TORB’s Tenth SA Tour Diary (The May 2008 South Australian Tour Diary)
Click here for Chapter One
Click Here for a printable copy
Oh boy. I am a man. I am strong. But oh boy, my cold is worse. Far worse. I am dying. That cold must be Bird Flu. Nope, it can’t be that; Bird Flu could not make me feel this bad. It must be Ebola – at the very least.
Brian woke up cranky. He said he didn’t get much sleep last night. He complained about an elephant tramping up and down the corridor all night. Every time he started to nod off, the elephant would go thump, thump, thump on the wooden floor boards outside his room. Serves the bastard right. If I can’t sleep and have to drink about four litres of water to rehydrate my nose, there is no reason why he should be able to sleep either. He is always complaining about the noise I make in the night. Reckons he can hear me snore through a brick wall. Balderdash! Pure balderdash. I don’t snore; and if I did, it would be a refined, elegant snore because that’s the sort of person I am.
We needed to leave Pie Kings Bridge vineyards by 7:30 a.m. to make our first appointment in the Barossa. Knowing what the coffee is like at our favourite breakfast place in Hahndorf is like, we had a couple of quick belts of espresso before we left.
We arrived at Hahndorf at eight o'clock to find the bakery closed. Apparently it doesn't open until 8.30. We were standing outside discussing the situation when the owner walked out intending to go somewhere to do a chore. He was kind enough to open up for us but he certainly didn't have a smile on his face when he did it, but then we have never seen a smile, although he does have a razor sharp wit and is quite happy to take the piss out of us at every available opportunity. This place sells the best poppy seed strudel outside of Sydney. It's impossible for me to go through Hahndorf without stopping here. As I only get to eat here once or possibly twice a year, I had a double helping.
John had some weird, fizzy, Elderberry drink and when Brian saw it, he said, "That looks better than your Sparkling Shiraz, and it's got more fizz too.” I know I was feeling crook, but when I saw the food that Brian and John had ordered, even if I was a well man I would have felt sick. John's fried eggs were just why he likes them. Rock hard. If that's not bad enough, he proceeded to douse them in tomato sauce.
We got back into the car and by this stage, I was exhausted. I didn't think I was going to die, I wanted to die. Man; this Ebola is rough. I had no idea how I was going to get through today, let alone taste wine. I put my seatbelt on, put my head on the pillar and was asleep before the car's ignition had turned. The next thing I knew we were in Lyndoch. The sleep must have done me some good because I didn't want to die any more, although I thought I probably would. I needed a chemist. Badly. We found one in Tanunda.
I am a chemist's nightmare (and some other peoples too.) The chemist suggested I should take preparation “a”. Nope, can't do that, I have high blood pressure. Chemist scratches her head and suggests preparation "b". Nope, can't do that it conflicts with one of the drugs I am taking. Chemist starts to pull out her hair out while she heads to the computer for ideas. Comes back and suggests preparation "c". That sounds good, and I look at the label and see that it contains Paracetamol. Nope, can't take that, Paracetamol and my liver don't get on. Chemist resists the urge to scream or punch a hole in the wall, and goes back to the computer for another look. Chemist comes back and suggests preparation "d". I wonder what's wrong with this one? Good stuff, it looks like I can take it, which probably means it's guaranteed not to work. Nevertheless, I buy the nasal spay and a half pallet of tissues just in case. (Brian: Ric was in there so long, John and I discussed doing a runner before someone came out to see if we would claim the body.)
As they say in the advertising classics, "up your nose and away it goes.” Bloody hell; within ten minutes my nose has gone from a stream to a trickle and I know I am no longer going to die. Even better news, I can still smell. That was confirmed when we drove past the Tanunda Bakery and I could smell the aroma of freshly baked poppy seed streusel buns. Even if my imagination is playing tricks on me, I must be getting over the Ebola.
Our first appointment was with a winery that never fails to impress. The more I look at their wines, the more impressed I become, and the more I am impressed with not only this winemaker’s winemaking ability, but his business acumen too. Reid Bosward at Kaesler Wines always has something new and exciting to show us. I don't know how Reid does it, but he has access to the most amazing array of old vines. He loves working with and using the fruit from those vines. When he talks about the old vine fruit, he looks like a kid in a lolly shop. Every time we go there and he tells us about his latest old vineyard acquisition or deal, his face lights up. He is excited about them. His words come out as though they have been fired from a Gatling gun. Every time we go there, there is at least one new story about another vineyard that has great old vine fruit that he has been able to obtain. I think he gets as much kick out of finding these vineyards as he does in making wine.
I have been known to be critical about the wine show system. Especially the Jimmy Watson Trophy, which is awarded at the Melbourne Wine Show to a wine that is basically still a work in progress. Reid told us about the the changes to the Melbourne Wine Show. Last year they changed the way they judged the wines.
In Reid's words, "Instead of putting three judges on a bench of three hundred reds, they split them up. The week before the show they did a preliminary judging. They shortlisted the gold and silver medal contenders. These wines then went through another panel a week later. They used different panels of judges for both weeks. In my opinion, because the judges didn't have to go through so many wines, their palates weren't as fatigued. This wine, (the 2006 Avignon) which has a slight build, was the Jimmy Watson runner up.”
Reid went on to say, “When the winner was announced I thought bloody hell, we have been close plenty of times in the last fifteen years, but we never managed to pull it off. And then Scarps (Michael Scarpantoni) got up on stage and said he had been trying to win it for thirty years. I thought, okay, now I've only got another fifteen to wait.”
Kaesler 2006 Stonehorse GSM sells for $17 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The aromatics are fantastic, floral, spicy and off-sweet. The pure, strong, deep fruit is juicy and delivers plum, cherry, aniseed, blackcurrant, loads of spice and liquorice; it's crammed full of flavour and the finish is intense. A muscular-weight wine backed by dusty tannins, the consistency is supple and the complexity is sophisticated. A very enjoyable wine with a lovely flavour profile, it's Rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value, drink over the next six plus years.
Kaesler 2006 Stonehorse Shiraz sells $25 and is sealed under cork. It's also available in a half bottle for $17. The bouquet shows violets, floral notes, plums and chocolate. The tannins are almost silky and produce a supple mouth feel in this ample-weight, solid, harmonious and incredibly tight wine. The deep fruit is in charge and serves up off-sweet, intense flavours of morello cherry, black spectrum fruit and some red characters. The only thing this wine needs is time. Rated as Recommended with *** for value, the rating will improve as the wine enters its peak drinking window between 2011 and 2016. (Brian: I drank a 2002 vintage of this just before we came away and it was about at peak drinking I would say, lovely balanced, soft palate.)
