Australian wine

William Randell Shiraz 2010, Thorn-Clarke Winery, Barossa, Australia

Drunk November 2015 @ home

The winery

The name Thorn-Clarke derives literally from the relationship between two long time Barossa families. The winery owners are David and Cheryl Clarke (nee Thorn) and their daughter Nicole and son are also involved in the running of the winery. Cheryl’s father Ron Thorn has one of the oldest Shiraz vineyards in Australia on the Thorn family property ‘Clifton’ outside of Angaston which was in existence in 1854.

David Clarke’s family were pioneers in the Barossa as well but most famously in the mining of gold from the Barossa Goldfields. One of his ancestors was James Goddard who was the responsible for opening the Lady Alice gold mine in the Barossa goldfields and which was the largest gold mine in South Australia at the time. It has been David’s love of the wine industry that saw the planting of the Kabininge vineyard outside of Tanunda in 1987. The planting of the Kabininge vineyard represented the start of a deeper involvement by the family in the Barossa wine industry.

The estate has vineyards in Eden Valley and the Barossa. Within Barossa there is the Kabininge vineyard, St. Kitts and Truro.

The 33 hectare Kabininge vineyard is true Barossa Valley floor terroir,  just 270 metres above sea level, and located on dark grey to dark brown carbonaceous soils (known as Bay of Biscay) with 500mm of annual rainfall. The vineyard is predominantly Shiraz, supported by smaller plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

The St. Kitts and Truro vineyards are cooler and with lower rainfall than Kabininge and these northern Barossa vineyards totalling 103ha, are at an elevation of between 380 and 410 metres (480mm rainfall). Their micro-climate restricts yields and the thin, moderately well developed residual soils overlying marble, schist, Truro Volcanics and Heatherdale Shale necessitated a careful vineyard layout matching variety to soil type.These tough conditions make vines work hard and as a result, the flavour profile is intense and acid levels high, providing the resources for long-living red wines and full flavoured whites. Shiraz is particularly well suited to this environment. Shiraz again is the predominant variety with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Nebbiolo and Viognier.

The wine

The William Randell Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are named and created in honour of family ancestor and Australian pioneer, William Richard Randell (1824 - 1911). He emigrated to South Australia in 1837 aged 13 years with his family, only ten months after the Colony of South Australia had been founded. 

The 2010 vintage followed good winter rainfall in 2009 and allowed the vineyards to commence the 2010 season with good soil moisture levels. This soil moisture, combined with moderate weather conditions throughout most of the growing season allowed for good fruit set and canopy development.

Grapes picked: March 2010 at St Kitts vineyard

Following harvest the fruit was crushed into a variety of small fermenters (4 to 6T in capacity). Fermentation was carried out at a warm temperature (25-28°). The ferments were manually pumped over to provide good control of tannin extraction. Each fermenter was treated as a separate parcel of wine and once dry was filled to American oak (40% new). Following malolactic fermentation the wines were racked and returned to the same oak. Parcels remained in barrel for an average of 16 months prior to blending. Only the best barrels from the multiple parcels were used to make the final blend. Once blended the wine was prepared for bottling.

Fermented Grape tasting notes

Deep purple in the glass, the nose and palate have powerful fruit in abundance.  But this Barossa Shiraz is not overpowered by alcohol or fruit, with fine tannins with American Oak adding complexity to the character and a complex finish. This was a very enjoyable Shiraz with plenty of character and a wine I would heartily recommend.


Battle of Bosworth White Boar 2010, McLaren Vale, Australia

Drunk @ home November 2015

Organic logo

The winery

The Battle of Bosworth winery is located in Willunga, to the south of the McLaren Vale township. Edgehill Vineyard was established in the early 1970’s by Peter and Anthea Bosworth. Willunga itself was settled in approximately 1837 and Bosworths have been growing grapes in the district from the late 1840s. Son Joch Bosworth took over the management and day to day running of the vineyards in 1995.

Traditionally a region of mixed agriculture from the earliest Pioneer days, Willunga grew wheat, sheep, stone fruits and barley, as well as dairy cattle and almonds. Almonds were an important part of the local economy in the 1950s and 1960s, but Willunga was unable to compete with the Riverland region’s unrestricted access to water for irrigation and cheap land for almond growing, and the industry fell into decline. Many of the commercial almond groves became derelict as a result, and Edgehill Vineyard was established on one such property.

