An Approach To Relaxation is a joint project between Master Sommelier Richard Betts and Carla Rza Betts (formerly of The Spotted Pig, The Breslin and The John Dory Oyster Bar in NYC.)
Sucette (2017) is 100% Grenache from 2 dry-grown, own-rooted, sandy vineyards: our own Rza Block (estimated to have been planted between 1860-1880) and an 80-85-year old vineyard a kilometer away. Both vineyards are located in the heart of the Vine Vale, the coolest region of the Barossa Valley, situated at the foot of the Eden Valley in South Australia.
Coming from 2 sites, our own vineyard, the Rza Block (estimated to be planted between 1860-1880), and a single vineyard approximately 80-85 years old,
both of which are dry grown and own-rooted in the deep sand of the Vine Vale. Given the cooler nature of the 2017 vintage, we elected to include 20% of the
bunches as whole-cluster, compared to the 35% used in warmer 2016. After an 8 day ferment, we basket pressed over a slow 12 hour press cycle, and
the wine spent a year in old French oak before being bottled unfined and unfiltered.
The 2017 is perfectly balanced between the cranberry and raspberry aromas of sand-grown Grenache and the spicy, resinous potpourri aromas of the stems. A lithe, potent wine with orange zest, dark earthy notes, violets, deeper, darker red fruits, with a great balance of the elegance of the ‘15 and the muscle of the ‘16.
THE VINE VALE
The old vine, own-rooted Rza Block is situated in the heart of the Vine Vale, the small eastern pocket of the Barossa Valley in South Australia.
But wait… Before we tell you about the our block, let us paint a picture for you of the Barossa and why we feel the Vine Vale sets itself apart from the rest of the Valley.
You see, the majority of the rest of the Barossa Valley tends to have heavier red clay soils, yet the Vine Vale is quite different as it has a significant deposit of fine sandy soil.
The sand comes from the weathered granite and quartzite of the Barossa Ranges and Eden Valley and has been deposited in Vine Vale via the gullies which drain out of the hills down towards the Valley floor.
These same gullies also bring evening winds locally referred to as the Vine Vale Nurse. These winds are nearly as important as the sand to Vine Vale because they create a big diurnal shift, cooling the vineyards at night, preserving acidity and freshness.
In the summer we might reach 100+F/ 38C on a few select days, but because of the wind you can also find yourself at 50F/10C during the evenings.
We love the sand for what it takes as much as for what it gives.
Sandy soils do not give much color to wine, which is just fine because you neither taste nor smell color (so why get hung up on it?)
What sandy soil gives to the wine, however, is high-toned aromatics: the pretty things that play in the alto and the soprano, creating all of the seduction and allure. Sand also allows you to develop silky texture while remaining light on your feet; it’s why we describe sand-grown Grenache as the warm climate analogy of Pinot Noir.
In our experience no other soil gives this unique combination;
the sandy soils of Vine Vale make graceful wines, while the wines from further North and West in the Barossa, say Marananga and Greenock on the heavier red clay, tend to make chunkier wines, wines that play the bass range rather than the alto.
The Rza Block, located in the center of Vine Vale, measures 16.5 acres (6.7 ha), 12.5 of which are planted to one varietal: Grenache.
The vast majority of the vineyard is very old vine (estimated to have been planted sometime around the end of the 1800’s),
with a few rows of younger vines planted from Rza cuttings in 1992. Everything is own-rooted and dry grown. The remaining 4 acres will be planted this Fall to rootlets of cuttings from the old vines.
The vineyard was originally trellised on short, 20-inch posts with a single wire but over the last century the vines toppled the posts and dropped the wire, rendering the trellis obsolete. In doing so, the vines reverted to wild bush vines. All future plantings will also be bush vines which we think is important as
we try to preserve an important part of Barossan history and vinous history at large. It takes a bit more effort and the vines give a smaller yield but we know it’s the right thing…
Plus, all of the old guys around the Valley give us a knowing nod and say we’re doing the right thing: all Grenache, all own rooted in sand, dry grown, head pruned…
Just like it once was.