Pie King Plumbing at its Finest
Kaesler 2006 Avignon sells for $30 and is sealed under cork. It is also available in a half bottle for $17. As mentioned previously, this wine was the Jimmy Watson Trophy runner-up. It's got it all. High class, pure fruit, crisp acid and ultra-fine tannins that are superbly balanced in this ample-weight, firm, solid, almost elegant, ultra-tight wine that has a well-developed complexity. Plums, violets, liquorice, and pepper flavours finish, clean and long. It's lovely. A good food wine too. Give it a couple of years to start showing its best. Rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value, it should be in its peak drinking window between 2010 and 2018. (Brian: I was impressed enough to buy a dozen of the half-bottles.)
Kaesler 2006 The Fave Grenache sells for $40 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. This wine has a sexy bouquet; it has a Nicole Kidman like class, style and elegance but it is not understated. With all the components, pure fruit, lively acid and incredibly fine tannins, time to come together is all that’s required. It's almost lean, and is a great food wine, the way good Grenache should be. Sour cherry, milk chocolate and vanilla flavours complete the profile. Its medium-weight with a soft consistency, has been harmoniously constructed, and has an elegant and tight structure. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value, it should be in its peak drinking window between 2011 and 2016.
Kaesler 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon is sealed under cork and sells for $25 at cellar door. The bouquet is varietal and sweet. The palate shows red cherry, milk chocolate, aniseed and cigar box flavours. It's just ample-weight and has a firm consistency and a tight, almost elegant structure. The fruit is pure, the acid crisp and the tannins are fine and tight. Rated as Recommended with **** for value, it needs time to show its best, and the rating should improve as the wine enters its peak drinking window between 2012 and 2020.
Nashwauk 2006 McLaren Vale Shiraz sells for $25 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet is perfumed with spicy oak. Unobtrusive tannins combine with fresh acid but the juicy, pure, fleshy fruit is the driving force in this ample-weight, supple wine.. Blackcurrant, aniseed, chocolate and mint flavours provide a yummy flavour profile. It may not be a serious wine, but it’s seriously enjoyable. It's approachable now but will improve in the short term and is Rated as Recommended with **** for value, drink over the next six years.
The result of the plumbing! A pond is needed to catch the water..................
Kaesler 2006 WOMS sold for $70 a bottle at cellar door, is sealed under cork, and is now sold out. That's not surprising; it always sells out incredibly quickly. The bouquet was leaping out of a glass; the intensity was enough to knock your socks off. A serious, full-bodied wine with a firm consistency, solid structure and intricate level of complexity, the strong, deeply-seated fruit together with lively acid and amplitudinous tannins will ensure this is a long term wine. It's certainly not together yet; tasting this was the worst case of vininfanticide possible but it will be a classic in time. It's been cleverly constructed with off-sweet characters layered with sweet layers of flavour that linger alluringly. Currently rated as Excellent with *** for value; lock it away for twelve years in the cellar and it's bound to be Outstanding; drink from 2016 to 2030.
Kaesler 2006 Old Vine Shiraz sells for $60 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. This is a seriously, good wine. It has a sensational nose with spice and multiple layers of fruity scents. Abundant, dusty tannins combine with crisp acid and deep, pure, strong fruit to form a full-bodied solid, tight wine with an intricate complexity. Rich chocolate, plum, black cherry and more chocolate flavour finishes with power and persistence. Rated as Excellent with *** for value, drink from 2014 to 2022.
Kaesler 2006 The Bogan Shiraz sells for is $50 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. Abundant coffee oak dominates the bouquet. Some American oak is used to mature the wine. The pure, deeply-seated fruit delivers loads of black flavours on the uptake; these are supported by sneaky tannins that creep up on you, and the lively acid provides a crisp and clean finish. It's a full-bodied wine with a silky consistency and a well-developed complexity. It's a very different wine to the Old Vine, and is much more in your face. Rated as Excellent with *** for value, drink from 2011 to 2018.
Kaesler 2006 Patel Shiraz sells for $120 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The wonderful aromatics are as clean as a whistle. The deep, pure fruit is spotless and delivers linear cherry and chocolate flavours that finish on very-long, drying tannins. A muscular-weight wine with a supple consistency, it’s a tight, quality, complete wine that needs to be buried in the cellar. Due to its tightness it's rated as Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value, but forget the rating because the wine has a mile of potential. When it enters its peak drinking window between 2016 and 2035, the rating will be substantially higher. A knockout wine, one of the best young drops I have tried.
Kaesler 2006 Alte Reben Shiraz sells for $120 and is sealed under cork. The vines were planted in 1899. (This wine was tasted/drunk with dinner as I missed tasting it at the winery.) Stunning! A complete wine. The pristine, juicy-fruit has been seamlessly meshed together with super-fine tannins and youthful acid to form a harmonious, muscular-weight wine. The fruit is sensational the wine sits in the mouth beautifully. After you swallow, the flavour just sits there. The wine doesn't travel the length of the palate, it just explodes. It's very concentrated, but there is no flab or blousieness; it is tight. Its drinkable now but an absolute baby, and drinking it at this stage should be a mandated criminal offence. At 16% alcohol there is absolutely no sign of heat. Currently rated as Outstanding with *** for value, there is absolutely no doubt the rating on this wine will improve as it enters its peak drinking window. In 10 or 15 years time, this will be something very special. At $120 a bottle, it puts many wines that are significantly more expensive to shame, including the Old Bastard.
The Alte Reben and the Patel are both stunning wines. The Alte Reben is more approachable now; in fact it's a magnificent drink, but given time that the Patel will be as good, and possibly even better. I'd love to try both of these again in 10 or 15 years.
His Pieships New Years Resolution....... Now employed as a dust catcher
Kaesler 2006 Old Bastard Shiraz sells for $160 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. Incredible, squeaky-clean, perfumed aromatics that leap out of a glass. This wine is in your face. It's as deep as a pit and as black. The fruit hits the palate with some sourness but there are sweet undertones, which are complemented by rich chocolate. A full-bodied wine with a supple consistency and solid structure, its well-back by super-fine, powdery tannins; tight as a drum, it needs time to come together and open up. Rated as Excellent with ** for value, drink from 2012 to 2018.
The wines from Kaesler are big, unashamedly so. Reid is not at all concerned about the anti high alcohol backlash. People will continue to drink his wines because they like them and enjoy them. Reid also touched on the “label lies” in regard to alcohol. Many readers may not be aware that there is currently a 1.5% leeway in relation to alcohol labelling accuracy in Australia. That means that companies (including the large ones) can state their wine is 14% alcohol when it’s actually 15.5%. Reid does not play these games and puts the real alcohol level on the label.
Over the last few years, Kaesler has slowly increased their range. At the same time, the quality of the entry level wine has been edging up and now many of them are well above average value. The quality of the mid range wines have also increased slowly. Reid reminds me of a veteran car mechanic. If the engine is running well but you are a perfectionist and want the best from your motor, you take it to him. He listens to it idling. He listens to it revving. He scratches his head for a second and then leans into the engine bay and tweaks one little thing. Instantly it has gone from running well to running the best it has ever been. That’s the sort of talent this guy exhibits with wine.
