increase was twice has much as that for Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, but that said, it is still not one of the top 10 varieties grown.
The increase in the crush reflects the growing demand for Grenache wines, particularly for Grenache blends such as Grenache Shiraz Mataro (Mataro is also known as Mourvѐdre).
In 2017, a year when off-trade wine sales overall in the domestic market were flat in volume terms and increased by just 2 per cent in value terms, Grenache blends (in the red bottled category) grew by 19 per cent in value and 24 per cent in volume.
Grenache as a straight variety on the other hand decreased by 1 per cent in value – reflecting the change in the way this variety is being used by winemakers.
In exports, the top five Australian label claims with Grenache in the name are Shiraz/Grenache, Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvѐdre, Grenache/Shiraz, Shiraz/Grenache/Mourvѐdre and Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon/Mourvѐdre/Grenache – indicating the versatility of this variety.
Another opportunity for Grenache is in rosé wines. Grenache is one of the most commonly used varieties in this wine style, which has shown dramatic recent increases in popularity.
To illustrate the revival in Grenache, in 2017, for the first time, the Jimmy Watson Trophy was awarded to a Grenache. The fruit for the winning Turkey Flat 2016 Barossa Valley Grenache was predominantly sourced from 98-year-old Grenache vines grown in the Turkey Flat vineyard.
The revival in Grenache exemplifies the Australian grape and wine community’s commitment to innovation and questing to make wines with a sense of place. We now grow more than 100 different grape varieties in 65 wine regions across the country.
Look out for the May issue of National Liquor News, with more on Banner Groups, the ALSA-IRI State of the Industry Report and all the news on Australia’s off-premise industry.