The wine takes its name from the original Battle of Bosworth, fought on Bosworth Field, Leicestershire, England in 1485. Here the last of the Plantagenet Kings, Richard the III, was slain by Henry Tudor, becoming the last king of England to die in battle. His death ended the War of the Roses. The roots of the family’s battle were planted in the early 1840’s with the first Bosworth vineyard in McLaren Vale. 

Grown on their own roots, in some of the world’s oldest soils, McLaren Vale’s benign climate is ideal for growing grapes organically. The wine's label has the yellow Sour Sob (Oxalis pes caprae), usually considered a weed, but encouraged in there vineyards to out-compete other weeds in winter and spring which then forms a natural weed mat in summer. Conversion to organic viticulture began in 1995 and they now have some 190 acres of 20 years and older Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Mourvèdre vines (and some Graciano and Touriga Nacional) which are fully certified ‘A’ grade organic by Australian Certified Organic (ACO), a process that takes four years.


Joch Bosworth is the owner and founder of the Battle of Bosworth and Spring Seed Wines. He was raised in  McLaren Vale and following successful study at Charles Sturt University in New South Wales in viticulture he spent a season working for Robert Mondavi in the Napa, he then went on to do a vintage or harvest in Oregon, at Willamette Valley Vineyards.

Returning home, Joch was drawn east of the border to Goona Warra, a small Victorian winery in the Sunbury wine region, where he worked for several years. After three years as resident viticulturist and winemaker (including some practice at making Grappa in the lab) Joch returned home to Edgehill Vineyard in 1995 to take over the reins from father and founder, Peter.

Joch’s commitment to organic principles in the vineyards began with an increasing sense of discomfort about using synthetic chemicals on his soils and at the same time, that using natural, old fashioned farming techniques was utterly feasible in a climate as benign as McLaren Vale’s.

Vineyards and Soils

The vineyards are located in the southern foothills of the Mount Lofty Ranges which form the eastern boundary of the McLaren Vale region, and are some 7km due west of the sea. The vineyards are approximately 130m above sea level.

Soils comprise predominantly Urrbrae silt loams from the Quaternary period. They are variously red brown to chocolate brown clay loams with slate/ quartz gravel over red brown, very stony and well-structured clay with up to 50% soft carbonate. This all means that the soils are very well-drained and at the same time have excellent water holding properties. Supplementary drip irrigation from underground water is used in the vineyards when required.

Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz vines are all trained to a two wire vertically shoot positioned spur pruned trellis. The Cabernet Sauvignon vines are LC10 and LC 14 and Shiraz a mixture of 1664 and a very old and unknown McLaren Vale clone. Vines are approximately twenty years old. The Chardonnay plantings are made up of the I10VI clone and the Viognier a mixture of Montpellier and HTK. Rows are approximately 3.35m wide in the vineyard and space between vines about 1.8m Vine densities average at about 664 vines per acre across all varieties.

The wine

Organic 60% Shiraz and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. Picking date 11th March 2012
pH level 3.61
Total acidity 6.95
alc/vol 15.0%
bottling date 22nd November 2011

2010 Vintage in McLaren Vale

There was just about average annual rainfall over the year, which resulted in healthy crops of Shiraz and Cabernet. Unseasonably warm November weather interfered with the chardonnay during flowering and  resulted in small crops of this variety. The weather then remained almost perfect for the rest of vintage. The general consensus amongst winemakers in the Vale is that 2010 marks an exceptional year for both red and white wines.

Wine making

White Boar is an Amarone style red wine. Amarone is made in Italy and the grapes are harvested when ripe and dried on racks for several weeks before fermentation, making a very rich and flavoured wine.

Shiraz and Cabernet grapes were dried on the vine (after cutting the cordon) to achieve the same effect but with higher risks for approximately 12-14 days. The drying process concentrates flavour, sugar and acid. Grapes were then hand-picked and fermented in old oak. Tasting Notes

This 2010 Battle of Bosworth “White Boar” was a superb wine, especially as Amarone is one of my favourite Italian wines and the organic credentials of the wine was a welcome added bonus. It was deep red in the glass with the nose and palate showing intense, concentrated flavours and big alcohol at 15%. The nose was cherry and plum with spice, chocolate and vanilla from the oak. On the palate it was very rich, exhibiting similar characteristics to the nose, with fine tannins and balanced acidity. The finish was strong and very long with spice and heat enduring. Perfect with a casserole.

