Torbreck Newsletter November 09

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Vintage Newsletter 2009

Greetings from Roennfeldt Road

Just before vintage this year we had two weeks of searing hot weather. Following last year's heatwave we thought "Here we go again!" This year though the heat was much earlier (during veraison), which meant that we only got some shrivelling of bunches,
with a 20% reduction of crop levels. After that, the season was a dream – a series of warm days and cool nights have resulted in a perfect ripening period.

Across the board, the fruit looks spectacular – the vintage reminds me of the much heralded '98. During the fast and furious vintage last year, my Senior Winemaker Craig Isbel lost nine kilos. This year he looks almost relaxed and is calling this year an "armchair" vintage. We almost have to pinch ourselves when a vintage like this one comes along, and I keep reminding my crew not to get used to it being this easy.

Part of the fun of being part of a small company is that everybody gets to do a bit of everything. This year our office staff have been out working in the winery on weekends, pumping over ferments and generally helping out. It has been a great team building exercise and the guys and girls have really enjoyed getting their hands dirty. A few of them have found muscles that they didn't realise they had.

Harvest Dinner

We recently had our annual harvest dinner with Tetsuya on the lawns in front of our new facility. This year ran like a dream, this being the first time we have used the commercial kitchen that Tetsuya designed for us. Many of my restaurateur friends that have seen the kitchen have said that they are very jealous of our setup.

These dinners are predominantly a staff event but we always have a few people from around the world come and join us. For the first time this year, we invited one of our mailing list customers to have dinner with us. We drew Bruce and Faye Woodhouse's name from a hat and flew them down from Sydney for the weekend. Bruce and Faye have been strong supporters of Torbreck over the years and it was a pleasure to have them in the Barossa. The best way to describe their experience is through their words. Click Here to download a copy of the letter (reprinted with their permission, of course) that they sent us in thanks.



Bruce and Faye Woodhouse taste their way through the Barossa at the Terroir tasting.


Bruce and Faye Woodhouse taste their way through the Barossa at the Terroir tasting.

My staff and guests enjoy a drink on the lawns before dinner.

My staff and guests enjoy a drink on the lawns before dinner.

Some of the international contingent (left to right): Jaya Sukamoto (Indonesia), Patricio de la Fuente-Saez (Hong Kong), Kathy and George Tong (Hong Kong), my wife Liz, Tetsuya and me.

Some of the international contingent (left to right): Jaya Sukamoto (Indonesia), Patricio de la Fuente-Saez (Hong Kong), Kathy and George Tong (Hong Kong), my wife Liz, Tetsuya and me.



Over the weekend, we conducted a tasting focusing on 2007 Grenache, Shiraz and Mataro components from a variety of vineyard locations throughout the Barossa, looking at how each variety differs from vineyard to vineyard, north to south, east to west. It started me thinking about how some vineyards that produce great quality fruit (even those that are vital components of the Factor and RunRig blends) would not stand alone as a single vineyard wine.

A few are almost too much of a good thing – some of the northernmost Barossan components need their power and intensity tempered by their spicy, more aromatic southern cousins and vice versa. With that in mind, it is more remarkable to see how many of our wines are from single vineyard sites.

It is a testament to these vineyard sources that not only do they "speak of place", but that they are balanced and have all of their elements working in harmony. A great example is the latest vintage of our single vineyard Eden Valley release, The Gask. This profoundly perfumed and balanced wine is a great example of Shiraz from a warm dry year in a cooler climate region. I really wish I could say that I had more to do with this wine, but in reality, the vineyard and the season had done it all for me. Each time I try a glass of this I think "I wish I could do this every year!"

For those of you interested in the concept of terroir, I have asked the guys in cellar door to put a few six packs together to highlight our single vineyard wines. They include the aforementioned Gask (Shiraz) from the Eden Valley; The Pict (Mataro) from Greenock; Les Amis (Grenache) from Seppeltsfield; The Celts (Shiraz) from the patch of vineyard behind Cellar Door at Marananga; Viognier and Descendant (Shiraz Viognier) both from the Descendant block, also at Marananga. Each one of these wines is a prime example of the right grape variety grown on the right soil in the right location (and made by the right winemaker!) – a true insight into Barossa Terroir.