Now for a very big call. Kaesler has the best range of wines in the Barossa today. Bar none. There’s not a substandard wine in his whole line-up. The two new top wines that are only available from cellar door (Patel and Alte Reben) can go head to head with any Shiraz from this region, or anywhere else in Australia.
We didn't have any appointments ‘til late in the day so we were able to free wheel for a while. The last few times I have been to the Langmeil Winery I haven't been particularly impressed. In fact, on a number of visits I have been less than impressed, but then most of the time I have only been trying the entry-level wines. I have probably also hit on a few off vintages. Langmeil was on the list of contenders to visit on this trip and Brian suggested we headed there next.
When we arrived, the place looked like a construction zone, because that's exactly what's happening. They are expanding the winery. All the new work will be tucked behind the existing buildings. Langmeil didn't start out life as a purpose-built winery. In 1841 Christian Auricht and his family settled on an allotment of land and after they had cleared it, planted a mixed fruit orchard and a Shiraz vineyard. The Shiraz vines were taken from South African cuttings. Although some will argue, this is reputed to be the oldest Shiraz vineyard in the country.
Old Christian must have been quite an entrepreneur in his day. Not only did he get his hands on the largest allotment in the district, he started to build a blacksmithy, a bakery, a cobbler’s shop, a butcher shop and the first well in the area. It's not surprising that it became the hub of the local village.
It remained in the same family ownership until the 1930s, when it became a winery called Paradale. About 40 years later, the winery changed hands and then finally stopped production in 1998. In 1993 the cellar door was closed. A new chapter started in 1996 when Richard Lindner, Carl Lindner and Chris Bitter purchased the property, and renamed it Langmeil after the original village name.
Only about 300 dozen bottles of the Freedom are produced. It is made from the ancient vines which are hand-pruned and handpicked. The vineyard still yields approximately one tonne to the acre, but occasionally gets as high as two, which is outstanding for vines of this age.
Orphan Bank is a new, interesting label. The winery used to have a vineyard almost across the road from the cellar door, but residential land in this area is far more valuable than vineyard land. That vineyard is now the Langmeil Housing Estate. When the land was sold they didn't want to lose the vines so they embarked on an ambitious project. They decided to transplant about three hundred vines from vineyard. Each vine, together with about two tonnes of soil around the roots, were dug out and transported to a new home. Sounds risky? It probably was. But it worked. That was a big commitment but a worthwhile one.
Langmeil NV Sparkling Shiraz Cuvee sells for $35 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet shows loads of sweet liqueur cherry. It is sweet on the uptake with cherry, milk chocolate but finishes reasonably dry and lingers nicely. Some oak is noticeable but it is a refined style that shows some elegance. It's a nice wine, and very drinkable but doesn't have a huge amount of complexity. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value.
Langmeil Three Gardens 2006 SGM sells the $19.50 at cellar door and is sealed under screwcap. The bouquet was slightly reductive and led to a palate that had a slight metallic edge to the acid. The fruit is pure; it is medium-weight with a supple consistency and an elegant structure. I did ask for the wine to be checked as I thought it was possibly defective. I was told it was sound. Rated as Agreeable with ** for value.
Langmeil 2006 The Blacksmith Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $25 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet was herbaceous and oaky which led to a sweet palate of black fruits, red fruits, herbs and varietal characters. A medium-weight wine with an elegant structure and an agreeable level of complexity, it's food friendly and whilst it is easy drinking now, it will improve in the short term. Rated as Recommended with *** for value, drink between now and 2014.
Langmeil 2006 Valley Floor Shiraz sells the $25 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet shows cherry and milk chocolate. A well-balanced wine with a pleasant mouth-feel, it is backed by chewy, powdery tannins and crisp acid. The pure fruit delivers cherry, charry oak and chocolate flavours. A medium-weight wine with a supple consistency, it's drinkable now and food friendly but will soften in the short term and is certainly worth buying. Rated as Recommended with *** for value, the rating should improve as the wine enters its peak drinking window.
Langmeil 2005 the Orphan Bank Shiraz sells at $50 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet showed sweet liqueur cherry notes with lifted aromatics. The velvety tannins are ripe and back the pure-fruit and lively acid beautifully. A clean, modern Australian wine that sits in the mouth pleasantly and holds interest; its ample-weight with a supple consistency, and whilst it is harmonious in that it has all the components, they have not quite come together yet. A very good-quality wine that it is approachable now but would be a complete waste. Sweet liqueur cherry and rich chocolate flavours are clean and linger well. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value, the rating should improve as the wine enters its peak drinking window between 2012 and 2020. Brian and John shared a 6-pack.
Langmeil 2005 the Freedom Shiraz sells for $100 and is sealed under cork. The bouquet is similar to The Orphan but more intense. Fine, powdery tannins combined with crisp acid and deeply-seated pure fruit to form solid, tight wine with a supple consistency and a harmonious complexity. The liqueur cherry, milk chocolate, coffee oak, herbs and mint flavours finish long, dry and crisp. The wine has a huge amount of power for its ample-weight. Whilst it is a step up in quality over The Orphan, I still prefer the previous wine. Rated as Excellent with ** for value. You are paying a hefty premium for the vine age and label.
Barossa Old Vine Company 2005 Shiraz sells for $100 at cellar door and is sealed under cork. The bouquet shows liqueur cherry, milk chocolate, spice and sweet vanillin oak. The dusty tannins are not as refined as the previous two wines. The effect of the American oak is obvious. A muscular-weight firm, solid, very-tight wine with a well-developed complexity, savoury flavours of cherry, milk chocolate and spice finish pleasantly. Rated as Highly Recommended with * for value, the wine should be in its peak drinking window between 2013 and 2020.
For the first time I walked out of Langmeil with the feeling that I wanted to return on the next trip. The wines showed better than on previous visits, and it was terrific being able to taste their icons. Finally, we were looked after incredibly well at cellar door this time. That is probably got something to do with the fact that we were looked after by Tracey, who we had met in a previous incarnation. She is also the wife of a person that we were due to see straight after lunch. Small world the Barossa.
Every time I see David Cross from Winter Creek, the conversation turns to (four letter words) meat pies. His addiction is almost as bad as that of the Pie King and his Apprentice. David is forever rabbiting on about the Apex bakery. Firstly, he loves their pies. Secondly, on Friday afternoon it is a known haunt for various Barossa winemakers and others of known, ill repute. Needless to say David is there every Friday. The boys decided this would be the perfect location for lunch and as Brian was driving, I had no choice.
I was told they met “out the back”, so we looked in the room off the bakery proper, but there was nobody there. We later found out you have to actually go “around the back” of the bakery to find them. In reality, from what I've heard, it's probably just as well we didn't find them because if we had we made not have got out of there in time for our next appointment.
