McLaren Vale

Battle of Bosworth White Boar 2010, McLaren Vale, Australia

Drunk @ home November 2015

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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.

Penny's Hill Cracking Black Shiraz 2012, McLaren Vale, Australia

Drunk September 2015 @ home

The winery

After several years searching unsuccessfully for an established McLaren Vale vineyard, Tony and Susie Parkinson finally had to buy some bare land in 198 upon which to establish a vineyard. Located in the foothills east of McLaren Vale, the 32 ha (80 acre) property, long used for grazing, gave commanding views over the waters of Gulf St. Vincent and the promise of a great vineyard.

The property was named Penny’s Hill Vineyard, after the hill at the foot of which it is sited. Vines were planted to a unique narrow-row configuration from 1991.

In 1993, the newly planted Malpas Road property was acquired, followed in 1996 by purchase of an adjacent highly prized hay-producing paddock that was immediately planted to vines and named Goss Corner. In 1998, the original Goss family homestead, ‘Ingleburne’ was added to the Malpas and Goss properties to reconnect what had originally been one entire holding.

Now many years on, Tony Parkinson maintains ownership and management of the business with a dedicated team which includes younger son, James who is learning the vineyard ropes and taking care of property maintenance. Son David is also working on site, but as a filmmaker and graphics contributor to the wine enterprise.

The wine

The fifth vintage of ‘Cracking Black’ Shiraz, is so named due to the majority of fruit being sourced on the cracking black Bay of Biscay soils of the Malpas Road vineyard in McLaren Vale.

Dating back to 1838, McLaren Vale was one of the first regions in South Australia planted to vines. The region enjoys a true Mediterranean climate experiencing winter dominant rainfall and warm, dry summers tempered by the proximity to the waters of Gulf St Vincent. A long summer-autumn ripening period ensures good fruit ripeness, richness and balance.

Planted in 1991 and added to the Penny’s Hill estate vineyard group in 1993, Malpas Road is named after the pioneering Malpas family who held lands in what was originally referred to as ‘Bay of Biscay’. This is an obvious reference to the relatively infertile cracking, grey-black soil upon which our hand-tended Shiraz patch does its work. The fissures which occur as the black soil cracks apart, sever surplus root structure; a process which naturally lessens vigour and enhances ultimate grape quality. Other fruit parcels were sourced from the slightly higher elevated vines of the Penny’s Hill vineyard. Harvest was February - March 2012.

To best reflect the variations in terroir across the vineyards, harvest of individual parcels occurred on different days. Grapes were crushed, de-stemmed and fermented on skins in open fermenters for 7 days prior to pressing. Wines completed fermentation for up to 16 months in French oak barrels; approximately 30% new, the balance 1-3 years old. By keeping parcels separate throughout the winemaking process, winemaker Ben Riggs was able to access a wide variety of component characteristics as final blending approached. Bottling – 8th August 2013. tasting notes

Penny's Hill Cracking Black Shiraz is a classic McLaren Vale Shiraz and exactly what I like from this style of wine. Very concentrated in colour and flavour with intense fruit.  Blackberry, mulberry, black cherry and pepper the typical notes from the region are very evident but in a balanced way, not over powered by alcohol, with just the right amount of tannin and with a long dark chocolate  finish. For £15 a bottle or so, a very good Australian wine, particularly if you like a full bodied style.

Primo Estate Shale Stone Shiraz 2013, McLaren Vale, Australia

Drunk August 2015 @ home

primo estate shale stone

The winery

Primo Estate is a great Australian winery, with their Joseph Moda, Amarone style red a big favourite. See more about the winery at

The wine tasting notes

Nice example of a decent McLaren Vale red at a reasonable price point. Not in the class of Joseph Moda, but for £13 who can complain. Big fruit but with a lovely savoury note which makes it very McLaren vale in style so you get the sense of elements of Bordeaux in there. The finish had a good spicy edge too which made it very tasty with a barbecue. You can't go too far wrong with wine from Primo Estate and this once again proves it.

Bought (summer sale)