The Struie
It would be remiss of me to talk about the Eden Valley without talking about The Struie. Once again the strength of the 2007 vintage in the Eden Valley really comes to the fore here, with pepper, spice and red berry characters overlaying the darker, more brooding Western Barossa components. Powerful but poised, this wine really shows the best of both these contrasting regions of the Greater Barossa.

Woodcutter's Shiraz
We were lucky in 2008 to get the majority of our Shiraz off the vine before the worst of the heat hit the Barossa. As a result this wine has a wonderful balance between richness and finesse, with some added depth and intensity coming from the later picked components that, on their own, were almost over the top.

This wine continues to over deliver for its price as Campbell Mattinson wrote in February's Sunday Magazine, "They say in the wine industry that you should judge top producers by their bottom-priced wines and Dave Powell's Torbreck wines are a perfect example...This beauty tastes just like RunRig Shiraz, except with the volume turned up to eight rather than 11."

It has always been my intention to release our top end wines with some bottle age. As much as I would like for that to be a couple of years, I have been able to convince our bean counters that we will release the wines with at least six months bottle age, hence the release of the much awaited 2006 RunRig.

Being a cooler year, the wine does not have quite the upfront power as the warmer 2005, but has a remarkable delineation of fruit on the palate that is second to none as those of you that have tried our other wines from this vintage will understand. It is a funny thing: the vintages that follow in the shadow of a supposed great vintage are often turn out better in the long run – think '99 compared to '98, '91 compared to '90. Whatever the outcome – this is classic RunRig and a remarkable bottle of wine.


We recently hosted a group of thirty people from Antinori at the winery, the type of visit we relish as it gives us a chance to strut our stuff to our much longer established fellow vintners. I have been friends with the Antinori family for a long time and so it was a pleasure to have their Oenologist and sales people come to visit us at Marananga.

Initially they were quite reserved but after the first couple of tastes their natural Italian exuberance came to the fore. The first question I was asked by their Oenologist was whether I aimed to make wines that were powerful or balanced and elegant. I simply answered "Both". He looked at me incredulously, but when he tried the 2006 Factor, he said "I see what you mean." He added that after two weeks in Australia it was fantastic to finally see some wines that have the exuberant fruit expected from Australia combined with the style and elegance of their classic old world counterparts.

Maggie Beer
As you probably realise, I love to travel. However, no matter where my travels take me, whenever I return home I realise why I love living here in the Barossa. It's more than just wine – it has great natural beauty, it's a fantastic place to bring up kids and, as anyone who has been to Saturday's Farmer's Market will attest, great produce grown by passionate people.

Good wine needs good food and we are fortunate to have more than our fair share of talented cooks and chefs in the Barossa, the doyen of which is Maggie Beer. I have known Maggie for years, initially through their restaurant (which is now Maggie Beer's Farm Shop – which is conveniently just down the road from my house).

Maggie's husband Colin is a valued grower and I made the first few vintages of their wine for them, so not only are we just down the road from each other, but know each other very well. We are hosting a dinner together in Sydney at The Hilton's glass restaurant on October 27th, with Maggie's menu and our wine. We'll be discussing food, wine and all things Barossan and love to see you there. If you would like to make a booking for the dinner, please contact the Hilton on (02) 9265 6068 or email

The Global Financial Crisis – every cloud has a silver lining.
No matter where I go in the world, people always ask me about the effect of the global financial crisis on Torbreck.

We are a luxury brand and, like everyone, we are feeling its effects. It's not all doom and gloom though. What we have observed is that rather than buying so much wine, people have been drinking wines from their cellar. As a result of this I have been getting lots of feedback both in person, through blogs and wine forums on the internet saying that one of the few the highly rated Australian wines that look better now than when first purchased is Torbreck.

There has been a move in the (US in particular), away from the big monolithic fruit bombs. Our wines have never been in that genre and so we are not feeling as much pressure as some others in the business. We are grateful to be a well established, privately held company and we will weather the storm and come out on the other side all the better for it. Those of you that know the history of Torbreck, with a divorce and the changing of business partners will know that I am both tenacious and a "glass half full" kind of person, and relish the challenge ahead.

Warm regards,

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