2008 Grange took me by surprise. I was expecting a hulking, looming thing that harked back to the blockbusters of years passed. What I did not expect was a tasting note featuring 'purity' three times (even 'aching purity'), 'refinement,' even 'detail'. There is not an iota of heatwave effect here, but that's not the point. The point is, season aside, 2008 epitomises the modern face of Grange. Yes, this is still Grange as we know it, with its backdrop of high cocoa dark chocolate, its hints of coal steam and its definitive, monumental intensity. But there's a newfound overlay of brilliantly precise black fruit definition here, with perfectly ripe black plums, black cherries, blackberries and black pastilles all perfectly laid out in their gloriously intricate detail. Grange tannins are here to behold, charged with great endurance, yet super fine and somehow more lacy than ever. Persistence transcends time, lingering, undeviated, for minutes. Grange 2008 has an appeal and enticement already, and while it won't be the longest-lived Grange ever, it will confidently improve for decades and afford great joy along every bit of the way. For the record, 98% shiraz and 2% cabernet sauvignon from 89% Barossa Valley, 9% Clare Valley and 2% Magill Estate. 5000-10000 cases.
The wine contains 2% cabernet sauvignon and 98% shiraz, 81% Barossa, the remaining shiraz from elsewhere in South Australia, and spent 19 months in new Am oak hogsheads in which it finished its fermentation. Forget any idea that it was influenced by the heatwave: the best Barossa Valley shiraz was picked before the end of February, almost a week before the heatwave arrived. Densely coloured, it has an ultra-complex bouquet, with black fruits/anise/licorice, easily dealing with the oak; a remarkable wine in every way. The balance, texture and structure are faultless, so much so that the wine achieves elegance now, many years before you would expect that quality to be commented on. Likewise, the palate has absorbed the oak in the same way as the bouquet.
Max would be impressed by the evolution shown by the 2008. The path to evolving Grange requires taking small steps, gradually. This wine has the positive characters his critics decried and he knew the wine required to age; crushed ant like aromas, substantial black fruits and caramel toast oak with concentration and balance, yet the freshness and fruit purity has improved. It is not as bold as earlier vintages were on release and there is a definite refinement in the wine. The palate has latent fruit, solid and mouth filling with depth and middle palate fruit richness with very fine, slinky more refined tannin than previously, and acidity that takes its time to be apparent. The finish is different and while structured and long and full of tannin, acid, fruit interplay in its youth there is a chalky quality that was new to me. Drink after 2025.