Thursday April 2, 2015 Barossa Valley, South Australia, Australia
If McLaren Vale is the Sonoma of Australia, Barossa would definitely be Napa. This iconic region has been home to viticulture all the way back to 1818. There are vines in Barossa producing wine today that date back to 1846! Barossa Valley along with Eden Valley make up the Barossa region. These narrow, small valleys (30 miles by 18 miles) produce some of the world’s most distinctive and pedigreed red wines. Names like Grange, The Laird, and Hill of Grace are produced from vines scattered throughout the region. The area is quite warm during the day, but nighttime temperatures drop by 30 degrees, even more as you move further inland. Some of Australia’s most iconic wines and producers come from here and we were lucky enough to squeeze in three.
Torbreck– A relative new comer to the Barossa landscape, the winery was founded in 1994. The wines are sleek, modern, powerful- exactly what you may come to expect of Barossa. The differences lie in the earthy and rustic elements that are provided from the old vines and dusty soil of the valley. We met Andrew Stafford, Sales Director, at the quaint cellar door just down the road from the winery. We were incredibly honored to try the entire line-up of Torbreck. The stand outs are definitely on the higher end, but I would love to highlight the “Cuvée Juveniles” Grenache, Syrah, Mataro (Mourvedre) blend sourced from vines 40-150 years old. It is approachable in price and palate, and a great full bodied, fruitier version of the wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The higher end wines were incredible. There are four single vineyard, single varietal expressions.
- The Factor– Old vine Shiraz, no new oak, very rustic and reminiscent of St. Joseph
- Les Amis– Single vineyard Grenache planted in 1901, reminiscent of Chateau Rayas
- The Pict– Single vineyard Mourvèdre planted in 1928, reminiscent of Bandol
- The Laird– the absolute best site Torbreck has rights to. A perfectly located vineyard planted in 1958. Hefty use of specially sourced barrels provide a great spice element to round out the richness of the fruit.
Aside from those we also tasted the “Run Rig” and its little brother “The Descendant”. Surprisingly, it is the Run Rig, not the Laird, that is on the Langton Classification of the absolute best wines in Australia.
- Run Rig– Old Vine parcels blended together, co-fermented with 2.5% Viognier, aged in new and old barrels for 30 months. The wine is brooding, dense, incredibly full bodied and a very age worthy selection.
- The Descendant– The younger vines and fruit not deemed worthy of the Run Rig, still an incredibly dense and layered wine. This was what I brought to Christmas lass year!
In general, the wines were very well made. They were made to be a great representation of the wines of the Rhone Valley, just in a hotter and drier place. Each of these wines have been specifically styled after a region in Southern France. They succeeded.
Reeds Wine List: 2012. Torbreck “Cuvee Juveniles” Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro Blend. Barossa Valley. $40, $24 to go
Other Wines Produced: “The Struie”- Eden Valley Shiraz, “The Woodcutter”- Younger Vine Shiraz from many sources, “The Steading”- Younger Vine GSM Blend, “The Loon”- Shiraz, Roussanne co-fermented together, “Natural Wine Grenache”- Carbonic-Maceration Grenache, “The Steading Blanc”- Marsanne based blend, with Roussanne, Viognier, Viognier, Semillon, “Woodcutter’s RVM”- Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, Saignée Rosé (100% Mourvèdre)
John Duval Wines– Arguably, the most iconic wine coming out of Australia today, or in the past, is Penfolds Grange. Since its inception in 1951 under Max Schubert, through today the wine has only been made by four wine makers- Schubert, Don Ditter, John Duval, and Peter Gago. We had the honor of having lunch with John Duval on that day and discuss his wines. After resigning as Head Wine Maker in 2002, he stayed on as a consultant for a few years until his vines grew of age. The result is a serious range of wines on par with any others in the country. John also produces Plexus, a side project of Long Shadows Winery in Walla Walla, WA. This is a 100% Syrah made from Washington fruit, with John and Gilles Nicault of Long Shadows at the helm. It was a great experience to share a meal with one of the most renowned winemakers in Australian history.
John’s wines are made in a new world style, that is clear. There is a certain freshness of the fruit being presented, also there is a great balance of acidity and ripeness. The power suggested on the nose, delivers on the palate, but does not overshadow the elegant finish to his wines. John makes only five wines. “Plexus” carries both a white and a red blend based on Rhone Varietals (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre for the red and Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier for the white). Two Shiraz bottlings represent the younger (80+ years) vines of “Eligo” and the older, select vines (100+ years) of “Entity”. Finally, the newcomer to the bunch is “Annexus” the single varietal old vine Grenache first bottled last year. The sources for these grapes are an invariatable who’s who of great Barossa vineyard sites. Most of these contracts were only secured through John’s past connections while at Penfolds. The wines are rich, enigmatic, and brooding. John says he specifically secures four months of the year to spend in Barossa so he can maticulously watch the final development and every stage of production of his wines. He does spend a good chunk of the year traveling to his other projects in Chile and Washington.
Reeds Wine List: 2012. John Duval “Entity” Shiraz. Barossa Valley. $63, $42 to go
Key Wines: “Plexus” White: Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, “Plexus” Red: Shiraz, Grenache, Mataro, “Eligo” Reserve Shiraz, “Annexus” Grenache
Seppeltsfield Winery- Truly one of the most remarkable stories in the wine industry today is the history behind Seppeltsfield Winery in Barossa. Originally founded in 1851 in Rutherglen, Victoria, the winery christened its Barossa relocation in 1888 with one of the world’s first Gravity Flow winery. The facility is big by today’s standards and was an absolute beheamoth in the olden days. The winery produces many fine red, whitee, and dessert wines but the true star is its fortified program.
In 1878, Bruno Seppeltsfield layed down three barrels of his finest Tawny to age for “a while”. The winery has continued the tradition every year since, and now their Centennial Cellar boasts an incredible line-up of vintage Tawny all the way back to 1878. Every vintage is represented and available for purchase! Incredibly, you are able to taste the 1915 there today (for a mere $50). It is highly recommended. The winery also produces other fortified wines, not quite so old, but still incredible. All of their fortified wines are made from Palomino (traditional Sherry grape) for white wines and a blend of Grenache, Shiraz, and Mataro for the reds. We were lucky enough to try and also bring home the DP90 Rare Tawny, a special bottle available only at the cellar. This is basically a vintage 1990 Tawny Port that has been aged in barrel for 24 years. Truly an only at Reeds experience.
The winery is impressive, even as it is packed with tourists. I normally don’t go for the big guys, but Seppeltsfield deserves an exception. Their wines are just too steeped in history, and just too good to pass up.
Reeds Wine List: NV. Seppeltsfield “DP90” Rare Tawny Port. Grenache, Syrah, Mataro. Australia. $20/glass, $203 bottle, Not Available To Go
Key Wines: 1915 Reserve Tawny Port, too many others to list visit them at