I’d like to introduce you to an old mate of mine. His name is Grenache. To say that he’s a complicated old bugger is an under statement. Grenache has lived here for ages as a bit of an imposter!
Aussies only ever saw him at face value, and thought he was a bit simple. We didn’t realise he had a complex personality or depth of emotions. Growers had no idea where to put him, or why he was even here in the first place.
To understand why, we need to head back in time some 100 years, to work out why poor ol’ Grenache was treated this way, why he got such a rough time, and how with just a little bit of care he survived.
He tagged along to Australia with his early shipmates in Busby’s bag. They dumped him in the Riverland mainly, in shitty bits of dirt good for no other crop. Unlike some of his snobbier shipmates he didn’t complain. He just got on with it.
He was easy to grow. You just whacked a few callus sticks in the ground and a few years later he rewarded you with a bountiful crop.
In a funny way, Grenache needed to be treated a bit mean. If he got a sniff of the better land – the ritzy sites with the beautiful views, good water and talented geology – like any starving creature he couldn’t help but gorge himself. He’d go on a bender, grow fat and big, and spurge out way too much fruit. The good life didn’t bring out the best in him.
Whatever you think of him, old Grenache is a survivor.
In the mid 2000’s my old mate awoke to a soft touch. He sat up, rubbed his eyes from winter slumber and felt a tender, nurturing hand lifting him up. He looked in the mirror to find that he’d had a new haircut. He had less buds to show off with. As the weather warmed he grew his usual beautiful kaleidoscope of green. The same kind hand removed his blind shoots and thinned his crop so he could happily ripen every berry.
Old Grenache felt rejuvenated, “about bloody time” he thought. For the first time in his long life in Australia he got some self – respect.
Grenache really smiles as a heat wave rolls in. He takes it in his stride with no need for stress or shrivel. He’s not a sook like some of his peers, and he calmly ripens his crop in a tough arid land. He’s smart, intuitive and dignified.
In my footy team, I’d play him at centre-half back. He’s reliable, courageous, and he’s tough enough to eventually outsmart his opponents. I have learnt that my mate is a generous soul. He rewards the brave. He’s versatile and can work with a quick cut, a few spurs per elbow, with a trellis or no trellis. He’ll always give you something, whatever the big fella sends from above.
New drinkers are getting to meet my mate Grenache for the first time, seeing and enjoying him in a new light.
Grenache knows that all ships rise on the same tide, and he dips his hat to the true believers who saw him through the bad times.
He gives thanks to, names like Melton, Farmillo, Smart, Noon, Hoffmann, Pannell, Osborn, Bratasiuk, di Fabio, Bekkers, Cirillo, Gartleman, Binder and Fraser. He’s also excited to hang with the new gang. He knows that he is good; he knows he can be better than good. He knows he can take a ladies breath away. He knows he deserves to stand judge against the best.
I’m happy to see Grenache has finally got some swagger and newfound respect. I hope he’s being treated better by the hand that farms him and, by the God that brings him sunlight and rain. I’m happy for the brilliant young winemakers who are discovering his charms and very happy for the consumers that can enjoy his juice. Happy for the smiles he brings and the laughter he creates.
Finally, Australia has a great grape that loves this land and he loves it back.