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Torbreck Newsletter

Vintage 2011

Greetings from Roennfeldt Road

I've been dreading writing this newsletter. I have been wishing the vintage we have just finished was only a bad dream and that I would eventually wake up. Unfortunately, no such luck.

As I sit in my office writing this it is a perfect day, with beautiful clear blue skies and balmy sunshine, as we have had for most of the last month or so. This is ideal weather for ripening grapes and if all of vintage had been like this rather than just the last month or so, things would have been perfect. The long range forecasters actually got it right this year. When they told us to expect a wet summer, we did not fully grasp what was heading our way. In comparison to our fellow country men and women in other parts of Australia we really have very little to complain about but as grape growers and winemakers, the odds have been stacked against us this year.

We had to spray our vineyards constantly this season, probably eight times compared to our usual two or three. We did feel that we may have got out of jail free; then the final heavy rains came. After the downpour, the berries swelled up and the skins lost their integrit, so much so that we could not leave the fruit to hang to reach full physiological ripeness. As we hand pick the majority of our fruit, we were able to drop any grapes damaged by botrytis or any other disease on the ground, but in the winery it soon became obvious that the quality of most of the raw material was not up to our usual high standards. Over the years I have listened to my oldest and most trusted growers such as Marcus Schultz and Don Helbig scare us witless with tales of the 1974 Vintage, where the whole Valley lost its crop due to similar weather patterns. We had believed that with modern viticultural practices we would be able to weather such a storm (pardon the pun) but it just goes to show that in primary production, in the end we are at the mercy of the elements no matter how clever we think we are.

As with every year there were some exceptions to the overall picture and some of our southernmost vineyards (which were spared the bulk of the final rain) performed exceptionally well. However, as most of our premium wines are made by blending vineyards from different sub regions or from single vineyard sites located in the North Western part of the Valley, I have already made the decision that we will be declassifying the components of all of our high end wines. This means that from the 2011 Vintage we will not produce The Gask, The Celts, Les Amis, The Pict, Descendant, The Factor, RunRig or The Laird. Obviously this is not a decision I make lightly and will cost Torbreck many millions of dollars in lost sales but I have always believed that the justification for charging the price I do for my wines is their superb quality.  I am not prepared to compromise the reputation that I have worked so hard to build and sustain the inevitable loss of integrity of the brand that would incur, for short term gain. 

torbreck2a.jpg The proverbial silver lining on the cloud (if I can call it that) is the declassification of all our older vine material into our moderately priced wines such as The Struie and Woodcutter's Shiraz. This will ensure that their quality will be higher than the season would suggest and they will be great value for money. Luckily for us, Grenache and Mataro have thicker skins and ripen later than Shiraz and did not suffer as much. That’s not to say that they escaped unharmed: yields were low once we harvested the healthy fruit. Ironically, the one major variety that we don’t work with here at Torbreck performed very well by all accounts. Cabernet Sauvignon from this vintage will be worth looking out for.        
Once again I must sing the praises of my entire production team who battled valiantly against the season to salvage what they could from the vintage.  They had to be even harsher than usual to make sure no substandard fruit ended up in the fermenters and I especially wish to single out our new Vineyard Manager, Jason Kohlhagen, who took the season in his stride and had a testing baptism of fire in his new role. Our growers were also very stoic this year and each one affected told us their fruit was not up to our standard before we had to tell them. It’s obvious that in years like this you find out how professional your growers are. To be reminded that they are as committed as we are to the high quality we aspire to at Torbreck, without complaint, was very gratifying.

Anyway, enough of the gloom and doom! Luckily we do not live or die by one difficult season alone and there have been many things happening here at Torbreck that are exciting.

