Guardians of a long history, Thistledown Wine Co. continues the tradition of Scottish ingenuity and great Australian wine. From their small-batch winery in the idyllic Adelaide Hills, they work with pristine fruit sourced from iconic vineyard sites. Giles Cooke MW and Fergal Tynan MW, with the helping hand of Peter Leske, craft lithe, energetic wines that illustrate the benefits of great sites and intelligent, low-intervention winemaking. Giles and Fergal share a particular passion for Grenache and, in ever more detail, Thistledown continue to unpick the rich patchwork of South Australian Grenache – reassembling it in their own inimitable style. This unique blend of superb fruit sources and experience in both the New and the Old Worlds helps craft wine of subtlety, texture and detail – wines perfectly suited to complement rather than overwhelm fine food.
Bernard Smart is now 85 and has worked the land all of his life. He, and other members of his family, have planted many of the best sites in the region though Bernard wasn’t born when some part of the this incredible vineyard were planted. The entire vineyard is planted to Grenache bush-vines grown in the gently undulating red clay loams variously dotted with chunks of iron-stone and shale quartz. Picked from a small area where the vines are trained a few inches higher than the rest and it is this very subtle difference in radiated heat and air movement which allows us to pick ripe fruit earlier.
Grenache has, for a long time, been mishandled in the winery and what it lacks in colour has been made up for in over extraction, over ripe fruit and too much oak. We see no need for any of that. Their Grenaches are all about picking on the way up, capturing the essence of the site and then allowing the flavours to gently infuse. Using 30% whole bunches helps create freshness, structure and savoury notes. Wild ferments and then gentle hand plunges form the only extraction and the wine is pressed in to older oak before being hand-bottled unfined and unflitered.
Time: 6 Months; Type: French; % oaked: 100; % new oak: None;
Picked almost 2 weeks earlier than some of the more traditional producers, this wine walks the tightrope of fruit, tannin and acid with finesse. Cranberry, violet and spice come through as does a strong mineral backbone. Delicate yet firm and persistent, this is the most Pinot-like expression of Grenache to have come from this vineyard.
Serve cool with robust fish dishes or braised rabbit/hare - many of which can be seen in the vineyard!
Our Green Principals are those that demonstrate a responsible and sustainable approach to
viticulture, vinification, commerce and community.
Rational producers demonstrate that they use the least amount of intervention in the vineyard and winery to make the best possible wine.
Thistledown try to harvest a little earlier in order to retain natural freshness and balance, reducing the need for additions and intervention. Buying only from sustainable, premium vineyards, they work with producers committed to reducing intervention and increasing sustainability, where possible, favouring dry grown sites. Minimal intervention in the winery is encouraged. In McLaren Vale, Thistledown works with growers involved in the sustainable viticulture programme.
Fair producers demonstrate a fair and even-handed approach in all aspects of how they conduct business.
Thistledown ensures that all growers are paid a fair price to enable them to maintain their vineyards and invest in progressive vineyard management practices.
Awards and Reviews
The Wine Front 95 - 96 Points
Pretty, bright, raspberry, strawberry, perfume, rose and milk chocolate. Light, it’s brightly lit, from behind, cranberry juice, delicacy and flavor, so fine, pretty and long, with a kitten’s tongue tannin. Just beautiful. Pippy aftertaste, with a touch orange rind. Dry too. Energetic. GW, 95-96 points, July 2018
Matthew Jukes Top 100 Australian Wines
Aussie winemaker Peter Leske and two UK Masters of Wine, Giles Cooke and Fergal Tynan, have clubbed together to set up Thistledown. Their shared passion for Grenache is the beating heart of the Thistledown brand and my featured top end wine is a stunning call to arms. This single vineyard wine made with ultimate care and attention is really going to impress the palate. With 30% whole bunch fruit, 16 days on skins and maturation in 300l. hogsheads, this wine is bottled with no fining or filtration, and this means this wine has nowhere to hide. Either the raw materials are superb or they are not. I am delighted to report that this is another fiercely good Grenache in this years 100 Best line-up and this wine and others are the reason
there is a dedicated Grenache & Friends section, for the very first time, in this report.’ MJ.
James Halliday 94 Points
Has a darker fruit range than the Schuller R., and some tannins in the mix. Very good wine but with a slightly less good welcome mat.’ Screwcap. 14% alc. To: 2027. JH, 94 Points.
Jancis Robinson 17 Points
From 70 year-old dry-grown vines on clay loam, shale quartz and ironstone in the Clarendon subregion at 250 m facing south-south east - a trial grape source labelled Advance Release. Wild ferment with 30% whole bunch with 16 days on skins. No oak. Unfined and unfiltered. And all this information I got from the cleverly-designed front label! 400 bottles. Transparent garnet. Intensely heady, lifted nose with some
animal notes. So mineral on the palate it tastes as though some rocks were macerated in here! Fresh - marked acidity - and bone dry on the end. Maybe they could afford to let this wine taste a little sweeter for pleasure purposes? But you have to admire what Sydney wine writer and natural wine proponent Mike Bennie would call 'the intention'. Clearcut aims achieved of making a thoroughly 21st century wine. Grenache as Burgundy? I think personally I'd like the fruit just to be slightly
more prioritised over that drying mineral quality. But then it's awfully young...’. JR 17 Points.