2008 Vinden Estate Alicante Bouschet

When you think about the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, wine may come up as a topic of conversation. When you talk about wine, Semillon, Shiraz, Chardonnay and perhaps Verdelho if you're in the know, may be the topics. Alicante Bouschet would not be on the radar.

Vinden Estate, a family-owned boutique winery in the Hunter Valley, has one of the limited plantings in Australia of this rare red fleshed grape variety. Irrespective of a grape's skin colour, the vast majority have clear juice and rely on skin contact and maceration to extract colour to therefore make into a rose. Few have dark flesh and juice like the Alicante Bouschet. The French call these types 'teinturier' a term meaning to dye or to stain.

Made into a rose, the Vinden Estate expression is vibrant bright pink in colour from its freely run pulp juice. Raspberry and strawberry aromatics predominate with hints of spice. On the palate dry, spicy fruit flavours and a nice acid tannin balance make this a lovely, soft, refreshing wine to drink chilled during the warmer months.

The Alicante Bouschet grape has a fascinating history. A French hybrid grape developed in 1865 by Henri Bouschet who was carrying on his father's work, it is the cross between the Petit Bouschet grape - the hybrid his father Louis had originally developed in 1824 - and Grenache. In effect, it was a double hybrid which winemakers planted widely throughout France - mainly in the south-west provinces - which they later used as a blending partner where colour and tannin was needed for lighter coloured wines.

Grown extensively throughout California too, its popularity - or perhaps notoriety - came during the American Prohibition era where its thick, tough skins resisted rot on the long cross country train journeys from their vineyards to east coast cities. Home winemakers and bootleggers it appears had field days obtaining two or three vintages from the thick skins and intensively coloured juice. Fruit growers transformed their orchards to take advantage of this high yielding grape and the lucre it generated. Once Prohibition was repealed, the grape was used for blending purposes, eventually falling in acreage and popularity. However, it still remains the most widely planted of France's teinturier grape varieties in France itself with plantings in other countries such as Spain, Portugal, Corsica, South Africa and Australia. Smaller areas now remain in California in comparison to its heyday during the Prohibition era.

Despite negativity about its overall character, its decline from favour in many wine growing areas and consumer demand for quality wines, the Alicante Bouschet grape appears to have experienced a raw deal throughout its existence, always the bridesmaid and never the bride, which is a pity. If the Vinden Estate is any example, I liked this rose very much and would not hesitate recommending it to people who wish to experience something different than what is on offer in the rose market today. 

Source: Winery Purchase. Rating: 88 Points. 
Website: http://www.vindenestate.com.au/

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