D'Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz 2006, McLaren Vale, Australia

Drunk in Stollhof, Austria November 2015

The winery

McLaren Vale's d’Arenberg was established in 1912 when Joseph Osborn, a teetotaler and director of Thomas Hardy and Sons, sold his stable of prize winning horses to purchase the property that now houses the winery. It is located 35 km south of Adelaide in South Australia.

Joseph’s son Frank joined him on the land and they set about acquiring some more vineyards. Joseph Osborn died in 1921 leaving full control of the business to Frank.

In the early years grapes were sold to other wineries before the winery was built in 1927 shortly after Francis (universally known as d’Arry) Osborn was born. Initially making fortified wines to export to England, the business prospered until World War II stifled demand. This coincided with Frank’s ill health which forced d’Arry to leave school in 1943 at age 16 to help his father run the business and work the land. d’Arry took full control of the business in 1957 upon Frank’s death and in 1959 he launched his own wine label named in honour of his mother, Helena d'Arenberg, who died shortly after giving birth to him. d’Arry decided to put a red stripe on the label, inspired by happy memories of his school days at Prince Alfred College, where he wore the crimson-and-white striped school tie. d’Arry’s son Chester joined the business in 1984 as Chief Winemaker.

d'Arry and Chester D'Arenberg 

Chester’s philosophy is to make wines that have great fragrance, fruit palate texture and length. The finish of the wine must have a natural, fine balance of acidity and a complex structure of tannins. "I aim to make loudest, most flowery fragrant and most fruit-flavoured wines that have great palate texture and are free of excess oak. I look for tannins that are long, lively, gritty and youthful with fragrant fruit-mineral notes. I want to see it all my wines; I want a wine that has edges of all sorts of complexities such as spices, meats, compost and forest floors etc…"

"Our other focus is to make a wine that is not going to go too earthy or bitumen - tarry with age. Some producers make wines that have oodles of fruit; they’re ripe, rich and gutsy, but in a few years these wines may show inherent problems from their production. That is fat, blousy, and chocolate and tar with short palate life. This is also the opposite of what we aim to produce."

d'Arry and Chester D'Arenberg with basket press

d’Arenberg is unique in that it is the only winery in Australia to use the traditional basket press method for white wines as well as reds. Chester believes that one of the advantages of basket pressing is cleaner juice, as it is partially filtered through the mass of pulp it drains through in the basket. This saves time in settling and clearing the juice and minimal interference which enables quality to be preserved.

The winery philosophy is minimal or no irrigation, no fertilization, minimal spraying and no soil cultivation. "With minimal irrigation and no fertilization the vines develop strong root systems that penetrate deeper into the soil profile and spread wider giving the grapes a greater expression of the soil," Chester explains. "When we stopped fertilizing we noticed that skins were getting thicker with a lot less green tannins and the berries were more turgid with better acidity and they were ripening at lower sugar levels."

Many d’Arenberg vineyards are completely dry grown, and those irrigated only receive strategic drip irrigation at two possible times, and only if required. The first time is before flowering in winter or early spring and only in dry years. This emulates rainfall and promotes healthy canopy development and ensures bud burst. The second time is at the end of December to ensure irrigation is not needed during ripening.

The net effect of minimal input viticulture is slightly lower yielding vines producing intense flavoured grapes showing the individual character of the soils they are grown in. The environmental benefits are also significant with less mechanical requirements, less water and soil richer in natural micronutrients.

Climate and soil - terroir

McLaren Vale's climate is of the Mediterranean type: warm dry summers and cool wet winters, with low relative humidity and relatively high evaporation. In McLaren Vale, the risk of rainfall or frost during the harvest period is rare and this is one of the reasons why the region is such a marvellously predictable place to grow grapes and make premium wines. The proximity to the sea is one of the biggest influences on the climate of McLaren Vale as well as the Lower Mt Lofty Ranges which form the Sellicks Hill ranges and which border McLaren Vale to the East. The result is that hot summer days are moderated by cool westerly, southerly or easterly breezes off the surrounding ocean, and also the 'Gully Winds' from the Hills. This makes for a prolonged ripening period during which time the grapes accumulate flavour and intensity. (and they help cool down the vineyard workers!)

Having a 'Mediterranean' type climate means there tends to be a smaller temperature variation. The average January temperature in McLaren Vale is 20.9 degrees C. Annual rainfall is anywhere from 650-700mm. 150-200mm falling between October and April, which means that rainfall is winter dominant, though we do get some in the growing season. There are numerous microclimates within the region, however, determined by variations in soil type and altitude as well as the various geological landforms. 