The most significant thing of course was the 100 points awarded by The Wine Advocate to the inaugural release of our new single vineyard Shiraz, The Laird, from Joyleen and Malcolm Seppelt’s Marananga vineyard. In her review, Lisa Perotti-Brown noted that the “most striking about it is the combination of power and elegance... The tightknit, full-bodied palate is very fine with a high level of silt-like tannins and crisp acid running through the concentrated fruit and savory flavors, finishing very long with lingering earth and spice notes... this is by no means one of the biggest wines in the Barossa, but it is most certainly one of the best.” As the majority of the 2005 vintage was sold before the review was published it was a great reward for those of you who trusted us and bought the wine on our recommendation alone. We are now about to release the 2006 vintage. Luckily the ’06 season gave us about 20% more fruit so there is a little bit more to go around for those who missed out on the ’05. As you already know, I was personally very excited about the slightly cooler, in Barossa terms, ’06 vintage and I am very proud to release this wine as a follow up. With all the accolades that have been afforded to the first vintage, we have been overwhelmed with enquiries about the ‘06. In keeping with my philosophy of offering bottlings to our very loyal mailing list customers first, I am making the wine available as a pre-release. torbreck2a.jpg

There is some bad news though. No, don’t worry; the price is not going up!The ’07 wine was not up to the standard I require so ithas already been blended away. Now of course ‘07 was not a bad year but a difficult one to produce a single vineyard wine of this stature. As always, I will not sell a wine I would not happily purchase myself.

Only two weeks ago we had our annual Harvest Dinner weekend. This is the eighth year in a row my great friend Tetsuya Wakuda and his team made the trip down to The Barossa.  Tetsuya, Luke Powell, Michael Dore and the entire team did us proud and everyone agreed this was the best Harvest Dinner to date. I was especially pleased to have Terri and Pete Kight, my fellow shareholders, attend the dinner for the first time. They were awestruck by the spectacle of the evening and the very close relationship between my staff and that of Tetsuya. We were delighted to have two mailing list customers, Greg and Wendy Millson, join us for the evening. Greg and Wendy were lucky enough to win our annual prize of a trip to the Barossa for the event. The dinner coincided with the celebration of their 25th wedding anniversary, so we made sure they had a night to remember.

Scott, Greg Millson, Wendy Millson, Tetsuya and I

The highlight of the evening was when Tets, Luke and the team finished off and plated up the two main courses of the menu right in the middle of the marquee. You would have sworn you were at a red carpet event as the cameras went wild.

For me one of the most challenging events of the weekend happened the night before. On the Friday night we cooked a BBQ at Cellar Door for our international and domestic customers, with the duty on the tongs falling on me. Of course having someone like Tets in the house, it is very hard to keep him away from the action. So the next thing I know I am cooking alongside one of the world’s greatest chefs. Only a BBQ I hear you say? Try doing it alongside Tetsuya Wakuda! Anyway it all ended well and I am happy to announce that Tets can be my Sous Chef anytime.

I must give special thanks to Alex Turner our NSW Sales Manager who coordinated thewhole weekend like a military exercise and it was in no small way that the success of the event was down to her.


For those of you lucky enough to have heard Jane Gower and her ensemble play a concert at the winery last year and those who missed out, we are happy to announce that Jane will be returning in July with world renowned fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout. Kristian is in Australia to perform with the Brandenburg Orchestra and we have been lucky enough to persuade him to extend his time in Oz to perform for us.

This year’s Barossa Klassik will feature a dinner concert on Saturday July 23rd, followed by an afternoon concert on the Sunday.  As we prefer these events to be very intimate, the number of tickets is limited and will be sold on a first come, first served basis. If you would like to reserve your seat for either concert or for both events, please contact the winery on 08 8562 4155, email Bec Weatherill on bec@torbreck.com or see our website for more information. Scott and my Cellar Door staff would be happy to help organise accommodation for anyone wishing to make the trip from interstate so don’t be afraid to ask for help.


