Torbreck The Laird Launch Tasting ~ Pitching the New 2012 Release Head to Head with the Highly Acclaimed 2006…

After attending the launch of Torbreck Winery’s new vintage release of their super premium Shiraz Cuvee The Laird, all I could conclude is that perhaps I don’t drink enough of these great wines. Torbreck especially, has long been regarded as one of Australia’s top wineries producing world class wines from dry grown old vines on the north western fringe of the Barossa Valley.


The Laird Cuvee is certainly top of the tree in quality, coming from an old vine Shiraz single vineyard in Marananga. First produced in 2005 and launched to much acclaim, it soon garnered the perfect 100 points from The Wine Advocate. Aged for 3 years in Dominique Laurent barriques, this perfect southeast facing, dry grown, old vine Shiraz vineyard was planted in 1958 on classic western Barossa soils. The resulting small, concentrated berries produced consistently from this site make The Laird Cuvee a wine capable of long-term cellaring. 



Northern Grounds – Altitude 280-450m 

This includes vineyards in the vicinity of Seppeltsfield, Marananga, Stone Well, Greenock, Gomersal, Ebenezer and Kalimna. The renowned Western Ridge runs from the north of Greenock, through Seppeltsfield and pushes into the Central Grounds near Gomersal.


The soils here are predominately red-yellow brown loams over red clay. Shattered ironstones are found in the soils of the Western Ridge and the soils are shallower here than elsewhere. A small section of yellow and white sands is found in the area of Kalimna. Wines from the Western Ridge are full-bodied, rich and concentrated with a deep purple red colour. The texture is round, velvety and firm with strong expressive tannins and aromas of blueberry, chocolate and cocoa powder. 


Torbreck The Laird Shiraz 2012, Barossa Valley, 15.5 Abv.

The latest release from this Marananga single vineyard is another block buster Shiraz. Rich, opulent and laden with black berry fruits, this wine has a seductive nose of tar, black liquorice, bruleed black fruits, Victoria plum spice, blue berry crumble freshly out the oven and a measured lick of expensive sophisticated oak. The secret of this Vineyard is its ability to produce fruit with great phenolics, excellent pHs and super acid / fruit balance combined with a harmonious structure. Indeed, the concentration of fruit is amazingly intense yet so balanced with complex hints of roasted coffee beans, creme brûlée, espresso, savoury cassis, and blue berry with a most luxuriously opulent, ageless finish. This certainly is a super luxury wine worthy of its premium price. Drink from 2020 to 2045+

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Torbreck The Laird Shiraz 2006, Barossa Valley, 15 Abv.

As if tasting the new release Laird Shiraz 2012 wasn’t special enough, I got to taste it along side the second release 2006 to compare and contrast and to assess this wine’s style 11 years on. The aromatics remain sweetly fruited with an exotic lifted nose of creme brûlée, creme de cassis, blue berries and perfumed black berry spice. There is also an incredibly opulent vein showing tantalising saline cassis, salty liquorice, and a sappy, savoury complexity combined with the most youthful fragrant lift. The palate is soft, supple, opulent and supremely luxurious in feel. The complexity is staggering, the texture and concentration awe inspiring, and the finish impressively long and vibrant. Makes you wonder how much better a wine of this style can get? Whether or not you like Australian wines, or even riper styles of Shiraz, this is a monumental effort. Drink now to 2040+

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting the Exotic d’Arenberg The Money Spider Roussanne 2015 McLaren Vale White…

One of my favourite Rhone variety whites is the Chapoutier Chante Alouette Hermitage Blanc made from pure Marsanne. This is unusual because with the exception of Condrieu, based on single varietal Viognier, Rhone whites are normally blends creating finished wines that are almost always greater than the sum of their parts. 


Another fine wine in this mould is the Roussanne 2015 from Southern Australia, where the d’Arenberg winery, established in 1912, has been tending vineyards for four generations. Chester Osborn oversees the wine making where Roussanne grapes were gently basket pressed and fermented in stainless steel, finishing at 13.4 Abv. 

The quaint name originates in the vineyards where the harvesting of the first vintage of 2000 was cancelled due to swarms of money spiders that were found in the fruiting bunches. Consequently, they were spared and thus the 2001 represents the maiden vintage instead.


