Tag: Dave Powell

Feb 02 2012

Elderton Command Shiraz: A Classic Example of a Single Vineyard Expression

Posted on February 02, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

When a fine winemaker decides to designate a wine as ‘single vineyard,’ the vineyard typically has at least one attribute that makes it truly exceptional. For Elderton Winery in the Barossa Valley, an eight acre parcel of shiraz, planted in 1894 by Samuel Elderton Tolley, is their jewel in the crown. Since 1984 fruit from this low yielding block has been used to make the highly acclaimed Elderton Command Shiraz.

To have such a large tract of 100+ year old wines on one estate is quite remarkable, as very old vines are, in fact, quite a rare commodity. South Australia was one of the few areas in the world to be spared the full force of the Pylloxera louse, which wiped out a significant portion of the world’s grapes at the turn of the last century. But while South Australia’s old vines were spared the Phylloxera wrath, most unfortunately didn’t survive the onslaught of bulldozers in the 1960s and 1970s, which ripped up most of these undervalued crops.

The Ashmead Family acquired the 72 acre Elderton estate in the late 1970s, and set about bringing the old vines back to health. They joined pioneers like Robert O’Callaghan at Rockford and Dave Powell at Torbreck, who recognised that old vines have the potential to make rich, complex wines of exceptional quality. (See Australia’s Old Vine Wines by Merrill Witt, Cellarit Wine Blog 29 December 2010)

Fruit on old vines tend to ripen more consistently than their younger counterparts and also fare better when dry-farmed. Their mature roots have learned how to dig deep for the necessary moisture and nutrients, a characteristic that also helps to imbue a sense of place or what the French call ‘terroir” in the wine.

“Tremendously aromatic”, “expressive with uncommon depth”, and “seductively rich in texture” … Read the rest

Jun 06 2011

Aussie Wine Icons: Torbreck RunRig

Posted on June 06, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

My teenage daughters are big fans of Australia’s Master Chef. They came home giddy with excitement after Neil Perry made a surprise visit to their school – autographed photographs in hand!

I think the adults of this world would equally enjoy (and learn a lot) from an Australia’s Master Winemaker series. Top of my list of real “Master Winemakers” to invite on the show would undoubtedly be Dave Powell of Torbreck. The Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown hit the nail on the head with her description of what makes his Torbreck wines so unique:

…what makes these wines stand amongst some of the world’s most special wines is not their supreme plots of land, or their inclusion of fruit of 100 year+ vines or their minimal intervention winemaking.  These factors are all a minimum standard for Torbreck.  The exemplary features of the wines stem from Dave’s relentless efforts, uncompromising winemaking vision and pig-headed stubbornness not to conform. (Torbreck’s David Powell, eRobertParker.com, December 2008)

Hailed by Robert Parker as “Australia’s answer to Marcel Guigal’s Côte Rôtie La Mouline,” the inaugural 1995 vintage of the RunRig Shiraz was a revelation on many fronts. (Wine Advocate #117 June 1998)

It was one of the first of a new generation of  wines to demonstrate the sensational fruit depth and concentration that could be extracted from Australia’s dry-grown old vines. Like its top Côte Rôtie counterparts, the RunRig included some viognier (around 5%) – the fabulously aromatic white wine grape that subtly lifts and extends the aroma and flavour profile of the wine when blended with shiraz.

But Powell married the elegance of the Côte Rôtie style with the richness and power of Hermitage – another great red wine from the Rhône region. The result is a superbly structured, deeply hued, full … Read the rest

Dec 12 2010

Australia’s Old Vine Wines

Posted on December 12, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The list of acclaimed wines made from old vines in Australia are many and would include, to name a few, such renowned names as Henschke Hill of Grace, Rockford Basket Press Shiraz, Torbreck RunRig, Wendouree Shiraz, Chris Ringland Shiraz, Clarendon Hill AstralisD’Arengberg The Dead Arm and Yalumba The Octavius Barossa Old Vine Shiraz.

So what makes old vine wine so special? Matt Kramer of the Wine Spectator addressed this very question in his article If it Says “Old Vine,” Will You Buy?: The benefits of old vines are debatable, particularly to those who don’t have them, 15 June 2010.  “Of all the many ambiguities of wine”, Kramer said, ” ‘old vines’ seems to be one of the more troublesome. Every grower I’ve met, everywhere in the world, who has old vines insists that older vines are better. Yet I’ve met a fair number of growers who suggest that “old-vine admiration” is, if not bunk, then certainly overstated and overrated. Not coincidentally, these same scoffers are not in possession of old vines.”

Before launching into a discussion about the merits of older vines over their younger counterparts, here’s a few points about old vines that are beyond dispute.

Old Vines are Fairly Unique

Wine-making is thousands of years old but surprisingly old vines, or at least the really old vines of 60 to 100+ years, are in fact not that common. Their scarcity is due to a number of factors, but most importantly is a consequence of the damage caused by the vine destroying Phylloxera louse, which at the turn of the 20th century wiped out vine stocks throughout Europe and especially in the wine-making centre of France.

Fortunately, Australia was spared the full force of the Phylloxera curse. Phylloxera hit Victoria and New South … Read the rest

Sep 09 2010

An American Perspective on Australian Wine

Posted on September 09, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Alder Yarrow, founder and editor of the well respected American wine blog Vinography, recently visited top wine regions in Victoria and South Australia, including the Yarra Valley, King Valley, Beechworth, Heathcote, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale, and the Barossa Valley.

Yarrow makes a lot of interesting and informed observations and insights. His article and the readers’ comments are well worth reading. (Some Thoughts on Australian Wine, 21 May 2010, Vinography) Here are a few highlights:

Yarrow says that he encountered a much wider range of wines (styles and grape varieties) than are typically found in the U.S. “In large part, much of this diversity existed at smaller wineries. Indeed, some of the most exciting wines I had in Australia are made by tiny producers who don’t make much wine, and export even less to the U.S.”

Yarrow remarks that he was surprised to see so much mechanical harvesting in Australia even among some of the more premium producers. As he notes, the practice is a function of a lower influx of migrant labour and higher labour costs, which makes it more expensive for Australia than other countries to hand-harvest. While acknowledging that he has had some good wines from machine-harvested vineyards, Yarrow says that “anecdotal experience leads me to believe that machine harvesting may at least limit the quality of wine, if not negatively impact it.”

The trend in Australia towards biodynamic winegrowing and winemaking was also discussed by Yarrow. He describes his conversations with winemakers about the practice, noting that many are taking a pragmatic approach to biodynamic certification because aspects of the strict certification regime are not necessarily suited to the Australian environment.  Preparation 501, for example, which requires ground quartz to be buried in cow horns in the soil and then sprayed over the vines, … Read the rest