Barossa – The Boss

26 Feb

Having spent the night in the Barossa, I set off with John in the “grand old lady”, the Daimler, to tour the vineyards of the Barossa.  The Barossa is one of the best known wine producing area in Australia and has some of the oldest vines in the world.

Sunset over the Barossa

Sunrise over the Barossa

John noted that despite being called the “new world” with regard to wine, some of the world’s oldest vines are found in the Barossa, as phylloxera, imported from the US along with vine cuttings, destroyed most of Europe’s root stock.

Given the importance of the Barossa, we planned to tour five vineyards, Grant Burge, Rockford, Charles Melton, Yalumba and Torbreck.

Grant Burge

This is a small family owned vineyard, and Grant Burge is the 5th Generation of these winemakers.  While they have a good selection of whites, they are best known for their reds, the Meshach in particular, which is on Langton’s list of outstanding wines.

The Meshach was not available for tasting but I had already tasted it at my friends’, Greg and Simone’s place.  Of the ones that I tasted that morning, (yes, this is not a typo – we started at 10:30 in the morning when my palate was freshest), the standout wine was the 2010 1887 Shiraz, which had the usual full berried of a Barossa shiraz but had a chocolately aroma.  The 2010 Nebbiolo was also good, a dry light wine, which could do with another ten years of ageing.  Of the whites, the 2009 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay was light on the nose but had a steely, un-oaked richness on the palate.

Wines at Grant Burge

Wines at Grant Burge


Many of the region’s top winemakers learnt and developed their trade at Rockford.  These include Chris Ringland and David Powell at Torbreck.  They make a pretty decent sparkling Shiraz, called the Black Shiraz.  However, I found the wines on offer to be decent but not amazing.  Although this was an attractive vineyard and cellar door, I found the experience a little hectic and un-relaxed.  Rumour has it that they are up for sale.



Basket Press

A Basket Press at Rockford

Charles Melton

I had high expectations of Charles Melton as I had already had their Nine Popes (2009) that Greg and Simone had bought for me in London.

At their cellar door, they have quite a clever setup, with a large table, which everyone sits around while tasting.  This means that people chat with each other while tasting.  John was, again, well known, respected and liked at this cellar door.

Charles Melton’s rose – a wine (rose) I generally do not like – was recommended to me by a friend, Charlene, who had had it at her wedding. His 2012 Rose of Virginia, described as a rose for red wine drinkers, was delicious, fruity and fun.

On tasting, I had to admit that the 2010 Richelieu was the stand out (aside from the Nine Popes of course).  This blend of Granache and Mataro (also called Mourvedre in Europe) was delicious, gentler and spicier than the Nine Popes and possibly with greater ageing potential as well.

The 2010 Grains of Paradise was also a very interesting wine. Grains of Paradise is the name of a spice or pepper, from West Africa, that was all the rage a few years ago.  I tasted this wine alongside the Voices of Angels, another Shiraz.  I found the GoP to be a drier wine, which I described as sexy (the cellar manager described it as voluptuous), so I guess it is just that kind of wine.

View of the vineyards at Charles Melton

View of the vineyards at Charles Melton


This was an attractive cellar door, if a little more commercial than the ones I had seen earlier.



The stand outs were the Hill-Smith Estate Chardonnay 2010, which was a fruity Chardonnay, almost in a Gewurtztraminer style, which would be a good match for spicy food; and “The Signature”, a Cabernet / Shiraz,which was quite easy drinking and friendly  – not too loose (i.e. not only berry, there were some structured tannins) yet not overly complex.

The cellar door at Yalumba

The cellar door at Yalumba


Next we headed to Greenock to what is sometimes called the “working” Scottish quarter.  The Sydney Morning Herald has an interesting  article on the history of the area, which had been well established by Aborigines before the arrival of Europeans.  Greenock was named after a port on the River Clyde in Scotland.

Torbreck vintners is situated near Greenock and was set up by David Powell in 1994.  David started up by share-farming, through which the owner of the vineyards is paid market rates for a percentage of the grapes, in exchange for the having the vineyards totally managed.  In addition to understanding viniculture (i.e. the making of the wine), it is important to understand viticulture, which is the growing of the grapes and production of the wines base material.  What apparently makes David exceptional is his interest in finding the old vines and acquiring their fruit and so being in control of the process from beginning to end.

One of the things that I found interesting to learn is that many vineyards may supply their grapes to more than one producer in the region.  Two ways to differentiate yourself is buy having exclusive access to excellent grapes or making excellent wines from the same grapes.

The stand out wine at Torbreck is RunRig.  This wine has been rated at 98 or 99 almost consistently since 2001 by Robert Parker, an American critic,  and therefore commands ridiculous prices.  Fortunately there are a number of other really good wines which were more reasonably priced.

One thing that I did at Torbreck was try to wines made from the same grapes, same vintage, both grown in the same region but sourced from different vineyards.  The wines I tried were both from 2010, and made exclusively from Shiraz.  “The Gask” was sourced from a single vineyard, Eden Valley.  “The Celts”, from Marananga.  The Gask was grown on more rocky soil.  Its flavour was big and bold but with less length.  The Celts had a bigger more fruity flavour, almost like blackberry jam but was longer and had more tannic structure to it.

The "Old Lady" outside Torbreck vineyards

The “Grand Old Lady” outside Torbreck vineyards

I had a totally enjoyable day – the value of travelling with John was evident in the reception that I got at several of the cellar doors.  Additionally, John has incredibly vast knowledge of the wines and spent a lot of time observing my likes and dislikes and working out my wine style. I was greatly amused to realise, by the end of this day, that not only had my wine style changed over the last ten or so years but that Greg and I have totally different tastes in wine!  I was delighted to have chosen this tour.

I returned to my hotel in the Barossa to contemplate my increasingly dissolute lifestyle.

2 Responses to “Barossa – The Boss”

  1. Over Fiddy Club February 26, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

    Eh Trini Gyal! Meh hope yuh spen’ing some time jus’ BEING in these awesome places you are visiting. Hope you are enjoying yuhself!

    • ncma69 February 26, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

      waaaaay too much…!

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