Crowned by The Laird and RunRig, the bold, plush ageworthy reds from Torbreck in the Barossa Valley are among Australia's most collectable wines. Chief winemaker Ian Hongell reveals that the secret is all down to the pedigree of its vineyards and a 'go hard or go home' approach to picking dates.
Sarah Ahmed, Decanter.com
August 7, 2021
The must-try wine Tightly wound yet with cashmere tannins, soft kid-glove oak and cut-finger minerality. The anise, clove and cinnamon-edged palate is unbelievably svelte, like melted chocolate. On day two, succulent, spicy cherry fruit emerges, with blackberry liqueur, roses and violets. Savoury cep undertones, graphite and cedar follow through on an endless finish. A stunning blend of six old vineyards, one planted in the 1850s.
2016 The Laird
An immense, brooding seam of black fruits behind rich smokehouse oak and layered taffeta tannins. Flavours of melted chocolate, espresso, cep powder and graphite shroud iron, earth and garrigue-edged black and purple berries, black olive, blackberry liqueur and sweet Agen prunes. Coaxed out with plenty of air, it is vital and violet-scented by day four. Beauty meets the beast – unique.
Heritage cuttings (and second-fill barriques) from RunRig lend pedigree to this single-vineyard co-fermented Shiraz and Viognier (8%) from Marananga. Younger vines (planted 1994) give flamboyant notes of soaring violets, luscious summer pudding fruit, cedar, anise, black pepper, stem ginger, apricot glaze and iron minerality. Silky milk chocolate texture, feathery tannins and cleansing acidity brings terrific finesse to the elegant finish. Bravo!
2018 The Factor
Chock full of flavour, this charismatic Shiraz oozes Barossa from every pore. Fine tannins tightly frame black cherry-berry fruit, cep powder, cocoa and iron filings for a dry profile and compelling tension. In and among it all, notes of smoked meat, espresso, cedar, graphite, garrigue and violet creams snag the attention. Incisive acidity enhances length and drive.
2019 The Struie
The best value The higher, tighter acid line, lifted violets and minerality speak of the Eden Valley component (8%) and the Barossa Valley’s elevated Western Ranges. Palate-staining crushed bilberry, blackberry, blackcurrant and raspberry and complex bitter chocolate, mocha, graphite and saline layers. Abundant but fine, sinewy tannins foreclose on the finish. Intense and still coming together, with great potential.
2019 Hillside Grenache
The hidden gem A cuvée first made in 2016, the Hillside vineyard’s southerly Lyndoch location and 1949 vines shower the creamy red berry and firmer cherrystone palate with violets, pot pourri and spice – varietal characters that shine, thanks to ageing in 2,400-litre French oak foudres. Five spice, white pepper and sandalwood notes build on a tapering, tangy ironstone finish, with chalky tannins and harmonious acidity.
2018 Les Amis
Slade Vineyard’s rare small-cluster, small-berry clone provides the platform for ageing, hence maturation in 40% new French barriques. Ripe but dense tannin layers, sarsaparilla oak spice and warming kirsch notes initially dominate the concentrated seam of dried raspberry, fresh blueberry and strawberry fruit leather. With time and air it opens to Turkish Delight, chocolate, liquorice, dried herbs and baking spice nuances. Needs time.
2019 The Steading
Ripe but sinewy tannins mesh beautifully with dark berry and black olive on the chamois-smooth palate. There's smoked meat, ink, lavender and Turkish Delight riffs, with iron filing minerality to the lengthy finish. Sourced from 40- to 150-year-old vines from Gomersal, Lyndoch, Greenock, Moppa, Marananga, Seppeltsfield and Ebenezer, this polished 60% Grenache blended with Shiraz and Mataro is aged in 4,500-litre French oak foudres.
2018 The Pict
Dense, sun-kissed Mataro (aka Mourvèdre) from a Northern Greenock vineyard planted exclusively to the variety in the 1920s. There's a tang of blood, black olive, dark chocolate and warm earth to its broad, rich palate of garrigue-edged Agen prunes and berry fruit. On day two, the sinewy, spicy tannins assert themselves, lending peppery back palate resonance – balance for the warmth and generosity.
2019 Cuvée Juveniles
Unoaked, medium-bodied yet luscious, this enticing spice-scented blend of 72% Grenache, 23% Mataro and 5% Shiraz combines juicy red cherry and plum fruit with raspberry and blackberry, crunchier pomegranate and a lick of pomegranate syrup. Mostly sourced from old, unirrigated vineyards, meaty undertones and sandalwood add savoury nuance. Deftly carries its alcohol, finishing clean and surprisingly fresh.
2019 Woodcutter's Shiraz
The low-yielding vintage of small berries with dark, thick skins lends intensity and structure to the palate of blood plum and vibrant raspberry and blackberry. Ageing in well-seasoned French oak hogsheads and foudres make for a vivacious expression, with tapering, spicy tannins and a a milk chocolate finish. Classic Torbreck sourcing from young vines in Marananga, Greenock, Seppeltsfield, Gomersal, Moppa, Lyndoch, Ebenezer vineyards.
2020 The Steading Blanc
A green edge of fennel and almond to the nose and palate, along with honeydew melon, marshmallow, greengage and tart pineapple nuances and lemony acidity. A Marsanne-led blend which (along with the 10% Viognier) is barrel-fermented and aged, save for the Roussanne. Oak (14% new) lends structure and a vanilla accent, while eight months on lees gives a light texture. Sourced entirely from the Descendant Vineyard.