What it’s not about
Price, Taste or Quality
I have two bottles of Château d’Yquem 2001 waiting for a special occasion, so it’s not about price. As some may be aware I’m not a big fan of South Australian Shiraz, but Grange is an exception to the jammy Shiraz that so often comes out of the Barossa, at a vertical some 14 years ago the impression left was of a subtle well balanced wine that had a good sense of itself. Compared to the Yattarna Chardonnay we tasted at the same vertical, which can be best described as schizophrenic in style, the Grange had true consistent style and quality to match its price tag.
What it’s about
“Why is it so”.
As the famous Professor Julius Sumner Miller1 often asked, “why is it so”, well there’s more than one answer or reason to the question of its absence from my cellar (apart from a bottle belonging to Cookie).
The most telling reason would be Terroir2, Grange has none. I can still remember the Penfolds winemaker at the time of the vertical, telling the assembled samplers of the monumental effort that went into selecting the wine from all parts of South Australia and feeling perplexed by this, not amazed as one should have been at their Herculean effort! This was a first stirring of the subconscious desire for that elusive idea of Terroir, without even knowing the word or concept. There was a feeling that what helps make wine special is the relationship between where it is grown and what is in the bottle.
An example of this is one of my favorite wines back then, Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay (still is a favorite) a wine produced from grapes grown from one very particular part of their estate. Not only is it a lovely and complex wine but it also has Terroir and over the years knowledge of its Terroir grows as you get to know the wine and its reflection of the particular little place in Margaret River and its varying vintage conditions.
Terrior is why we visited Craggy Range on our recent rugby trip to New Zealand. Craggy Range only produces Single Vineyard Wines, with the added element that these vineyards are in a diverse range of wine regions in New Zealand. You can drink a Syrah from their Gimblett Gravels Vineyard or a Pinot Noir from the Fabulous Calvert Vineyard in Central Otago.
Unlike the above wines Grange can come from any of a multitude of vineyards that Penfolds owns or is supplied to by its growers within the great state of South Australia. This ability to source grapes from such a large pool produces a great wine. But it lacks Terrior, there is no reflection of where it was grown and the micro climate that produced it.
Sense of Place
So what if the wine comes from all over the place, if it tastes good, why care. That’s easy, “A sense of place” and the personal connection to that very specific place.
To be Continued – more on A Sense of Place and the Hula Hoop Theory.