There are a large number of soil and geology types evident across the McLaren Vale region which provides opportunities for adventurous grape growers. A Geology map that was ten years in the making was published in 2010 and it provides a greater understanding of what lies beneath the surface. McLaren Vale was originally a glacial deposit which explains the huge diversity in age and type of the geology and soil. Some of the younger sand and sandstone formations are dated at 500 million years of age with some limestone, quartzite and clay aged between 500 and 750 million years of age. 

d'Arenberg grows and sources grapes from vineyards all over the McLaren Vale region, with a focus on grapes from the north and north eastern corner. The region itself rises from sea level to approximately 220 metres above sea level in the north, on the rise to the Mt Lofty ranges. The higher areas are much cooler than the low lying vineyards and generally make a more elegant wine, particualrly when sourced from the sandy soils of the Blewitt Springs region.

McLaren Vale vineyards:

Osborn Estate

The original family property located at Osborn Road, McLaren Vale this 113ha (280acre) Estate has 73ha (180 acres) planted with various varieties made up of old and new plantings. Shiraz planted in 1912, bush vine Grenache and Mourvèdre planted from 1918 through to Cabernet Sauvignon (1950s), Chardonnay, Marsanne, Viognier, Chambourcin, Sauvignon Blanc. Soil profiles are a mix of three McLaren Vale subregions, McLaren Vale, Seaview & Blewitt Springs. Primarily Ironstone & chalky rock with a thin covering of clay loam on the higher slopes of the vineyard with deepening clay layers as you venture down the slopes to creek bed clays as found in the valleys. Also found is sandy loam on marley limestone soils.

The Pedler’s Divide Vineyard

Adjoining the vineyards below the Osborn Estate Vineyard at the corners of the Twentyeight Road & Chalk Hill Road it runs towards Kangarilla Road. Pedler’s Divide Vineyard is a 35.5ha (88 acre) vineyard on 40ha (100 acres) ranging from 60 to 80 meters above sea level. It was purchased and developed in the late 1990’s to varieties best suited to the various soils on the property to maximise the wine styles consistent to d’Arenberg such as Shiraz, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Tempranillo, Souzao, Tinta Cao, Marsanne, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Rousanne. The soil profile on the highest reaches of the vineyard is very similar to the sandy loam over clays typical of the Blewitt Springs. The sloping sandy hill then falls onto the flat where soils range from grey clays over limestone to grey/brown loams over limestone or clay.

The Mustard Block Vineyard

Mustard Block is a 32ha (70 acres) vineyard property located on Tatachilla Road, on the shallow capped soils of the Pedler Creek Ridge to the seaward side of McLaren Vale. Varieties include Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Sangrantino, Tempranillo, Tinta Cao, Verdelho and Viognier. The vineyard is called the Mustard Block due to the widespread infestation of Mustard Weed through the property. Located on the western face of the McLaren Vale subregion, the vineyard consists of shallow red and brown earths over lime. Elevation ranges from 65 to 45 meters above sea level.

The Bamboo Ridge

A prime Blewitt Springs property located on a high sandy ridge along Whittings Rd. The 19.47ha (48.2 acres) property is planted to Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Semillon, and Merlot with excellent old vines of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache and Shiraz which are the highlights of this property. All soils are deep sand.

The Ege Vineyard

The Ege Vineyard (named after its founder Egerton Dennis) located on Moritz Rd; McLaren Flat was recently purchased from the Dennis family, a noted historical family of McLaren Vale and long standing friends of the Osborn family. It is set on a 36.6ha (90 acre) property close to McLaren Flat in a valley below the Southern Mount Lofty Ranges. It is planted to 19.56 ha (48.4 acres) of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Grenache and Sauvignon Blanc. Soils vary from sandy loam over clay to loam on clay, coupled with the 108 year-old vines is an exceptional addition to the d’Arenberg collection of vineyards.

The Wilcadene Vineyard

The Wilcadene property is located along Douglas Gully Road, Mc Laren Flat which is close by to The Ege Vineyard. The vineyard comprises of 6ha planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Grenache and Shiraz of which the oldest vines were planted in 1958. The landscape is undulating with deep glacial sandy soils which are very different in comparison to its neighbour, The Ege Vineyard.

The Little Venice Vineyard

Little Venice is situated 1 km east of the winery at the top end of Foggo Rd. It is a beautiful 20 hectare (49.5acre) property planted in the late 1990’s to 7.5 hectares of Shiraz with an elevation of 130mts. This property again was set up by the previous owner before d’Arenberg and is set on two very distinctive soils types, 4 hectares of sandy loam over clay and 3.5 hectares of brown to grey loam over marly limestone clay. Both of these soils are suited to dry grown quality production.