But the boys had plain meat pies, the more expensive Swagman version was still in the oven. They weren't particularly impressed with them and thought the Tanunda Bakery pies were better. I had a wholemeal roll with corn beef and tomato, and although it was healthy, it was bland and boring; not to mention small. The Tanunda Bakery suddenly sounded like a good idea. And what a good idea it turned out to be. We know they make espresso coffee properly, but Brian got a very pleasant surprise. They now have a homemade gelato bar. He went the whole hog and had a Ferrero Roché in a waffle cone. Me? Well, that's a stupid question. The best poppy seed streusel buns in the southern hemisphere are made here. Not that I am addicted to them you understand.
Whilst I was making my notes, I inadvertently dictated, "and John had a cappuccino." He got quite indignant and said, "It's a flat white. Cappuccino is for wenches and gay people; not Mandingo’s like me.”
Our next appointment was with a winemaker who is quickly developing an awesome reputation. He started making his own wine when he was the winemaker for Rolf Binder Wines.
Kym Teusner produced his first wine under the Teusner label in 2002. It started out when Kym overheard a conversation between his then girlfriend's uncle and his brother. His girlfriend's family owned an old Grenache vineyard that was running at a loss. The way things were looking, with the prices the corporate buyers were prepared to pay, the old vines looked like they were going to get the chop. Kym approached his brother-in-law, Michael Page who was a viticulturalist at Torbreck. Between them, they were able to beg, borrow or steal enough money to buy a quarter of the crop. That was enough to ensure the old vineyard was saved. They also obtained fruit from some other older vineyards and were effectively in the winemaking business. Part time, but they now had their own label. All 350 cases of it. They started making their wine at Torbreck, and later made it in the old Veritas winery building in Langmeil Road, (thanks to Rolf Binder’s understanding and generosity.) By 2006, their production was up to 18,000 cases. With growth like that, they must be doing a heck of a lot right.
Kym’s parents grew up in the Barossa, and then purchased a sheep farm in Tailem Bend. If ever there was a godforsaken place, that's it. No wonder Kym wanted to leave home as soon as he finished school. Sheep farming, especially in Tailem Bend, was not for him. He moved to Adelaide and did a degree in business management. That led to a job managing a restaurant in Adelaide for ten years. Unlike many other people in the wine industry today, especially those grew up in the Barossa, Kim was not brought up with wine. That didn't stop him developing a passion for it when he was working in the restaurant business. Despite his passion for wine, Kym was becoming disenchanted with the restaurant business. He chucked his job in and sold everything he owned, and travelled overseas to think about what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. Whilst he was in the US, Kym decided that the wine industry was where he wanted to be. A little while later, he was in a cafe in Spain and decided he'd better do something concrete about his thoughts. He wrote out an application to Adelaide University on a scrap of paper, and faxed it to them. A couple of months later, he was talking to his mother and was told that he had better come home. He had been accepted for the course.
In 2001, whilst he was still at university he got a job pruning vineyards at Torbreck with his brother-in-law, and now business partner, Michael. Once he finished his degree he continued to work there and started making his own wine. When Torbreck went through its financial crisis, the new directors were not keen on Kym and Michael doing their own thing. They both departed and a little later, Kym wound up working for Rolf Binder. Rolf likes people with initiative and had no problem with Kym making his own wine. This relationship continued for the next four years. Then it was time for Kym and Michael to stand on their own feet.
The majority of their fruit comes from the north western Barossa; Greenock, Moppa and Ebenezer. Kym feels it is a little cooler up there and the fruit ripens slightly more slowly resulting in wines that may be 14 or 15% alcohol, but have better flavour profiles. Most of the vineyards owners they are obtaining their fruit from, are relatives of Kym's wife. When you have grapes from old vines needing a good home, there is nothing like keeping it in the family. In 2004, at Kym’s request, the growers planted Mataro. According to Kym, "Every year since the vines have been bearing fruit they come to us and say, we need to drop crop, do you want to come and have a look at it. Have you ever heard of Barossa grape grower saying that to you?”
The Grenache vines are young by Barossa Grenache standards. They are only eighty years old. The Shiraz comes from vineyards that range in age from twenty years to one hundred and thirty years old. On average, their growers would be lucky to crop at two tonnes to the acre.
Based on what Kym told me during our conversation, it sounded like Michael had very little work to do in the vineyard. That was confirmed later when Kym actually stated that Michael does more work in the winery than he does in the vineyard. Nothing like having growers you can rely on, totally. And just think, they used to sell their fruit to large corporate companies.
Unlike most other wineries that start out in this manner, the majority of their sales are not made to the US. They are made to the east coast of Australia. Even more surprisingly, their biggest markets are not Sydney and Melbourne; it’s Queensland. They do export a little to the US, but every time the Australian dollar goes up, the exports to that market go down. However, exports to Canada continue to climb. They are looking to Asia as their next potential growth market, which makes a lot of sense as it is close, and is growing exponentially.
They are a relatively small operation, and reasonably new. Being in this situation, like most people starting out, they don't have a lot of excess cash so watching the dollars is important. As they are renting space, the less they have to rent the better and there is more than one way to skin a cat. Or in this case, save space. Everything they own in the way of production equipment is portable. After vintage it can all be stored in a minimum amount of space, and the space that was the production facility becomes barrel storage. This is not a long-term strategy. They are in the process of trying to gain council approval to increase their covered space.
So where to from here? In four years they managed to grow from nothing to eighteen thousand cases so are these guys looking to become a mega-operation? Simply, no. Kym said, "It has got to the stage where Michael and I can just take care of things ourselves. (Well-known wine forum identity) Dave Brookes has joined us in a sales and marketing role and between the three of us we should be able to handle twenty thousand cases. Over vintage, will get some other people in to help us; we are in it for the lifestyle, not to make a million bucks.”
Kym Teusner (left) Dave Brookes (right)
Teusner 2007 Joshua sells for between $24 and $27 and is sealed under cork. This wine is in unoaked blend of old vine Grenache, young vine Mataro, and Shiraz. The bouquet is rustic and showed some sappy notes and leesy type characters. The pure fruit, lively acid and dusty, drying tannins are well balanced but they are all over the place at the moment. The palate is chewy with dark chocolate, liquorice, red currant and milk chocolate flavours. An ample-weight, firm and solid wine that has a good level of complexity, it's very useful and would be a handy food wine. Rated as Recommended with *** for value, give it a couple of years to settle and drink till 2013.
Teusner 2005 Avatar retails for around $30-$32 and is sealed under cork. This GMS blend was matured for sixteen months in old oak and shows loads and spicy characters, which comes from the fruit as well as meaty aspect. Chewy, powdery tannins combine with lively acid and pure fruit and achieve a terrific balance. A clean, modern wine that holds ones attention completely; on the palate it shows both sweet and savoury aspects with red fruits, charcuterie, and spicy characters that finishes long, clean, dry and fresh, and with great power for its medium-weight. A supple, tight and elegant wine that has a very well developed level of complexity, it is eminently drinkable and food friendly; rated as Highly Recommended with **** for value.
