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RunRig is the flagship wine of the Australian Torbreck Vintners. Formed in 1994 in the historical hamlet of Marananga, Torbreck has quickly become one of the Barossa Valley’s leading wine producers. Since those first wines were released, they have attracted universal acclaim and are now highly prized by wine connoisseurs around the world. Still, Torbreck is a privately owned and operated company, following the philosophy, direction and passionate beliefs of the founder winemaker David Powell. Accordingly, this is more than just a story about producing fine wine; it also illustrates how a unique relationship between a region’s heritage and its old vineyards can be reinvigorated by one person’s vision and enthusiasm.
It was in the early 1990s that the idea of Torbreck began to take shape. Initially, David was saddened by the government-sponsored “vine pull”, but he was also convinced that a market existed for old Rhône styles. He set about approaching local landowners concerning their neglected properties. Nearly lifeless and overgrown, the old vines were nurtured back to health and Powell was rewarded with a few small parcels of dry grown fruit, which he turned into wine. Contracts were then negotiated for the use of the vineyards, and so the old practice of share farming returned to the Valley. This secured for Torbreck a regular supply from the best Barossa Shiraz, Grenache, and Mataro (Mourvedre) vineyards containing some of the oldest vines in the world.
As the fruits of the first vintages lay in barrel, Powell realised that the Valley may have overlooked the suitability of the French white Rhône varieties. Consequently in 1994, 30 acres of land in Marananga was purchased for the sole purpose of planting Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier and Shiraz, whilst other acquisitions included a 100-year-old vineyard that had previously been share farmed.
Very promising quality with the most bullish commentators declaring 2018 great in every region and for every variety. The more circumspect view is that early frosts reduced yields, but good, consistent weather throughout the second half of the growing season did indeed result in great potential.
2018 Barossa vintage one to savour
Barossa 2018 vintage wrapped up at the end of April 2018, with grape growers and winemakers happy with a high-quality vintage and good yields.
“Flavours and colours in reds are wonderful, and natural acids in the Eden Valley whites surprisingly high, with early standout varieties this year including Riesling, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet”, said Yalumba head of winemaking Louisa Rose.
The growing season started off well, with Winter 2017 rainfall around 10% higher than average. However, Spring rainfall was only 78% of average in Barossa Valley (BV) and 98% in Eden Valley (EV), and December rainfall was only 57% of average in BV (88% in EV).
Drier soils, combined with warmer than average October and November days (October 2ºC above average in BV (1.8 ºC in EV) and November 1.1ºC above average in BV (1.6 ºC in EV), meant the vine canopies grew quickly; flowering well and setting a good number of bunches.
January and February were warm and dry, with very warm temperatures in February slowing down the pace of ripening. January was slightly above average (1.4ºC during the day but closer to average at night) and February was about average during the day, but with significantly warmer than average night time temperatures in Barossa Valley (5.8ºC warmer).
With summer rainfall 50% of average, growers with access to water, soil moisture monitoring, good irrigation management and healthy soils experienced less stress – and subsequently delivered sound fruit and consistent yields.
The Indian summer of March and early April was ‘the icing on the cake’, with average temperatures, without extremes, perfect for finishing off vintage. The 28-30mm of rain on 14/15 April did not cause any major problems for picking – and was a welcome post-harvest watering for most Barossa growers.
Overall, in 2018, Barossa Valley crushed 56,970 tonnes*, down 22% from the 2017 vintage but 9% above the five-year average. In 2018, Eden Valley crushed 11,593 tonnes*, down 3% from 2017.
The total Barossa crush of 68,563 tonnes* contributed 9% of the total volume and 25% of the total value of the South Australian crush.
Average prices for Barossa Valley varieties remained steady in 2018, with Shiraz at $2252 per tonne 1% down on last year. In Eden Valley, the average price for Shiraz increased 11% to $2636 per tonne and Cabernet Sauvignon increased 15% to $2354.
*Wine Australia estimates the SA Winegrape crush response rate is 85%, so the actual total Barossa crush is estimated at 75,000 to 80,000 tonnes.