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Why is Australia so suitable for growing Grenache? Interview with Fred Howard

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On a recent post I described how astonished I was when I discovered Australian Grenache. McLarenVale is currently working hard to make Grenache ‚its grape‘. I spoke to Fred Howard, winemaker and co-owner of DogRidge Winery in the Vale about this variety.

Fred Howard from DogRidge with Michael Brecht

Fred Howard from DogRidge with Michael Brecht

downunderwines: Thanks Fred for your time. So tell us, how did the Grenache vine find its way here to South Australia?
Fred Howard (FH): Originally South Australia produced lots of fortified wines, which were sent back to England mainly for medical purposes. Grenache quickly became a favourite variety as it was growing so strong, it didn’t need a lot of work and you got lots of grapes out of the vines. Additionally the grapes contained very high sugar levels and were drought resistant, by nature.

DogRidge Cadenzia Grenache 2005

DogRidge Cadenzia Grenache 2005

downunderwines: So these Grenache wines made it into the fortified wines helping doctors cure in the UK, but comes that it is today one of the finest variety here in the McLaren Vale?
FH: To tell you the truth: we have been working hard, to make our Grenache what it is today. The growth of the wines means that you have to prune heavily, it is almost as if you are manipulating the growth of the vines. The lack of water naturally helps as the growth slows down. Also we cut the tips so that the energy stops within the leaves, I guess all in all our crop thinning results in only getting 50% of the berries.

downunderwines: And these 50% are magic, almost comparable to the dead arm treatment, that D’Arenberg is so famous for?
FH: yes exactly. While thinning the crop to such an extent, we achieve results of berries that are simply wonderful to work with, once they are coming into the winery. Our Grenache vines have been planted in the 1940s, the character and complexity of its fruit is simply stunning.

I have then tried a few of DogRidge’s Grenache wines, now marketed under the Cadenzia label. Both the 2005 and 2006 are 100% Grenache, displaying a highly juicy sweet-fruit palate and the flavours were absolutely stunning. I preferred the 2005 as it had this extra year in the bottle which made it sensational. These wines a great for cellaring, give it a few years and drink it on a cold winter night, in front of a fire, sounds like heaven to me.


Meine juengste Reise nach McLaren Vale brachte mich mit Fred Howard zusammen, der gemeinsam mit seinem Bruder David die DogRidge Winery sein eigen nennt. Hier werden seit vielen Jahrzehnten die klassischen Shiraz und Cab Savs angebaut, seit mehr als 65 Jahren wachsen zusaetzlich Grenache Trauben heran. Hiervon handelt mein Interview mt Fred, das McLaren Vale arbeitet derzeit sehr daran, diese Grenache Traube zu ‚ihrem‘ Markenzeichen zu machen.

Gemeinsam mit Fred habe ich dann die Jahrgaenge 2005 und 2006 getestet, das Ergebnis: grossartig – ich bin ein Grenache Fan – allerdings nicht Fan der spanischen sondern ausschliesslich der australischen Variante.

Ihr Michael Brecht

Autor: Michael Brecht

Ich bin in Deutschland geboren und habe neben dem deutschen einen australischen Pass. In meiner Freizeit teste ich gerne Weine aus der alten und neuen Welt und schreibe meine Erfahrungen hier auf.

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