Teusner 2006 Avatar blended tank sample showed lifted floral aromatics. On the palate, the youthful fruit is just lovely, and with chewy, powdery tannins, and fresh acid, the wine has a supple consistency, a solid, tight structure and is ample-weight. It shows more intense fruit than its predecessor but I'm not convinced its structure is quite as good, although it is still a lovely, food-friendly wine. Still, it's early days and it should improve between now and the time it is released.
Teusner 2006 The Riebke Ebenezer Rd Shiraz sells for around $20 and is sealed under screwcap. The wine is named after the Riebke family, (Kym's wife's uncle,) who provides 80% of their grapes and has a property in Ebenezer. The wine has a fruit forward bouquet with loads of spicy characters. This leads to palate of milk chocolate, cherry, dark chocolate and dried green herbs. The fruit is attractive and combines with fresh acid and minimal, dusty tannins to produce a soft wine that would be a perfect suited to sipping when standing around chatting on a summer's day. It's very short on the back palate and is rated as Agreeable with *** for value.
Teusner 2007 The Riebke Ebenezer Rd Shiraz will sell for around $20 when it is released and is sealed under screwcap. It had been bottled a week previously. The bouquet was very similar to the 2006 but had more milk chocolate and fruit characters. Brian said, "The aromatics are stunning." On the palate, the wine is richer than its predecessor; the fruit is juicy and the tannins are chewy. There is loads of fruit flavour with chocolate, cherry, and dried herbs. It's an ample-weight wine with an agreeable complexity and supple consistency. Extremely easy to drink, it’s rated as Recommended with *** for value.
Teusner 2005 Albert Shiraz sells for $45 and is sealed under cork. The fruit from this wine comes from two vineyards, one 60-year-old and one 90-year-old and unlike their other wines, it sees some new wood. The bouquet shows incredibly complex floral aromatics. I wouldn't mind using this is a deodorant. It also shows dusty oak, spice, and rich chocolate scents that make the senses sit up and take notice. On the palate it's off-sweet with cherry, plum, black chocolate, char/tarry oak, and aniseed flavours that finish off to roast meats. It shows some elegance but needs time to open up. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value, the rating should improve as the wine enters its peak drinking window between 2011 and 2016.
Teusner 2006 Albert Shiraz will sell for $45-$50 when it is released and is sealed under cork. This wine was a completed tank sample, and had just been through two sets of pumps, so it was a bit beaten up. It is very similar to the previous wine but shows richer fruit and a tighter structure. It also has a better texture. The charry oak is more noticeable but there is more than enough fruit to sop it up. It should be released in the next couple of months. If it is as good as it seems, it would be Rated as Excellent with **** for value.
Teusner at 2005 Moppa Grenache is only available in a Magnum to mail order customers; it sells for $145 a bottle and is sealed under cork. This wine came about as they had a barrel of Grenache that was just too good to blend away. The best way I can describe the bouquet is to say they got their bottling philosophy wrong. It should have been put into tiny bottles and sold at the perfume counter of David Jones (and Nordstrom.) The sensational, pristine fruit is backed by dusty tannins and delivers red raspberry, cherry, milk chocolate and dried herb flavours that finish with fresh acid. A medium-weight, firm, solid and elegant wine with a very well developed complexity, as good as this wine is, it just doesn't do it for me. Rated as Highly Recommended with *** for value.
The Teusner Creed. .. .........................................................
There is no truth in the rumour this line was first uttered by Billy Connelly when he hit 50.....
Or Kym's Wife...................................................................
Teusner 2006 The Astral Series Mataro sells for $90 and is sealed under cork. The bottle could be registered as a lethal weapon, and lifting a six-pack of this wine would be a potential worker's compensation risk. The bouquet is incredibly aromatic and shows menthol, meaty characters, mint and black notes. A seriously good-quality wine that is backed by an impeccable structure, the pure fruit delivers Kirsch, pepper, and charcuterie flavours that finish incredibly long, dry and clean. A muscular-weight wine with a very firm consistency, a rock solid structure and as tight as a bank fault, the complexity is sophisticated and opening this wine now the worst case of vininfanticide. It has all the components to be a wonderful wine and is currently rated as Highly Recommended with ** for value, but the rating has significant room for improvement as the wine enters its peak drinking window between 2012 and 2018.
We then tried barrel samples of two new Shiraz that will come out under The Astral Series. The first wine is affectionately known as the 2006 FG Shiraz. Use your imagination to work out what FG stands for. The fruit comes from 130-year-old vines grown in Ebenezer. This wine is destined to spend another 12 months in oak. The fruit is intense and well matched to the chalky tannins. The tight structure is impeccable. Loads of blackcurrant, violets, and dark chocolate flavours shine like a beacon.
The 2007 Greenock Shiraz is destined to spend another 24 months in oak. This is going to be a lovely wine. The fruit is absolutely fantastic. The intensity is immense.
During our conversation, Kym dropped a lovely line. "I'm a pretty backward with my usage of oak. I think wine should be about wine, not the shit you mature it in. We are not scared of filtration (and used it on some 2006 wine) but I generally see it as an unnecessary process. After two years in barrel, the wines clean up quite well naturally. If the wine has to stay in tank for six months to settle, so be it.”
A few things stand out about these wines. The first is that they are all well structured. Secondly, for their style, and I stress for their style, they are reasonably elegant; perhaps maintaining a modicum of class would be a better description. Without exception, the aromatics in every single wine were brilliant. These guys have got access to some seriously good fruit. No wonder they are making such good wines. Towards the end of our visit, we found out just how good the fruit was that these guys are getting. For example, the fruit that is now going into the Albert Shiraz used to be destined for the Barossa Valley Estate Black Pepper Shiraz. That was until the price paid for the grapes by BVE was so low that the relationship was no longer sustainable. BVE’s loss is Teusner’s gain. Likewise, the fruit that is now going into the FG was regularly destined for Grange. For years, the growers were paid a regular per hectare bonus, but then the bonuses almost stopped. The grower got fed up, and now the grapes are Teusner’s.
Finally, these wines are consistent across the range, and that's always a good thing.
Anyone who has been to Seppeltsfield will know the importance of this property in the Barossa. It is the jewel in the Barossa Crown. When Fosters announced they were going to unload it, there was a huge amount of concerned about what would become of the property. But Seppeltsfield is more than just a property. It's a living, breathing Museum. It's taken over 150 years to turn it into what it is today, and in the wrong hands, it could be wrecked in months. This was the concern when it was put up the sale.
When the sale was announced, and the new owners turned out to be a consortium led by Nathan Waks (Kilikanoon,) everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief. The property was going to be safe. If anyone had the smarts to turn it around, it was Nathan and his partners. What's more, they are involved in the arts and know what the word philanthropy means. They might be investors who are out to make a buck, but they fully understand the intrinsic value of the property they have acquired, and would be sympathetic to its unique situation.
In August 2007 when the sale was announced, I had a phone interview with Nathan to find out his plans. It resulted in an article called “A New Beginning for an Historic Icon.” It was now time to see how the new owners were going and what changes have taken place. Most importantly, were they living up to their original commitment to be sympathetic owners?
