Category Archives: Barossa Wine

Sep 09 2016

Agathist Alchemy: New Barossa label from Torbreck winemaker Chris Isbel

Posted on September 09, 2016 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Tomorrow is International Grenache Day. Even though grenache is one of the most widely planted red grape varieties in the world it’s still considered a bit of an unsung hero?

As a lover of Rhône wines and especially Châteauneuf-du-Pape, of which grenache is typically the dominant grape, I applaud efforts to help the variety become more widely appreciated!

In Australia winemakers are doing wonderful things with grenache. Take Barossa based Agathist Alchemy, a fairly new label from Torbreck senior winemaker Chris Isbel. Chris has just released two grenache wines from the 2015 vintage: the early drinking style Agathist Alchemy First Wine ($31.95) and the cellar worthy Agathist Alchemy Second Wine ($57.95) – a wine that is matured in puncheons for about 9 -12 months before bottling.

Chris is keen to create wines that reflect the essence of old vine Barossa grenache; hence the unusual name of his label. ‘Agathist’, by the way, is someone who believes that all things tend toward the greater good (sounds like a very helpful philosophy!). By making the wines in a very minimalist way – eg. natural ferments, no additives except a small bit of sulphur after a malolactic fermentation – Chris relies on the grapes and the ferment to “choose their own path to greatness.”

A great lover of grenache, Chris believes it’s the most suited grape variety for the Barossa. He was delighted to secure the produce of an exceptional vineyard of mature grenache vines, owned by his friend and vigneron Nick Radford.

Nick organically farms his one hectare Seppeltsfield vineyard, where the soils of heavy red clay have lots of blue stones scattered throughout. These 60 plus year old low yielding dry grown vines produce fully ripe fruit with concentrated flavours. Add Chris’s feather touch approach to winemaking, and the results … Read the rest

Mar 03 2014

5 Top Boutique Barossa Shirazes that you must try!

Posted on March 03, 2014 | By merrill@cellarit.com

If you think all Barossa shiraz is full bodied, overripe and too alcoholic then now is probably no better time to take another look!

Over the past 15 years the Barossa has undergone a real transformation. An astonishing number of  high quality, boutique wineries, headed by dedicated winemakers with impeccable credentials, have emerged on the scene. Brilliant wines from these younger wineries alongside established players like Penfolds and Henschke prove that Barossa is still home to most of Australia’s very best examples of shiraz.

Indeed, if James Halliday’s 2013 Australian Wine Companion is any guide, Barossa is still leaps ahead of its rivals. Of the 109 shiraz wines that scored 96 points or above, 33 were from the Barossa. McLaren Vale came in second with 17. Vintages sampled spanned from 2008 to 2010, so any bias towards the Barossa cannot be considered the result of vintage variation.

Below are five, may be less familiar wines, that Halliday scored 96 points.

Atlas Wines Atlas 516 Barossa Valley Shiraz 2010

Adam Barton established Atlas Wines in 2008 after extensive winemaking experience at several renowned South Australian wineries and the Bonny Doon Vineyards in California.

The 516 is sourced from a single old vine vineyard from the Ebenezer district of the Atlas Wines 516 ShirazBarossa Valley. According to Halliday, it has a “lacy and open texture, travelling to spice and pepper flavours more typical of much cooler regions. Once again, it is the lightness of touch on the finish that that makes the wine.”

Head The Contrarian Single Vineyard Greenock Syrah, Barossa Valley 2010

Winemaker Alex Head, who established Head Wines in 2006, is fascinated with Northern Rhone and the Côte Rotie sub-region in particular.

Like many younger generation winemakers Head is not afraid to adopt a more natural and even risky approach to winemaking. In … Read the rest

Jan 01 2013

Shiraz Viognier: Not just a cool climate blend!

Posted on January 01, 2013 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Due in no small part to the critical acclaim of Clonakilla’s Shiraz Viognier, the shiraz viognier blend has become synonymous with the cooler climate regions of Australia like the Canberra District and Victoria’s Heathcote, Bendigo and Yarra Valley appellations.

Consequently, you may be surprised to learn that the first stellar Australian example of the blend in fact hailed from the ‘warm’ climate of Barossa Valley. Dave Powell of Torbeck added around 5% viognier to his first -the 1995- vintage of the RunRig. In doing so, he married the elegance of the Côte Rôtie style with the richness and power of Hermitage – another great red wine from the Rhône region – to create one of Australia’s most renowned wines.

This year another Barossa shiraz viognier, Head’s The Blonde Single Vineyard Stonewell Shiraz Viognier 2010, topped James Halliday’s list of the best shiraz viognier blends in his 2013 edition of the Australian Wine Companion.

Like Powell and Clonakilla’s Tim Kirk, proprietor and winemaker Alex Head of the  eponymously named Head Winery is fascinated with Rhône region wines and in particular the steeply terraced Côte Rôtie.

In Côte Rôtie the terroir of the southern slope imparts an elegant, feminine quality to the shiraz that is quite distinct from the intense, less accessible character of its northern slope neighbour.

When Head was in search for two Barossa vineyard sites, he deliberately chose sites where the soils were likely to produce contrasting styles of shiraz. The Blonde comes from a vineyard in Stonewell, which consists of sandy loam mixed with quartz on a limestone base – a terroir which gives the wine accentuated perfume and complexity.

In contrast, his other flagship shiraz, The Brunette, comes from a high elevation vineyard in Moppa, which consists of heavy soils of deep … Read the rest

Aug 08 2012

Captain Barossa: A Winning Formula for Growers!

Posted on August 08, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The winemaker with the acumen behind the Captain Barossa venture is a mystery man. As Tyson Stelzer reports in a very interesting article for the most recent edition of Gourmet Traveller Wine, Captain Barossa has deliberately decided to keep a low profile because he wants to focus attention away from the winemaker and onto the ‘real heroes’ – the Barossa growers and their vineyards. (Saluting the Captain by Tyson Stelzer, Gourmet Traveller Wine, August/September 2012)

Captain Barossa believes the growers have never received the recognition or financial compensation they deserve. Certainly in recent years, a confluence of circumstances, including the world-wide wine glut, the GFC and the high Aussie dollar, haven’t made life easy for growers.

Committed to giving the growers a fair go, Captain Barossa pays $3,000 per tonne for top quality fruit, which is more than twice the going rate. But more than altruism is at play in Captain Barossa’s desire to keep his growers happy. As he told Stelzer, “My core belief is that great wine demands great fruit and paying good prices allows [the growers] to keep the cropping levels low, invest in best practice and produce better fruit.”

To date, four independent growers are part of the Captain Barossa venture, and the names of their vineyards are all prominently featured on the labels: De Fazio, Greenock (Angelo De Fazio); AK, Konnunga (Andy Kalleske); Elytra, Eden Valley (Phil and Sarah Lehmann) and Mackenzie, Williamstown (James and Islay Mackenzie).

Most of the vignerons come from winemaking or grape growing families. Their stories on the Captain Barossa website are fun to read, reflecting both passion and respect not just for their vineyards but for the surrounding environment in general. Phil and Sarah Lehmann, for example, released 3000+ Bubas bison dung beetles into the vineyard to naturally … Read the rest