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What our expert thought of Bethany, 'g6', old-vine Grenache




the tasting

The Tasting


The first thing that strikes me about this wine is how pale it is!  It’s a lovely pale garnet colour.  Swirling it shows up obvious “legs” clinging to the glass ‐ a sign of its high 14.5% alcohol.
 
There’s a beguiling nose of old polished leather, dried fruit, nuts, and sweet spice.  There’s also quite a lot of smoky, resinous oak, but it isn’t the vanilla and coconut usually found on oaked new world reds.  Instead this reminds me of the classy and more subtle oak found on high-end white burgundies.
 
In fact, this looks and smells a lot like a 10-year-old tawny port or a fortified Vin Doux Naturel from France’s Roussillon ‐ a Banyuls or a Maury – which are also based on Grenache.  But it doesn't taste like one.  The palate is completely dry, which comes as a surprise after the nose.  There’s low-to-medium acidity, very soft tannins and a full body, with warm, mouth-filling flavours of dried fruit (figs and raisins) and walnuts, leading to a long, smoky finish.  Unusual, but lovely.


Assessment


The thin-skinned Grenache produces pale wine with a tendency to oxidise.  Pale reds are ‐ unfairly ‐ harder to sell, so winemakers typically try to overcome that with long macerations to extract more colour, and by blending in a bit of something really dark.  (In much of the wine world, including Australia, the law allows a ‘single varietal’ to contain up to 10% of other grape varieties without having to declare them on the label.)  Those winemakers would then practise rigid exclusion of air during the aging process, to preserve that colour and to prevent any oxidised flavours from developing.
 
Bethany have instead chosen the celebrate this variety’s unique character by using 100% Grenache fruit and a moderate 5-day maceration, followed by long barrel-aging in older oak barrels, to produce this pale, oxidative style that stays true to the grape.  The cold 2011 vintage has kept the alcohol in check (below 15% is modest for old-vine Barossa Grenache!) and retained reasonable acidity.  It’s rather an old-fashioned style but very appropriate for these extremely old-fashioned vines!



Tasting notes

Appearance
pale garnet, with obvious legs
Nose

Intensity medium+

Aromas old polished leather, dried fruit, nuts and sweet spice, with smoky white-burgundy-style oak
Palate

Sweetness dry

Acidity medium-

Body full

Tannin low

Flavours dried fruit (figs and raisins) and walnuts
Finish

Length long

Flavours dried fruits, smoke
Other notes
Colour & nose suggest a 10-yr-old Tawny port or a VDN


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