Did you see Max Allen’s Top 20 Drinks of 2023 in the AFR last weekend? This highly anticipated review begins: “The best of the reds, the whites and the rest – including one for $25. What are the drinks you will remember from 2023? Our expert rounds up his top choices.”
The one for $25 (actually less than that) is the Cirillo Vincent Grenache 2022.
Here’s what Max had to say: “I first tasted this when I visited Marco Cirillo in the Barossa earlier this year working on a feature about how old-vine grenache, once overlooked and undervalued, is now one of the most sought-after wines in Australia. This example is produced from grenache grown in two vineyards, one planted in 1901, the other in 1906: it’s a super-vibrant and bold wine, full of flavours of dusky rose petal, black raspberry and a sprinkling of spice. Snappy, bright, dusty tannins, a joyful slurpy juiciness. Very moreish and outstanding value.”
This incredible achievement is one of those I-told-you-so moments - I’m a fan and have plugged this wine, made by Marco Cirillo, for years.
Marco, by his own admission, doesn’t follow trends and marketing’s not his bag. But there’s no doubt this down-to-earth, 9th generation winemaker is making some of the most underrated and under-priced wine in the Barossa - especially his Cirillo Vincent Grenache. Marco describes this wine as his every-day-drinker and believes it should be priced as such. He’d rather his wines sell out before next vintage, which explains the affordable price of not just this wine, but Marco’s wines in general. Several of his higher profile boutique Barossa neighbours, regularly suggest he up his prices. It’ll come as no surprise that despite his lack of cool marketing, Marco has no trouble selling out of his wines every year.
Marco’s ancestors were wine growers in Calabria and it was his father Vincent, after whom this wine is named, who arrived in Australia as an 8-year-old boy back in 1946, just after the war. The Cirillos moved to the Light Pass district of the Barossa in 1969-70 when Vincent purchased what were, at the time, unloved vineyards containing the oldest surviving productive grenache and semillon vines in the world - planted in 1848! In true Italian style, Vincent made enough wine for family and friends, but sold the rest of his fruit to a who’s who of top Barossa wineries including; Penfolds, Torbreck, Rockford, Peter Lehmann and St Hallet.
Initially Marco resisted the lure of the wine business, but after a brief stint in the automotive industry, he returned to the fold in the late 90s. He spent time at Charles Sturt Uni as well as at several South Australian and Southern Rhône wineries. Of particular note was time spent at two of Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s legendary estates; Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe and Château Rayas. Wow! Marco returned to the family business, taking over from Vincent in 2000 and releasing the first commercial wine under the family name in 2003.
Marco’s a straight shooter and doesn’t suffer fools - attributes that have found him setting more than a few journos straight. And don’t get him started on “hipster garbage wine!” He doesn’t send samples to critics, or submit wines for awards, so you’ll understand why there’s not been much mention of him in the press.
Given Marco’s reluctance, you can imagine my surprise when I saw one of his wines, let alone his cheapest, included inMax Allen’s Top 20 Drinks of 2023. And I was even more surprised to see a few other high-profile critics had managed to get their hands it too.
“This strikes me as among the best value wines yet tasted this year. Full-weighted. Balanced by old-vine tannic torque, as much by a thread of chalky freshness joining the attack to the long, resinous finish. Cirillo likes to guzzle this as one would a Cotes-du-Rhone, such is its giddy effortlessness. Sassafras, kirsch, tea-tree menthol notes and a redolent echo of persimmon. Delicious! Drink or hold.” 94 Points, Ned Goodwin MW, JamesSuckling.com.
Courtesy of Wine Australia.
“The 2022 The Vincent Grenache is plush and fine at once. The febrile tannins that shape the fruit are very fine - pliability and ductility are the story. It has notes of graphite, black tea, strawberry, raspberry seed, exotic spice and black cherry. This is a beauty, and it really overdelivers for the price point ($25 AUD!). Twenty percent of the wine goes into old oak. It’s enough to support the tannins, but not enough to feel overtly oaky. Lovely.” 94 points, Erin Larkin, The Wine Advocate, Sep 2023.
These reviews, both from international publications, are simply outstanding for a wine of this price.
Marco makes two grenaches, the Vincent is his entry level one. The fruit for the wine was sourced from two plots, one planted in 1901 the other 1906. With vines this old, the fruit has to be handpicked to avoid damaging the vine. It was picked in three tranches to obtain a judicious mixture of acid, tannin and ripeness. Clever. Marco uses natural yeasts and prefers minimal additions and minimal intervention - all things you might associate with a ‘natural’ winemaker - just don’t go calling him that. Marco describes himself as more of an old-school winemaker with patience and common sense. He also stressed to me the significance of keeping his winery super clean - essential when making wine this way, to prevent risk of bacterial spoilage.
100% grenache and made with only a light touch of old oak, this wine is always fresh and bright. The wine was fermented in old-style open-top fermenters, and was softly pressed out post ferment, with two thirds spending between 6-8 months in large old oak, the remaining third in stainless steel. The wine was patiently gravity settled, prior to bottling, so no filtering was required. You can see just how clear it is. The finished wine is 14% alcohol and sealed with a screwcap.
The wine is clear ruby red in the glass. On the nose you’ll find whisps of rose petal, juicy raspberry jubes, vanilla and fennel seed. On the palate, raspberry and pomegranate notes meld with spicy liquorice and pepper. A medium weight wine - deliciously crisp acid and feathery soft tannins deftly bookend this nice dry finish.
As is so often the case, the reviews usually come out just as the wine is sold out, and true to form, the Vincent Grenache has just rolled to the 2023. But I’ve managed to secure the last of the 2022... but not as much as I’d like, so get in quick.
I can offer if for $23.50 a bottle.
IMPORTANT FREIGHT INFORMATION
Metro Sydney - we have our own van and driver, so for metro Sydney* we guarantee pre-Christmas delivery for orders placed up until 5pm, on the 23rd of December.
Outside of Sydney - we rely on couriers. They’ve been experiencing significant delays due to massive increases in volumes so we can’t guarantee pre-Christmas delivery for orders placed after the 1st December.
*There’s always some ambiguity and flexibility in what is regarded as metro Sydney. We’re in Bondi Junction, so if you’re ‘in Sydney’ but miles away, best to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm your delivery time.
Don't forget we've got CHRISTMAS SIXPACKS to make life easier.