Australia, Review, Travel

Barossa Soul

Jet lag happens because a jet moves faster than the soul, said William Gibson in Pattern Recognition, “Souls can’t move that quickly, and are left behind, and must be awaited, upon arrival, like lost luggage.”

One of the first things I do when I arrive in Australia is hit the local wine shops. Not only because I am looking for a distraction for my jet-lag, or perhaps, more accurately, a cure for it, but because I am always so happy to see a much bigger range of wines and styles than we see over here in the UK.

Australian Savagnin, anyone? There were three – three! – in our local independent wine shop. Perhaps there is not a huge market here in the UK, but this grape from Jura must have seemed like a good idea when they planted the vines at least 10 years ago. It’s an exciting time here for new varieties.

Tscharke Wines have an interesting Savagnin, called “Girl Talk” (more grrrl than girl), but it was their 2012 Tscharke Gnadenfrei Grenache that dropped us directly to our location like a Google map teardrop.

My soul had finally been re-claimed.

If people use the word  “garrigue” to describe the smell of woodland in wines from the South of France, then this was the Australian version: it had the taste of the coastal bush. When we rolled down the windows as we drove down to Palm Beach on the Northern beaches in Sydney (the set for Home & Away), where the road winds along the cliff face and the bush buzzes with heat and eucalyptus into the deep cool before the bay, this wine encouraged the same panoramic thoughts.

Summer Bay aka Palm Beach, Sydney

Summer Bay aka Palm Beach, Sydney

The Key to Australian Blockbusters?

Marananga is a small sub-region on the Seppeltsfield Road in the Barossa Valley. The name of the region dominates the wine label while the name of the producer was discretely tucked away – is Marananga really a sub-region that everyone would instantly recognise? Local winemakers have marked it out even if wine reference books have not. Allegedly the late Peter Lehmann complained when Greenock Creek Winery bought a block here as it formed the backbone for many of his trophy-winning blends. And I have been told Andrew Jefford considers it one of his top 3 terroirs in Australia.

Marananga sub-region in the Barossa Valley

Marananga sub-region in the Barossa Valley


In fact, the first time I heard about the Marananga region was at a Penfolds Bin Release tasting in March 2013. The new-ish Penfolds Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz seemed to me like an oddity in the Penfolds portfolio. This “smaller” wine somewhat lost in the rush to taste the Grange that sitting like King Tut at the end of the tasting. Penfolds huge marketing spend would have us believe that the best wines in their portfolio are legends that will last forever in your cellar. The truth is that the winery is constantly experimenting with different regions and wine blends. Some Bins come up trumps and others are all the more exciting for not being a heavy-hitting blend but rather, focus on the sub-region alone.

The Bin 150 from Marananga falls in the latter group; it may not be as great as Grange or Bin 189 but the old vine fruit from here is brilliant and complex and at a substantially lower price than the blockbusters. And considering the long tradition of blending across regions at Penfolds, to isolate a sub-region means it must be worth the extra focus.

How does it taste? Black cherry, raspberry and plum are secondary to the Asian five spice, liquorice, clove and cinnamon. There is an unexpected juxtaposition of smoky bacon (yes, bacon – exciting enough in itself) with the expansive smell of eucalyptus. As you would expect from Grenache, it packed a punch.

Welcome back your soul.

Practical Details 


Winery: Tscharke Wines

Wine: 2012 Tscharke Gnadenfrei Grenache


Cost: About $32 AU (£16-ish)