Wine / Head in the clouds when it comes to cost

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The taste of grenache seems to be growing on wine columnist RICHARD CALVER…

THERE’S something about these covid times that concentrates the mind around money. In recollecting a recent night at home (where else on a Monday?) it hit me that pecuniary thoughts seemed to have taken on great significance.

Richard Calver.

My daughter had procured a 2018 Head Old Vine Grenache from the Barossa Valley: I was given a small glass to taste. The immediate question: “What do you think?” she asked as she made a separate dinner for a visiting friend. “But nothing too bougie [bourgeois].” 

“Okay, well, I don’t usually go for grenache 100 per cent varietals, I prefer GSMs (grenache, shiraz, mourvèdre) but this is a good, textural wine with some bold dark cherry flavour,” I said.

“It finishes with a bit of bite but I think that if you’d cellared it for a couple of years at least, or with air, it would smooth out well. It is good now, but could be superlative.”

She said: “No wonder my friends all say, ‘so you’ve gone all bougie about wine now’. I get it from you. But, yeah, I like it and I like the tannin I get from the finish.” 

I kept two mouthfuls to have with my dinner of leftovers, a chicken casserole heavy on cayenne pepper, and I could also opine that the grenache was a good food wine that was not deadened from the kick in the meal. 

And then I snuck away to my study to look up the price as my daughter, in the yet absence of her visitor, Skyped another friend in lockdown in Melbourne who confessed to be quaffing a $9 wine from Aldi as they engaged on this increasingly popular medium. She held up a glass of red and I think she said it was a Durif (the Venturer series Durif is $8.99 at that outlet).

One wine site said $35 a bottle for the Head Grenache, the same price shown on the winery’s website. I then consulted the Halliday 2020 “Wine Companion” (I’m too mean to buy the 2021 version, now out I see, albeit reduced to $31.50). 

The 2020 edition says that Head Wines is a five-star winery and that the 2017 vintage of the Old Vine Grenache is a five-star wine at 95 points and also at a price point of $35. The cellaring recommendation was up to 2034, so my advice about cellaring the 2018 was vindicated.

I became part of the Skype conversation on my return to the kitchen where my daughter remarked to her friend that a $9 Durif could “do the job” but that it was only bougie persons who had made their money who could “crack open a really good wine two-three times a week, like dad.” 

“Drinking your inheritance,” I thought as I returned to the study to check my tasting notes and wine spreadsheet to check if I had tried any Head wine previously. I head not (haha) but there was a 2018 Old Vine Shiraz listed and I’d marked it as suitable for 2024 consumption. I noticed it had been a gift of a dinner guest. My opinion of that friend rose.

I also checked the short, online “Wine Follyprofile of Grenache: “Grenache produces rich, flavourful red wines as well as deep ruby-tinted rose. Grenache is the most important variety in Chateauneuf-du-Pape…”

That is a rich person’s drinking. “Wine Folly” says Chateauneuf-du-Pape is like the “gateway drug to French wine”. Although Grenache based, this Southern Rhone prestigious appellation has a number of blends to its name, its ancient traditions deriving from the time when the Pope moved to Avignon in 1309.

I did an internet search for the 2016 excellent vintage and saw that one brand had recently dropped its price, purportedly, from more than $300 a bottle to just on $85. 

But I put aside my “bougie” thoughts about ordering this devil with trousers on and decided instead to cadge another glass of the Head from my daughter and to make sure I gave her a hug.

“A wise person should have money in their head, but not in their heart.” –Jonathan Swift

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Richard Calver
Richard Calver walks, talks, thinks, drinks and writes passionately about wine, especially the wines of the Canberra region.

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