Whilst the joint was up the sale, it was in a state of flux. No one knew what would happen; how long it would take to sell, what the new owners would be like, and even if they would have jobs. There were some employees that were more concerned about the integrity of the establishment then they were about their own positions. No one likes to be working in that sort of environment. You have no idea what's going to happen from one day to the next. It's very unsettling and not very comfortable. Staff morale generally tends to take a dive in those sorts of circumstances. Once the sale went through, the uncertainty disappeared. However, I was really interested to see if the mood in the establishment had changed since the sale. The reason I say that is because on past visits to this wonderful establishment, the mood seemed depressing. And that was before the sale was announced.
We drove into the car park, one that is huge in comparison to any other winery in Australia. As usual, it looked forlorn with only a few cars parked in it. We got out and walked towards the winery and so far, nothing had changed. We walked into the office and nothing had changed. I am not sure what to make of this. It could be viewed as positive because they haven't rushed in where angels fear to tread. Or it could be viewed as negative because after nine months no improvements have been made.
We walked into cellar door and it looked basically the same. I say basically because if you look carefully, although superficially it looks the same, it's not. For a start, there is a new cafe in one corner. No big deal, but it's a positive improvement. But it's the little things that have changed that count. Because in their own way they are not little. They are truly significant.
Whilst we were waiting for our contact to arrive, we wandered over to one of the displays. Hello, Hello – what this? New packaging. Now new packaging may not that sound significant until you think about the ramifications. It's not just about aesthetic, although they are important. The Seppelt fortified wines are fabulous. I doubt anyone would argue with that statement. But the image was tired. Very tired; like a geriatric relative who has trouble dragging himself out of bed every day. Sure, the guy may still have a mind like a steel trap, be lovable; and able to whup your arse at chess, but it's depressing watching them making any physical effort. That’s exactly the way I saw the Seppelt Fortified Label. What’s inside was great, but the container was tired.
Let's face it; there are not too many people in the world today drinking Port, let alone sherry. That was one of the major reasons that Seppelt fortified wines were not selling. Sherry was the stuff my grandmother drank when I was a kid, and that was a long time ago. The last time I bought Vintage Port in any quantity was to give to my nephew some of his birth year wine when he hit twenty one. He is now in his early 30s. The market sees many of these wines as horse and buggy material. Cute to look at on rare occasions, but that's about it.
New packaging was important because the brand needs a complete new image. Not a simple makeover; it needed major cosmetic surgery. A total new look.
We looked at the displays and the new packaging looks good. The bottles are modern and classy. The labels are simple and striking. The combined effect is a new, modern, clean, confident and bold image. It's a good look. From what we have seen so far in the repackaging department, the surgery looks like it has been a success. But, and it's a huge but; it'll take more than packaging to resurrect Seppelt and make the Seppeltsfield brand a success. Much more. The challenge is not only just to make the wine pay, but the infrastructure, and especially the site itself, which has cost them a huge amount of money, has also got to pay. Achieving this will be a huge task.
Although the changes we noticed were reasonably subtle and the place still looked much the same way it did the last time I was here, the small changes are significant. More important than the subtle changes to the look, was the feel of the place. Walking into cellar door used to be a fairly depressing experience. It could never be described as a bright, modern, airy facility. It had a dark, depressing, old fashioned, Victorian feel about the place. The physical changes may be small, but the atmosphere feels like a tropical cyclone has been through the place. A cyclone named Nathan. In the nine months since the announcement was made that they were taking over, Nathan has managed to build a level of enthusiasm and excitement that I'd never seen in this place. The staff are gung ho about the future. They are revved up and ready to make it happen. The atmosphere is positive and enthusiastic. That level of staff commitment will be critical in achieving their goals. Nathan is no fool. He has brilliantly orchestrated a commitment by the staff, to the future of the operation.
Our first point of contact was Nigel Thiele, the Cellar Door Supervisor. According to Nigel, its still “business as usual” as far as the cellar door visitor numbers are concerned, but they expect them to increase as they bring the old " village atmosphere" back.
We then met Mike Christopherson the Director of Operations and then went for a “walk up the hill” to the old gravity winery. Hike up the mountain is more like it! One of the first objectives of the new owners was to get this winery operational again. If anything, it was more important to get this antique going, than the modern, main winery which last crushed in 2004. Since that time, the modern winery was cannibalised and insignificant pieces of equipment like crushers and presses were moved to other Fosters facilities.
According to Mike, the gravity fed winery has a disproportionate amount of passion attached to it, and that's why it got all the attention. They were getting the original winery ready to do between 50 and 100 tonnes, and the main winery ready to process 5,000 tonnes, and the original winery was getting the attention.
The old winery has now had four of its open fermenters recommissioned.
They have also turned two of the fermenters into lagars, the traditional fermenters used to make Port. These low height (half a meter) rough lined granite vessels were designed so that foot stomping was easy. They are hardly used any more in Portugal, the exception being a small number of them in the Douro Valley, but James Godfrey, the fortified winemaker had a hankering for a couple of them.
Apparently in Portugal, they have developed mechanical feet to do the stomping. But that's not authentic, so it won't be used here. More importantly, let's face it, mechanical feet don't have foot odour so the resulting wine will be less complex.
As one would expect, there have been many changes that had taken place in the array of winemaking equipment over last hundred and fifty years. Whilst it’s the intention to keep the integrity of the gravity fed winery intact, that's easy to do if you don't use it. Once the decision had been made to recommission the winery there were two sets of competing interests. Heritage versus occupational health and safety. Assuming the management doesn't want to go to jail, the occupational health and safety rules have got to be more than just seriously considered, certain aspects have to be implemented. This has resulted in a certain amount of modern mechanisation, that in all honesty does not fit into this winery, and in my opinion is a bloody eyesore, but Seppeltsfield had no choice in the matter.
Electric Cranes and Chillers - Not Really Circa 1890
Over time, the plan is to increase the working capacity of the gravity fed winery and offer from the facility to winemakers who don't have their own winemaking operation. The sort of equipment that will be found here will be very attractive to those wishing to make wine in a traditional fashion.
As we walked down the hill and back towards the cellar door, Mike told us about other potential changes. The first is a micro brewery. Mike worked at Southcorp prior to the Fosters takeover and by coincidence, he has a bit of a brewing background, so if the project goes ahead, he is ideally placed to assist in its development. When I asked why a micro brewery, the Pie King jumped in before Mike could draw breath. “Because it makes beer and people like beer,” he said. Oh, silly me!
Mike provided a more considered response than his Pieship. “It's a big site and can offer a lot more than what is here at the moment. It's got lovely old buildings but visitor numbers have been static. We need to give people reasons to come back for another visit. We have to generate activity that will bring in the visitors. Music will be high on the agenda. The final event of the International Cello Festival that was held in Adelaide was held here at the distillery. As a venue, the place lends itself to those sorts of events. We have empty buildings that are ripe for re-use now.”