We are releasing several new wines, the most interesting one of these being The Loon. This wine is a cofermented blend of Shiraz and Roussanne from the 2009 vintage, a blend I originally made some six years ago when asked to make a house wine by Thomas Keller for his restaurants in New York and Napa. We have been waiting for an appropriate vintage to come along to make the first commercial cuveé, and the perfect season of 2009 was just what we were looking for. The Shiraz for The Loon is sourced from the younger plantings on our Renshaw vineyard. These vines have consistently produced Struie quality fruit although the wine has traditionally gone into Woodcutter’s Shiraz. This Shiraz vineyard has proven to be a perfect match for the Roussanne skins sourced from our Descendant block on Roennfeldt Road. The wine is vinified in the same way as our Descendant Shiraz/Viognier and aged in a single 4,500L oak vat (foudre) to preserve the aromatics and to maintain freshness and vibrancy. 2009 will probably be considered the vintage of the naughties (and possibly a generation) and is the ideal season to reveal the Loon to the world. 
The Loon might be the most interesting of our new releases but probably the most exciting is the 2009 Les Amis. After missing two vintages (2007 & 2008) this wine has spent what seems like an eternity with a ‘sold out’ tag next to it. The decision not to bottle wines from certain vintages is always a difficult one however I feel vindicated every time I taste the 2009 Les Amis. The purity of fruit, structure and depth of this wine is remarkable and I have no doubt it will develop into one of the best (if not THE best) Les Amis that we have ever produced. In fact my good friend Daniel Brunier from Vieux Télégraphe dropped in to see me last Sunday and I tasted him on the Les Amis. He was astounded that he wine was 100% Grenache and said that it is one of the greatest Grenache based wines he has ever drunk.
torbreck2a.jpgAnother new blend for us is our Woodcutter's RVM. Over the years we and our growers have been planting more of these varieties, and finally we have produced enough fruit to make a commercial quantity of this blend. The 2010 Woodcutter’s RVM (63% Roussanne, 21% Viognier and 16% Marsanne) is wonderfully aromatic, elegant and complex and is a perfect food wine for a broad range of cuisines. I find it hard to disagree with Tony Love’s assessment of the wine in his recent article on taste.com.au “a flavoursome, wide-ranging blend - a touch of honeysuckle yet beautifully dry and minerally to sip, desirable, drinkable as well as showing its richness without being flamboyant”. The original plantings of these three varieties in our Descendant vineyard still go into our propriety white Rhone blend, now christened Steading Blanc (for obvious reasons). 2010 was a particularly good year for our whites and I think the guys in the winery have made vast improvements recently to the quality of our white wines, they all seem to show more purity and freshness.torbreck2a.jpg

The 2010 Viognier has also just been released. It is again 100% naturally fermented (with indigenous yeast) in new French oak barriques. I am always amazed at how quickly and seamlessly the oak integrates with this variety, adding another level to the wine’s sublime texture and exotic aromatics. These non traditional Barossa varietals are perfectly suited to our climate and soil types and I am convinced that they are the future of white varietals in this part of the world.

We also still have access to some great Semillon plantings and, regardless of how well suited to the Barossa the Rhone varietals might be, these dry grown old vineyards continue to shine and produce a drink that is the ideal tonic after a long day in the vineyard. The 2010 Semillon offers more delicate scents of citrus and minerals and the fleshy palate has crisp acidity and a vibrant freshness. torbreck2a.jpg
The first red wine to be released from the stellar 2010 vintage is the Woodcutter’s Shiraz. This is a wine that I have become more and more excited about in the last few vintages and I always want it to ‘over-deliver’ on the expectations of consumers. Sourced from young vineyards across the valley, the Woodcutter’s Shiraz is treated exactly the same way in the winery as we treat all our wines, up to and including RunRig. Consequently the wine is a true expression of Barossa Valley Shiraz and is a great indicator of vintage quality. The 2010 vintage follows the superb 2009 and gauging from the quality of the 2010 Woodcutters Shiraz it is a worthy adversary. The wine shows great depth and complexity, rich colour and a dense texture and really demonstrates the quality of the Torbreck brand.    

The 2008 vintage was a particularly tough one for us although as always I am proud of the wines we did release from this year. The 2008 Struie has a tightly structured palate courtesy of the Eden Valley components which were not as badly affected by the heat wave.  The depth and purity of fruit in this wine comes from two of our earlier ripening RunRig vineyards that came off before the heat wave and were allocated to the Struie in the absence of their usual home. The resulting wine is fruit driven and unmistakably from a hot year, but there is also a strong structural influence from the cooler vineyard sites. torbreck2a.jpg

The 2008 Steading is another wine that delivers more than the vintage promised. As we saw in the drought of 2007, Mataro loves hot and dry conditions and it was the standout performer in both 2007 and 2008. The fresh, lifted aromatics and complex, dense palate of the 2008 wine speaks volumes for the type of climatic conditions in which Mataro thrives, and it certainly bonds with Grenache and Shiraz in the 2008 Steading brilliantly.torbreck2a.jpg

          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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