Vinya Vella is the brainchild of Dr Dylan Grigg. Not long after starting as an apprentice chef, Dylan found himself pruning vines in the Barossa. He has since completed his PhD in grapevine age, is an international consultant, viticulturist, and is now the vineyard owner and winemaker behind Vinya Vella.
Dylan says the label came about following a series of fortunate events. After finishing his PhD, Dylan and his family move across to Spain – he and his wife moved with two boys and welcomed their daughter while living abroad.
"It was when I was over [in Spain] that I got put in contact with a couple from America who had just bought an old vineyard. They asked me to come on and consult. When Covid came around, we moved back home, I was consulting on the property, on growing, management and making long-term plans. I rang to talk about harvest dates and they said, 'This is killing us, but we have to sell the property and would you know anyone interested?' And I thought, well, it's an amazing old vineyard, it's the same soil type I grew up playing around in, and it's in the Barossa Valley – which while I don't live there – it is my home region.
"My mum and dad live there and my ancestors moved there in the 1840s, so I know the area really well. And it seemed to all click into place: PhD on old vines, old vine vineyard, three years living and working in Spain with grenache, and it's all grenache. Grenache is robust against climate change. It's growing in deep sand, which is ideal for the flavour structure and aroma profile of grenache that I like. And that's kind of how it came about."
Dr Dylan Grigg.
The name Vinya Vella (Vella is pronounced 'Vea') is a nod to Catalonia, and to Spain (where the Griggs worked and lived) and to the Catalans who took the family under their wing.
Four days a week, Dylan is a consulting viticulturist under his freelance business Meristem Viticulture. There's a long list of producers he's worked with, and there's a waiting list for wineries looking to work with him.
"I can be in the car driving to the vineyard, and that's an hour say, and I'll be on the phone with Gippsland advising on a spray. Then I'll be on the phone about Tasmania, and also liaising with contractors in the Adelaide Hills. And then at two o'clock when the sun comes up in South Africa, I usually get the odd call from there. Then at around four or five o'clock the phone rings, or I get the WhatsApps coming in, from Spain."
And that one other day Dylan is working on Vinya Vella. "I try to get one day a week at my place. I try not to answer the phone and I jump on the old tractor and it's my restorative niche to go out there and pull weeds or prune or work as hard as I can."
Dylan produces an old bush vine grenache and a bush vine grenache rosé under the Vinya Vella label.
When it comes to old vines, dating back to the late 1800s, Dylan says it's the stories they tell that drew him in. "What draws me to old vines is that in Australia our frame of reference for old vines is older than the oldest vines in Europe. And the vine is not a tree, so it doesn't have tree heartwood, which means it doesn't generally have a self-supporting structure, so a lot of old vines can fall apart and lose their structural rigidity. Whereas grenache is an erect variety; it grows upright and it can grow into a bush structure. When you have these really old vines, you can point to all the pruning wounds and some of them can count back 60, 70, 80 pruning wounds.
"But they can tell a story of how they were managed, because they've been in the same place over a long period of time. And plants can't move like we can, so they've developed these other adaptive mechanisms to fit in with their local environment. I find that really fascinating, how these plants we've cultured can be in one place for 100, 150 or more years. And not only are they gnarly and beautiful, but if you take another slice and look at them through a really viticulturally nerdy way – they tell a story and then that [story] is conveyed in the fruit that comes off of them."
At the time of our call Dylan is on a family holiday in the Phillipines, trying to squeeze in a break before vintage kicks into gear. He's also just hung up the phone with a producer in Tassie – if that tells you about his commitment to his work and the wine industry.
"I'm not very good at holidays because I don't like letting things go. So I'm doing my best, but I've still burned through a fair bit of data watching these cyclones – the cyclone up near Townsville, the weather that's coming from Western Australia, and then over to what's going to happen in South Australia this week. I love it, so I don't really switch off."
2022 Vinya Vella Old Bush Vine Grenache Barossa ValleyA fitting follow up to the lovely 2021 release, here 33 per cent whole bunches and matured for 11 months in old oak puncheons. Dreamy red cherry, satsuma plum and mulberry fruits with dabs of exotic spice, amaro herbs, cola, pressed wildflowers, ginger cake, dried citrus rind, char siu and earth. Silken and wonderfully detailed with a gorgeous ginger spice, sensual fruit core, perfectly judged whole bunch work and a long, balanced, savoury exit. – Dave Brookes, Halliday Wine Companion, 95 points
RRP $65 | Drink to 2035
2023 Vinya Vella Bush Vine Grenache Rosé Barossa ValleyDylan Grigg is a talented bloke. He's a viticultural wizz, having consulted in Australia and overseas for 25 years. Personally, I'm glad he's tackling grenache with his young label. Salmon pink with fruit aromas of raspberry, redcurrant and ruby red grapefruit with hints of soft spice, marzipan, citrus rind, almond blossom, apple turnover and pressed wildflowers. Dry, savoury and very moreish indeed with pure red fruits, a stony, mineral acid profile and a dry, red-fruited finish. – Dave Brookes, Halliday Wine Companion, 93 points
RRP $30 | Drink to 2028
For more information visit vinyavella.com.