Making the first red wine under his own label, Paul Morris thought it made good sense to sidestep the hectic ruck that surrounds Australian Shiraz – instead he turned to Grenache, made with fruit from the Clare Valley, where he lives and works.
That his debut wine went on to take a top 10 spot in the Hot 100 Wines SA was not on the radar. Morris said he was “almost astounded” when the 2014 Paul Morris Bush Vine Grenache did so well.
On reflection, he is perhaps less surprised, observing that his approach resonates very much with the Hot 100’s ethos; the Grenache was made entirely with drinkability in mind. Although his name may be known to few, Morris hasn’t come to winemaking from a standing start.
He was apprenticed to some illustrious wineries, working at St Hallett’s in the Barossa, Penfolds at Magill and Matua in Marlborough, NZ. His past three vintages have been with Clare Valley stalwart Skillogalee, where he continues to work full-time. “In the last couple of years, I’ve taken the opportunity to do some small batch wines alongside my work for them,” he says.
Despite the CV loaded with purveyors of full-bodied reds, Morris says he chose Grenache because he likes to drink it: “First and foremost I needed to be producing a wine I enjoy myself”. He also thought that in the face of a highly competitive industry saturated with Australia’s pin-up variety, Shiraz, it made more sense to try to look for a niche market by toting a less mainstream, more alternative grape. And as only five or six other Grenaches emanate from Clare, he has found a niche within a niche, successfully landing himself a spot on several restaurant wine lists.
Grenache may be a minority taste, but it’s no newcomer: in fact, most of the Grenache vines in South Australia were planted decades ago, many before the red wine boom of the 1960s. Back then, Grenache went into Burgundy-style blends or was a partner in port.
Not a lot has been planted since, but as Morris points out, the remaining vineyards of old vine Grenache present the aspiring winemaker an otherwise rare chance to work with fully matured fruit. Morris says he was “lucky enough to grab a couple of tonnes from a grower near Leasingham, and have a play around with that”. Not that he fiddles much.
While not a zealot on the subject of additions to wine, Morris likes to let the personality of each vintage shine through, consciously avoiding the big company habit of manipulating wine to achieve a consistent product. Half the fun, he says, is observing the variations that the annual shift in conditions brings out in fruit from the same vineyard, and he believes it creates extra interest for the consumer too.
He tries too to avoid any formula when picking his Grenache, preferring the timing be determined by palate and fruit-acid balance rather than any pre-ordained baumé level. Bottling the wine while still comparatively young means that freshness and fruit character stay to the fore and also reduces the need for sulphur.
“That’s the philosophy of my winemaking, I suppose: keep the sulphur levels down and get the wine out to the public in an affordable, easy-drinking style.” Encouraged by the show successes of his debutante Grenache and Riesling, Morris has gone on to make another Grenache in 2015, and has added a Pinot Noir to his small range, using Adelaide Hills fruit.
With intentions to expand his line-up, he aims to stick to his strategy of alternative varieties, and is eyeing off grapes such as Tempranillo and Nebbiolo. He will also continue to donate part of the proceeds of his wine sales to animal welfare. Nice wine. Nice bloke.
Paul Morris Wines Bush Vine Grenache 2014, Clare Valley paulmorriswines.com.au