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Torbreck Newsletter

June 2010

Greetings from Roennfeldt Road

We crushed our last grapes at the end of April and I finally had the time to write to you whilst on a plane to Europe.

The 2010 vintage has been kind to us - the season was as good as we get and a great follow on from 2009. The varieties we work with ripened evenly and, with little rain during the growing season, all our vineyards delivered very clean, fresh fruit. We only get one chance a year at making wine, so it is very gratifying to have another good one tucked up in the cellar.

This year we had a few star recruits in the cellar. Jean Marie Pratt, Gordon Ramsey's head sommelier from London, joined the crew along with Gherado Fedrigo, the nephew of Sebastiano Rosa from Sassicaia. It's always interesting for us to have such world class interns in the winery, as we gain a fresh perspective on our wines and my guys gain an insight into the wider wine world along the way and see how high of a regard Torbreck is held in international circles.

Last year, I managed to find some time to sneak away to spend a month in Europe to visit some of my peers. I started in Italy where I visited the Antinori family, Angelo Gaja in Piemonte, Phillipe Guigal in Côte Rotie, Pierre Clape & Thierry Allemand in Cornas, Daniel Ravier at Tempier in Bandol, Jeremy Seysses at Dujac, Dominique Lafon in Burgundy, Michel Chapoutier and Jean-Louis Chave in Hermitage, just to name a few (what a name dropper, hey?). My sixteen year old son Callum is determined to take over from me one day, so I have organised for him to spend a year in Hermitage being Jean-Louis and Erin's slave in the time between finishing school and starting university. Hopefully he will pick up a few tricks along the way and maybe even a French girlfriend or two.


Vintage Crew 2010 on vineyard tour
with Craig Isbel

I also had the pleasure of eating dinner with my friend Ferran Adrià at his restaurant elBulli just to cap off the trip. He was excited to show me that Torbreck made up two-thirds of all the Australian wines on his list.

Late last year I had the privilege of co-hosting a dinner in Sydney with my fellow Barossan and friend Maggie Beer. We had 210 people come along (plus a waiting list of a further 150) for an all Barossa night, with Maggie's food and my wine. I am sure the turnout was mainly a result of Maggie's new superstardom, but nonetheless it was an honour to share her limelight.

We celebrated our annual harvest dinner with Tetsuya a bit earlier this year on account of him opening his new restaurant in Singapore in March. As usual we had a large international contingent, including the sales manager from our distributor in New York. He was absolutely astonished we could host such a lavish extravaganza in the country - I think that before he came to Australia he figured that we did nothing here in the Barossa but grow grapes and interfere with sheep!

As with everyone these days we are trying to lessen our environmental footprint. Being a small minimal process winery we avoid some of the problems of the big beverage wine producers. With the building of our new facility we now catch four million litres of rainwater on which we run the whole facility. Once the water passes through the winery we collect it again, treat it by aeration, filter it, mix it with the remainder of the rainwater and then irrigate our Roennfeldt Road gardens. Everyone who visits us is jealous of our deep green lawns in the middle of summer - four megalitres of nutrient rich waste water goes a long way. We also collect and compost all of our grape skins and stalks, adding cow manure and straw that we grow on one of our properties. This results in 500 cubic metres of compost annually which goes back out to the vineyard.


Michael Wilson with his pride and joy - his compost heap

My vineyard manager, Michael Wilson, has also been diligent in reducing our inputs. We've never used any pesticides and now we do not use any herbicides, only spraying our vines with copper and sulphur. Luckily with our growing conditions in four years out of five we can avoid using any sprays whatsoever. For the last few years we have only worked every second row in the vineyard and we have a spray unit that can spray two rows at once, reducing our diesel inputs by 40% and significantly reducing the amount of soil compaction.

In the future we plan to switch to a locally produced proprietary bottle. The new design and prototype (not that you will notice the difference) contains 20% less glass and 30% recycled material, along with the environmental savings of not having to ship empty bottles 15,000km from Europe.

As many of you will remember, some ten years ago I planted 16,500 trees on my home property that have grown to become a veritable forest. So far we have planted 2,500 trees around the new winery, putting us at the half-way mark on this project. Unfortunately, the one area that I struggle to minimise is the amount of time I spend in the air, but hopefully we're at least breaking even. To that end we are currently undergoing a carbon audit. I'll keep you up to date with the results.

The Wines
The big news for us on the wine front is the release of the 2005 Laird. This single vineyard Shiraz is from Malcolm and Joylene Seppelt's 70 year old vineyard, next to the Gnadenfrei church in Marananga. I had coveted this vineyard for 15 years while watching it being made into several different cuvees.