Tasting Note: Now this is an exotic, aromatic beast. The nose unfurls in layers of perfume and fruit. Rich crunchy yellow peaches, stem ginger, toasted almonds, tangerine citrus pastille fruits, green honeydew melon and seductive honey suckle fragrance. The palate is rich, unctuous, fleshy and voluptuous but with a very contrary, nervy vein of acidity. It thoroughly tantalises the senses. The concentration is profound but is so beautifully balanced with pithy marzipan spice, caramelised green figs, and a long sweet – sour finish. A wine with real presence and interest at a great price. 

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting Profound Dry Australian Riesling at its Very Best ~ Clos Clare Riesling 2015, Watervale, 12.5 Abv.

Who can remember the late 1990s or early 2000s when Riesling meant fruity QbA classifications like Kabinett, Spatlese etc from Germany and sales were perpetually waning as the market cemented its love affair with dry (fruity) Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc?


I remember visiting Weingut Donnhoff in the Nahe in 2002 and tasting all the fruity wines as well as one or two trocken (dry) styles. When I asked Helmut why he did not export the dry styles to the UK, he replied that only Germany wanted them and the UK only drank the fruity styles. I then proceeded to place the first large order of dry wines Donnhoff had ever exported to the UK. 


More importantly, what allowed this to transpire, was the sudden interest and demand among new, educated consumers, inspired by dry Australian Riesling styles from Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley and Margaret River primarily. Germany stood up, took note, and have never looked back. Anecdotally, I’d say dry styles and dry Grosses Gewachs out sell the fruity styles in the premium categories. So Germany owe Australia a free lunch.


Few dry Aussie Rieslings typify this revolution in quality more than Tom and Sam Barry’s Clos Clare Winery in Watervale. Adjoining the famous Pewsey Vale “Florita” vineyard, these 45 year old dry grown vines were harvested on the 17th of February in 2015, chilled for 24 hours, and then whole bunch pressed before fermentation. Having recently tasted a vertical back to 2000, I can honestly say that dry Aussie Riesling doesn’t get any better. 


Tasting Note: This young Riesling has the pristine clarity of a crisp Spring morning. Pale straw and lime yellow. The nose is ultra cool and pure with subtle notes of lime cordial, crunchy white peaches, fresh lemon grass, limestone minerality and dusty mandarine citrus. So pure and seductive. The palate is every bit as vibrant, laden with lime peel, lemon Bon Bon boiled sweets, wet chalk, green apple peel and subtle mixed dried Thyme herbs and lime pastille length. Crystalline and mineral, this fresh zippy Riesling sucks you into its tractor beam and does not release you until the bottle is finished. A classic, fresh, bone dry Clare Valley version that shows dry Aussie Riesling at its very best. Keep or drink over 10 years. 

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Old dogs don’t need new tricks…

I can’t claim to drink massive amounts of Australian wine. Why would I when there is so much exciting, well priced South African kit on the market in the UK.

But when I do drink an Aussie bottle, 9 out of 10 times it will be a cooler climate expression from Victoria, Adelaide Hills, or WA (Western Australia). Today was a Margaret River kind of day!

David Hohnen is an old dog of the Aussie wine trade and practically invented winemaking in Margaret River and half of New Zealand with the creation of the Cape Mentelle brand in Oz and Cloudy Bay in New Zealand. Today his focus is firmly on his McHenry Hohnen estate wines.


Never one for frivolous chatter or too much smiling, David is a lovely, deep, mysterious kind of character who makes tantalisingly fresh wines with a real purity and a sense of place. His top end estate wines ooze class and Margaret River typicity. 

David’s Tiger Country 2010 is a fantastic blend of Tempranillo, Petit Verdot and Graciano and shows beautiful aromas of black forest fruits, dark chocolate liqueurs and spicy berries. The palate is restrained and multi-layered with a real mineral presence of crushed gravel and graphite and finishes in a harmonic medley of black fruits, chalky tannins and fine balancing acidity.  (Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

I always love catching up with David in London as invariably the banter eventually drifts in multiple, exotic directions. Today was no different… working in New Zealand, the Isabel Estate, gun auctions, and hunting in the creeks of Margaret River. Classic!