By Erin Larkin, The Wine Advocate, July 2022
2019 Les Amis
Wow. This 2019 Les Amis Grenache is a totally different beast to the other Torbreck Grenaches. This is savory and resinous—the maturation in barriques (40% new), as opposed to older foudres in the Harris and Hillside Grenache, shows in the toasty, charry oak character that entwines the finish. There are notes of mustard seed, licorice root, alizé (the raspberry, ginger root and black cherry components anyway), hung deli meat, cigar box and tobacco leaf, too. This eschews its lighter Grenache characters and instead presents a gnarly, muscular and complex —brooding and moody, too—wine of weight, depth and circumstance.
2019 Hillside Vineyard Grenache
The fruit for the 2019 Hillside Vineyard Grenache was handpicked from vines planted in 1949, destemmed and fermented in open stainless steel fermenters. It matured in large format (2,400-liter) French foudre for 18 months. This is a good example of a ripe style of Grenache done well. It has muscle and gnarly tannins, but the fruit that wraps around this scaffold is cushioned, plump and even a little bit savory, too. It has notes of salted redcurrants, raspberry coulis, mulberry, beetroot, plum skin and licorice. A big one. And a good one.
2019 The Pict
I do love varietal Mataro. Earthy, tannic, muscular, a touch rustic, always plush, and there's something really mouthfilling and satisfying about it. Like a stew in winter. Here, the 2019 The Pict Mataro is so big—bigger than the 2018 that preceded it—and layered with brooding dark fruit, resinous spice and toasty, charry oak. The finish pushes a plume of heat and warmth into the throat, the alcohol revealing the warm season that birthed it. This remains the benchmark Barossa Mataro in my opinion; perhaps it was my early dealings with it, or the pleasure I found in the early 2000s museum re-releases. Either way, this is what Mataro will do under the heat of the Barossa sun.
2020 The Steading
The Steading is a mainstay in the Australian market—it has been loved for years for its consistency and reliability, and the 2020 The Steading here today shows us exactly what we want. This is ripe and full-bodied (15% alcohol), however as is usual for Torbreck, the wine is executed in a sophisticated and seamless manner. There are notes of campfire, singed eucalyptus, salted mulberry, blueberry compote, black cat licorice, pink peppercorns and dark cocoa. All kinds of good.
2020 Harris Grenache
The 2020 Harris Grenache is matured for 18 months in French oak foudres (2,400-liter). The 2020 vintage was the second in a row of drought conditions (off the back of the ripe 2018), and the concentration of sunshine shows in this wine. This is burly and ripe, with layers of licorice, deli meat, mulberry and blood plum. It is made with class and distinct style, as we expect from Torbreck, but a big wine nonetheless.
2020 The Kyloe
The Kyloe is the little sibling to the Pict—the big, earthy, muscular Mataro in the Torbreck lineup. I remember when it was first released, I chuckled, how could it be a patch on the Pict (which I loved)? Well, I'll tell you. This 2020 The Kyloe is the (marginally) lighter, brighter, softer iteration of the big Pict, and it throws a spool of earthy mulberries, chewing tobacco, plum skin and arnica... all of it cushioned by a padded cell of tannin. Really great, and if you wanted a hint of what you might be able to expect from the Pict, this is where you would start.
2021 Cuvée Juveniles
A blend of Grenache, Mataro, Carignan, Counoise and Shiraz, the 2021 Cuvee Juveniles is unbaked, crunchy, juicy and of a light frame—it doesn't have any gravitas or floor, but the fruit that floats above it is buoyant and lively. This would be gorgeous by the glass in a bar in Paris... I do miss the original blue and red label. (It’s been 10 years, Erin…)
2021 The Steading Blanc
My god. Stylistically, there is a chasm between the reds and whites at Torbreck. The 2021 The Steading Blanc is pristine (the reds are also pristine; however, the abundant tannin and concentrated fruit require different descriptors), with moderate alcohol and bright acidity laced throughout. Salted pineapple lumps, honeydew melon, white flowers, summer apricot and green apples define the fruit in the mouth, while the wine is shaped by fine but firm phenolics through the finish. This is not hedonistic but textbook. Lovely.