In 2003 Malcolm came to me and asked me to make the wine under contract for him. This came back to haunt me, because for the next two years each time I had to give the wine back to him I was returning the best parcel of Shiraz we made from that vintage - head and shoulders above the RunRig components and, as you know, that's saying something.

Unfortunately for Malcolm (but fortunately for us) the company that he sold the wine to went broke just before the 2005 vintage and so he offered me the fruit. At the same time I was approached by the Tardieu Laurent negociant house in France to purchase their barrels. These barrels are known as “Magic Casks”. Normal barrique staves are between 22 and 27mm thick. These are 45mm, perfect for long term wood maturation and are made from oak exclusively from the Tronçais forest, which I consider to be the best for aging Shiraz. They are used by Peter Sisseck at Pingus in Ribera del Duero, Le Pin on the Left Bank in Bordeaux and Domenic Laurent for his burgundies to name a few.

The barrels aren't cheap. A normal French oak barrique from a good tonnelier would cost me between $1,300 and $1,500. These are at the princely sum of $4,500. However, they are worth every cent and, over the three years The Laird matures in them, give a level of oak flavour and integration I would have previously thought impossible.

The vineyard is perfect in every way. It's South East facing, completely dry grown, farmed by a grower with a lifetime's experience, on typical Western Barossa soil - brown loam over red clay over limestone - and obviously planted with one of the original Barossa clones. That said, the vineyard also has an “X factor” which gives the wine an extra something that I don't fully understand - sometimes I think these things are best left a mystery. I have called the wine “The Laird”, the Scottish equivalent of an English Lord. I believe this vineyard to be the best in the Barossa, making it one of the finest in the world.


Malcolm Seppelt - hard at work pruning The Laird Vineyard

The next three releases included in this newsletter come from the 2007 vintage. With all the recent talk surrounding lack of rain, the 2007 was probably the only one out of the last five years that was genuinely affected by drought. That, combined with heavy frost at bud burst, meant that yields across all varieties were down significantly. The standout variety for us was Mataro and the dry conditions suited it perfectly. This not only resulted in a wonderful vintage for the 2007 Pict, but the spicy, earthy and meaty Mataro also had a significant impact on the quality of the 2007 Steading. Of our three main red varieties, the climatic conditions of the vintage affected Grenache the most. We decided not to release a 2007 Les Amis due to the wine oxidizing more quickly in barrel than we had anticipated. The only positive from this was the fact that it alerted us to the problem early enough to pull the Steading Grenache from barrel, meaning that we maintained the purity of the Grenache. When combined with the expressive 2007 Mataro and Shiraz parcels it has produced an intriguing, complex and beautifully balanced Steading. The wine has fantastic purity, great balance and is drinking superbly already.

As I mentioned earlier, Mataro was the standout variety from the 2007 Vintage, and for me the 2007 The Pict was one of the highlights. The dry conditions and extremely low yields on the Materne Family's Quarry Block meant that the fruit was able to ripen a little earlier than previous years and we picked on the 24th of April (as compared to the 6th of May in 2006). All of our wines rely on great terroir and great timing - an extremely significant influence on the quality of our wine is knowing exactly when to pick. This is particularly true for Mataro, where patience is required to ensure full physiological and flavour ripeness, regardless of the sugar levels in the fruit. In 2007 the Pict vineyard developed perfectly and the result is everything that I love from Mataro; a rich, wild and untamed wine.

The old vine Shiraz also excelled in the dry conditions served up to us in 2007. Because these vineyards are dry grown, their root systems are deep and hence able to source water well below the surface. Having said this, the old vines were not completely unaffected by the drought and produced very small bunches of concentrated fruit, resulting in the deep, rich and complex 2007 Factor. It is a true expression of the Barossa Valley and shows a great balance between power and elegance. Of all our Shiraz based wines from the 2007 vintage, the Factor is the wine that has benefitted the most from the frugal yields and the bottled wine truly delivers on this expectation.

The final wine that we are releasing in this newsletter is the 2008 Gask. The Gask is a single vineyard wine from a high altitude vineyard in the Eden Valley, owned and farmed by the Knight family. We have a great relationship with the Knight's and their eldest son Joel has just started a traineeship with our viticulture team. The 2008 is probably most similar to the stellar first release of the Gask in 2005; concentrated black fruits with touches of black olives, coffee and hints of spice. It is an amazing vineyard site, and the fruit is always a true expression of the terroir from which it is sourced. My only complaint about the vineyard is that it isn't bigger - there is never enough of this wine to go around!

For more detailed information on the wines, our vineyards and how we do what we do, please visit our website (www.torbreck.com).

Monday to Sunday 10am to 6pm.
Lot 51 Roennfeldt Road
South Australia, Marananga 5355

Phone: 08 8562 4155 Fax: 08 8562 4195
PO Box 583 Tanunda 5352
Email: cellardoor@torbreck.com

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