Last week we were fortunate to have an extensive tasting with Andrew Tierney from one of Barossa’s most celebrated wineries – Torbreck. The estate is most famous for its two top cuvees, The Laird and Run Rig. The Laird is a rare beast, produced only in exceptional vintages. The latest release is currently 2012. Run Rig is therefore perhaps the better known of its icon wines, a true Australian benchmark, released every year. A wine that epitomises the incredible quality that can be produced from these ancient Shiraz vines from some of Barossa’s finest plots. This is true heritage winemaking at its best.
The History and Philosophy of the Vineyard
Despite its global recognition around the world and its loyal following from fine wine collectors, it is quite incredible that Torbreck was only established in 1994. The winery was set up by Dave Powell who now releases his own wines under the Powell & Son label. The philosophy of Torbreck hasn’t changed since its inception, a winery completely focused on quality and drawing the world’s attention to these incredibly old heritage Shiraz vines in the Barossa Valley.
The Torbreck team initially secured some of these old vineyards through share farming in which Torbreck paid the owners of the vineyards a percentage of the market value for their grapes in return for managing their vineyard. In 2014 Torbreck eventually purchased “The Laird” vineyard which is made up of some of the oldest vines of Shiraz in the world made from the historic “Settlement” clone.
It is a blessing these vines even still exist since during the 1980s, there was a big government vine-pull scheme to uproot low yielding unprofitable vines in South Australia. McLaren Vale suffered in this uprooting losing all their original old vines, however the scheme fortunately never reached the Barossa. It was only in the 1990s that pioneers like Dave Powell saw the potential of these old vines, believing they could compete with the fine wines of the world. Torbreck has been one of the main wineries to put Barossa Valley on the fine wine map.
The Barossa Valley
The Barossa Valley has some of the oldest soils in the world (unaffected by the last Ice Age), millions of years old. Due to the isolation of the vineyards and the sandy soils, the region was also spared the ravages of phylloxera disease that wiped out most of the vineyards in Europe and then spread around the world. This makes some specific sites in the Barossa Valley home to the world’s oldest grape vines. These old vines produce tiny crops but can survive unirrigated due to the extensive root development that has manifested over decades. Despite the drought in Barossa these wine comes from 100% unirrigated vines of the highest quality.
Run Rig 2016
The latest release is the 2016 and it made up from six separate Shiraz vineyards with the vine ages dating from 80 to 165 years old. It is pretty incredible. The density and viscosity of the wines come from that flavour concentration in this small berry fruit that epitomizes old vine characteristics. The wine is aged in 60% new oak barrels for 30 months further concentrating and focusing the flavours as well as adding a touch of smoke and sweet spice and giving the wine tremendous ageing ability. The wine is incredibly intense and the purity of fruit second to none. The length is long and pulsates with energy. It is a real wow wine.
Already scoring the maximum 100 points from the Wine Advocate the 2016 Run Rig is a legend in the making and will go down as one of the true great wines made at the Estate.
The Torbreck Portfolio
Torbreck produce 16 cuvees in total, with their more entry level wines offering some great quality for the money. Some of the top picks in the latest set of releases are The Steading 2017 (a Grenache, Mataro, Shiraz blend) from vines as old as 150 years. It is bursting with red fruits and spice and beautifully layered on the palate. The Struie Shiraz 2017 is also an incredible wine for the money, with lovely fruit density, sinewy, opulent, multi-layered textures whilst retaining incredible freshness. It is fantastic.
The Factor 2016 and the Descendent 2016 are other top icon wines from Torbreck and new releases on to the market. Exclusively from very old vines the viscosity and density of the fruit shines through. The tannins are beautifully melted into the wine giving structure and elegance that together are quite extraordinary.
The latest release came out this week. Get in touch with your account manager if you are interested in securing your allocation.