They have all sorts of interesting plans and ideas. When I was a kid, Seppelt's vinegar was a staple on the supermarket shelf. They plan to go back to the future, but not with bulk, industrial vinegar, the idea is to make the good stuff. As well as the sour, they are also thinking about the sweet. Seppelt Raspberry cordial used to be a hit with the kids, and many “big kids” too, as it was not as sweet as other cordials. They are looking at the possibility of bringing this back as one of a number of boutique food lines.
The potential uses for various areas of the site are as long a piece of string and only limited by the imagination. It lends itself to everything from artsy, fartzy, crafty “stuff” to providing a kiosk selling wine and other goodies to those coming to picnic in the grounds, and even a working cooperage is being considered.
Seppelt also used to make one other product that was extremely popular with males in their late teens. Seppelt Cherry Brandy was an absolute legend with the blokes in my day. We wouldn't drink the shit, not unless we wanted to be branded a poofter, but we loved it because the girls loved it, and it was the greatest leg opener ever invented. Oh, I know how sexist and politically incorrect that all sounds, but that's the way it was in the late 1960s (and prior, for those older than I am that can still remember those carefree days.) There is no truth in the rumour that Cherry Brandy is not being considered because Nathan has teenage daughters.
At this point, we said goodbye to Mike and were handed over to the Godfather of Australian Fortified Wine, James Godfrey. James is the caretaker for the most unique collection of fortified wines in the world. Not even anything in Portugal can match it. He is a winemaker, but his best wines won't be drunk by him, or even by his children. Possibly by his grandchildren, but more likely by his great grandchildren. Yes, his children and his grandchildren will get to drink some damn fine wine that James has made, but the best parcels of his wines will slumber away for a hundred years before they reach their sublime peak. Whilst the place has to pay for itself, eventually, it is a long-term business, and that presents a unique set of business challenges. But those challenges belong to the board, not to the man that makes the wine.
James now has split responsibility. Besides looking after the Seppeltsfield fortified wines, he is also responsible for looking after the Fosters fortified wines. As to which company gets the priority, I doubt that enters into James's thoughts; knowing him, it would be the wine that required his attention that was served first.
We descended the stairs to the level below the cellar door for a private tasting. The room we were in has to be seen to be believed. I am not going to try and describe it because my words could not convey the picture.
What’s coming next is a little different to normal. The objective is to give you an impression, or an overview, of their fortified range and the new wines that are being introduced. It's more like a top level perspective, and extensive tasting notes will not be provided, although you will get impressions on some of them. I am not going to use my tasting notes exclusively to describe the wines, for two reasons. Firstly I didn't take more than cursory impressions and secondly, I doubt there is anyone that can describe the wines we tried more accurately than James. So I will use his words as well as my own. But you needn't worry about bias, James’s descriptions are factual rather than floral, and he had no idea I was going to use his words to describe the wines.
James said, “Fundamentally nothing has changed with the blends, the soleros; it's all intact and together, which is lovely.”
James is a master of the understatement.
“As an industry, we need to work out what we are going to call these wines. (Australia has initialled an agreement which will preclude us from using words like Sherry, Port etc. Once the agreement is signed, we will have twelve months to change all the names.) That is progressing pretty well. I am on a committee that is looking at a whole lot of research that has been carried out for us. We are going in with very open minds as to what they will come up with. In the case of Sherry for example, they will have to come up with a new category name, and then new names for the individual styles. The change of name, and hence the identity away from the use of words like Sherry can only be a good thing. We need to move away from the brown paper bag and park bench image. ”
We started off with the Sherry. All three bottles have been repackaged into the new 500ml bottles. Seppeltsfield Vera Viola Oloroso sells for $30 at cellar door. The wine is very nutty, but is supposed to be that way. It is fresh and has beautiful acid. James: “It's made from 18-year-old material with three Beaumé; it has a bit of sweetness. The grapes used were Palomino and a bit of Grenache. The whole principle around the Seppeltsfield style is to be fresh. It's all in the balance. They are all worked every year and bottling takes place regularly. We encourage people to buy them when they need them, and not to hoard them. That way they are always fresh. ”
Seppeltsfield 2001 Show Vintage Port sells for $19 for a 375ml bottle. The bouquet was unmistakably Australian VP. It's a blend of Shiraz and Touriga and has been made with fruit sourced from both the Barossa and McLaren Vale. The spirit is also clean and distinctive. James: “It has a few earthy hints but it has that lovely spirit. It has some aniseed characters and finishes fresh. It has eight Beaumé, so it's drier than Portuguese Port. We are using Shiraz to keep it uniquely Australian but the Touriga gives it some elegance and finesse, rather than the blousy, 40’s, 50’s and 60s style of Australian VP. In their own style, they were beautiful, but these are more elegant. They are also great with food.” There were also all sorts of spices and musk too, and the persistence on the finish was lovely.
We then moved on to the Tawny range. There are five wines in the series.
The first wine in this series is new. Seppeltsfield Cellar No 7 Tawny sells for $20. This is an entry-level Tawny. James: “It's mainly Grenache but there is some Shiraz and other varieties too. It's designed to be clean, fresh and have nice hints fruit with a little bit of nuttiness, raisin characters, some oak, and a little rancio. It's designed to be soft, simple and uncomplicated. It's beautifully balanced and put together, but it's not trying to be something it's not.” He hit the nail on the head. I certainly found it clean and fresh and also noticed some citrus characters.
From a personal perspective, I don't like this new label design/colour........
The next wine we tried was the Para Grand Tawny, which was previously known as the Bin Para. It retails at $29 a bottle. Gone are the days of the old, distinctive and unique bottle shape. These have also been repackaged in line with the rest of the series, and notice it is no longer called Port. According to James, it had to go because it was becoming increasingly difficult to find anyone to manufacture it. It was also a nightmare to bottle of wine. If ever there was a time to change it, it was now.
We then moved on to the first of the three wines that qualify for the “Rare Classification.”
In July a new offering will be released. It will be known as the DP 90 Rare Tawny and will be sold in a 500ml bottle. Pricing has not been finalised. It will not have a Para label, and is designed to be very different to the Para wines it is a blend of various aged material. There is a noticeable step up in quality with this wine. James: “This wine is incredibly complex, it's more ‘spiritous’, it’s finer and more elegant.” It’s a bloody nice drop.
Para 1983 Liqueur Tawny sells for $75 for a 750ml bottle. This is the second of the wines in the Rare Category. As the name suggests, it’s a liqueur style of wine, which is uniquely Australian. James: “This wine is nutty and viscous.”
Para 1987 Tawny is another new wine that will be released in July. At twenty-one years of age, it will be sold in 500ml bottles. This wine is a more traditional style. James: “This wine is more acidic, meatier and drier than the 83.