The wine

100% McLaren Vale Shiraz. Harvest Dates 28 February to 16 April Oak Maturation 20 months in new & aged French and American oak barriques. Alcohol by Vol: 14.5%. Bottling Date: 14 December 2007

Dead Arm is a vine disease caused by the fungus Eutypa Lata that affects vineyards all over the world. Often vines affected are severely pruned or replanted. One half, or an ‘arm’ of the vine slowly becomes reduced to dead wood. That side may be lifeless and brittle, but the grapes on the other side, while low yielding, display amazing intensity.

Each batch of fruit received was gently crushed in a Demoisy open-mouthed, rubber-toothed crusher so as many of the berries as possible remain whole. After crushing, the must was transferred to open fermenters where the seeds and skins are permanently submerged beneath the free run juice. The must receives no plunging or pumping over while fermentation occurs. Once the primary fermentation is nearly complete, traditional foot-treading takes place prior to basket-pressing. The wine is then transferred to barrel to complete its primary and secondary fermentation. After 20 months every barrel is individually assessed for quality. Only the best barrels are selected to be bottled as The Dead Arm Shiraz

2006 vintage in McLaren Vale

In terms of overall quality the 2006 vintage was very good, with most whites varieties, Shiraz, Mouvedre, Cabernet and Petit Verdot being the highlights  with fruit characters noticeably fragrant with good acidity and excellent length of flavour. Botrytis and other bunch rots were not a problem this vintage as no significant rainfall events occurred during the ripening period.

The lead up to vintage was uneventful with average winter rain followed by heavy rains in spring that resulted in vines with healthy, balanced canopies on most soils. A mild, early, summer leading into a warmer period during veraison stopped vegetative growth allowing vines to channel energy into the fruit. A prolonged cool period occurred after veraison in February with some rain which enabled the fruit to ripen without any stress. Finally the warmth returned in March with cool evening temperatures to complete ripening in almost perfect conditions enhancing fruit flavour and richness without diluting levels of natural acidity. Picking was staggered with many parcels picked in wonderful autumn conditions.

Fermented Grape tasting notes

The D'Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz 2006, McLaren Vale was certainly hyper concentrated and benefited from decanting -  a big wine. The wine was deep red in the glass and the nose and palate was heavy with dark chocolate, blackcurrant and black cherry with a hint of spice, anise, pepper and tobacco. Tannins, fruit and acidity were well balanced though the wine felt a little alcoholic which was not surprising given it is 14.5%. Super smooth with a satisfying, long and warm length. 

Though the wine was enjoyable its concentration almost made it hard to drink, though cheese paired very well with it. My fellow drinker and I took some time to drink the bottle, almost like having a bottle of Port. An experience to be sure....I never thought I'd be drinking something made from vines infected by the Eutypa Lata fungus!

Primo Estate Il Briccone 2013 Shiraz, Sangiovese, McLaren Vale, Australia

Drunk September 2015 @ home

The wine

Il Briccone (The Rogue) is a blend of the Sangiovese grape and Shiraz from one of my favourite Australian wineries, Primo Estate, courtesy of Joe Grilli. Sangiovese is of course more commonly associated with Italian wines and particularly Chianti giving a distinctive fruity acidity and Shiraz is the personification of Australia's McLaren Vale.

Fermented Grape tasting notes

Plum, black cherry and blackcurrant on the palate with pepper and herby notes with a little extra acidity than a standard McLaren Vale Shiraz courtesy of the Sangiovese. Another very enjoyable wine from Primo.

Shaw + Smith Pinot Noir 2012, Adelaide Hills, Australia

Drunk September 2015 @ home

Fermented Grape tasting notes

As a big fan of Shaw + Smith's cool climate Shiraz from Australia's Adelaide Hills and the  Pinot Noir gape, I was drinking this Pinot Noir 2012 vintage with high expectations. 

Quite pale in the glass, light ruby, nice cherry aroma but not in a very expressive way. Cherry and redcurrant on the palate with definite acidity and smooth tannins with a lengthy finish. The balance of acidity and fruit gave the wine a distinctive freshness but without food it came across as a little austere. It was a not sure with this Shaw + Smith, not in the same class as the best New Zealand or Burgundy Pinot Noir but almost reminds me of Oregon. For the price I think I will stick to their Shiraz which is a superb wine.