James: “It's lovely now to have the three Rare products. They are all unique and different. As an exercise, you can talk about styles, blending and what that does, and single vintages. As a winemaker, they all fascinate me. They all have different reasons for being interesting and for existing. And I guess, if I didn't like it, I wouldn't make it. Tradition plays an amazing influence in what I have done, but I have put my influence and stamp on it. At this level, you generally do tend to make things that you really like.
We then moved onto the Rutherglen Tokay series. These three wines will also eventually undergo a name change and will no longer be known as Tokay. They follow the Rutherglen Classification System for both the Tokay and a Muscat, although they only have three wines in each series rather than four. They don't have wines at the Classic level. James explained why. “I look at the four and think, okay, the Rare is easy. It's the best of everything we do. It's the epiphany of everything we do; serious age and serious fruit. In theory the Rutherglen is easy with the right fruit. It's a down the line, pristine example of Muscadelle fruit. You can get all the variants on it with tea leaves, toffee, malt and fish oils and those sorts of characters. The Grand is not too hard to identify because it's old; it's aged. It's designed to show what age looks like in Muscadelle. The Classic is where I run aground. Is it young and fruity, or is it old, or is it halfway in-between; but what is halfway in-between. When the eight makers sit down and look at all the wines we are putting up for the classifications, the one classification that is the most confusing is the Classic. It's probably good to be there to have the logical progression, but those are the reasons why we don't have the Classic.
The thing that makes us different on these wines from the others is that we use small wood. We think we can get better aged intensity this way. It’s all about house style. Every one of the eight producers is different, which is beautiful. Muscat is not Muscat. Even within each category level the wines are all very different.”
We then moved on to the Muscat. The Seppeltsfield style of Muscat is aimed at being more on the floral, aromatic side with rose petal characters. The Grand Muscat we tried did not show well. It had only been bottled a few weeks previously, so it's quite possible that bottle shock was the culprit.
Both the Rare Tokay and Muscat are currently sealed in a 500ml bottle but the new release will be in 375ml bottles. It’s likely that the price per ml between the old release and the new will increase. By how much no one knows, and those that do are not telling. The old 500ml Rare Tokay (in particular) was fantastic value. If you can find a couple of the 500ml bottles, grab them. You won’t be sorry.
The final wine we tried was the hundred year old Para 1908. What a sensational wine. The hundred-year-old Para is the most expensive wines sold in Australia today. It used to cost $1,000 for a 750 ml bottle. It still costs the same amount, but it now comes in a 375 ml bottle. Effectively, they have just double the value of that inventory. The value of the aged Para inventory is $130 million.
During our conversation with the staff members, when they were telling us about the achievements since the takeover, from an outsider's perspective, the steps they have taken have been very small, and in many cases in reality, it looks like no big deal. But it is a big deal. It's important to the staff because although the steps may be small, for the first time in decades they are doing something positive to try and grow, expand and make the business successful. You have to be able to crawl before you can learn to walk and run. The old Seppelt fortified business was a cot case and they are only now just learning how to crawl again. But it's exciting for them because they can see the future and know it will only be a matter of time before they are sprinting.
We decided to have dinner that night at Vintners Bar and Grill. Reid had been kind enough to give us some open bottles of Kaesler wine to have with dinner. (Kaesler is one winery where we do accept the offer of young wines to drink at night instead of the older wines we bring with us. We know they drink well with food even when young and so we make a rare exception.) It's just as well that was the case. It turned out I hadn't tried the Alte Reben at the winery so it gave me a chance to have a good look at it here. It was also interesting to see how the wines had developed after they had had a little air, and that gave me the opportunity to adjust the tasting notes accordingly.
For a starter, I ordered a theoretical bouillabaisse of King Island mussels, prawns, and scallops with aioli and crusted bread. It was served in a very light fishy stock, together with finally chopped onion and capsicum. It was as advertised, and had flavour, but it was a very delicate dish. There was nothing wrong with it, but it didn't do much for me.
For a main course, I ordered crispy duck breast with shallots on a shitake and enoki mushroom risotto. When it arrived, it looked stunning. Half of the risotto was crammed full of flavour, yet the other half of the dish seemed like it was a little bland. In theory, that sounds like it's impossible, but whilst I was typing this up, I realised how it could be done. The only logical explanation would be that the risotto came from two different batches, although that does sound a little unlikely. Still, overall the dish was most enjoyable and the duck was superb.
Brian ordered a sirloin steak that was topped with baba ghanoush (it was a great steak, perfectly cooked) and John ordered fish. Speaking of fish, the subject of fish oil supplements came up over dinner and their potential therapeutic benefit. John said, "It doesn't matter which brand I take, by morning tea time I am burping mullet.”
A little while later, we were discussing how much money John made. Donald Trump he isn't. In the looks department he is not even close and in the finance department Donny (as he is called by his close mates) would spend more on dry-cleaning than John earns, but John said, “I think you two underestimate how bright I am.” That brought a tsunami wave of laughter.
For dessert, I ordered a chocolate soufflé with poached pear and mascarpone. It was cooked to perfection, but possibly just a touch too sweet.
Overall, the dinner was certainly very good, but in the past I think I have had better food here.
Brian and I normally stay at the Weintal Motel, but unfortunately we couldn't get three nights of accommodation there. In fact three nights of accommodation anywhere in the Barossa at a reasonable price over this weekend was almost impossible. It was the Barossa Motor Lodge or an application to the bank manager for an increase in overdraft facility. At $100 a night, it was not particularly impressive. It's very tired, and in need of a makeover. The lighting in the bathroom would preclude women from putting on makeup easily, not that it bothered me.
It lacks what are now regarded as basic necessities. For example, a power point near the table so that you can plug your computer in. There is also no phone jack near the table, making Internet phone access difficult, and their broadband service was at a fixed terminal in the foyer, not even wireless.
My bed was something else. The mattress was in serious need of replacement.
On our previous tour through Seppeltsfield a few years ago, which was our last visit to a winery on that trip, two things happened. The first was that by the time I walked out of there I was not in good shape. I had come down with a revolting cold. The second was even more of a concern. I had recorded two hours of conversation to write the story. When it came time to transcribe the story from my recorded notes, the recordings were there, but there was nothing but two hours of static. My recorder had carked it. It looked like it had worked, but both it and I had been infected with the dreaded Seppeltsfield Disease. I was not impressed.
As a precaution, at the end of every day I transfer my dictated notes to my laptop. When we got back to the motel, the first thing I tried to do was to transfer the notes. I say tried, because, Houston, we have a problem. The damn things didn't want to transfer. My recorder was dead. Bloody hell! Not again. And this time it would be worse as I would have lost a whole day of recording. I mucked around for about an hour and after swearing at it profusely, either that worked or the gods were smiling on me, because I was able to get the days files transferred. I went to bed a relieved man. But a warning to others, don't take digital recorders to Seppeltsfield. And make sure that you leave your laptops in the car. Lord knows what that the ghosts of Seppeltsfield would do to one of those.
I think I should probably send them the bill for the new one!
There's a lot more good stuff coming in the next chapter as we continue our sojourn through the Barossa. Stay tuned.
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