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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.
AUSTRALIA: Very promising quality with the most optimistic reviewers declaring 2018 great in every region and for every variety. The more cautious view is that early frosts reduced yields, but that consistent good weather throughout the second half of the growing season actually resulted in great potential.
Barossa 2018 vintage to savor
The 2018 Barossa vintage was completed at the end of April 2018, with growers and winemakers satisfied with a high quality vintage and good yields.
“The flavors and colors of the reds are wonderful, and the natural acids in the Eden Valley whites surprisingly high, with early varieties this year including Riesling, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet,” said Louisa Rose, head of winemaking at Yalumba.
The growing season is off to a good start, with winter 2017 precipitation about 10% above average. However, spring rainfall was only 78% of average in the Barossa Valley (BV) and 98% in the Eden Valley (EV), and December rainfall was only 57%. % of average in BV (88% in EV).
Drier soils, combined with warmer than average days in October and November (October 2ºC above average in VB (1.8ºC in EV) and November 1.1ºC above average in BV (1.6 ºC in EV), allowed the vine canopies to grow quickly, to flower well and to form a good number of clusters.
January and February were hot and dry, with very hot temperatures in February slowing the rate of ripening. January was slightly above average (1.4°C during the day but closer to average at night) and February was about average during the day, but with nighttime temperatures significantly warmer than average. average in the Barossa Valley (5.8°C warmer).
With summer rainfall at 50% of average, growers with access to water, soil moisture monitoring, good irrigation management and healthy soils experienced less stress – and subsequently delivered healthy 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 ending the vintage. The 28-30mm of rain on April 14-15 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% from the five-year average. In 2018, Eden Valley crushed 11,593 tonnes*, down 3% compared to 2017.
The total Barossa crush of 68,563 tonnes* represented 9% of the total volume and 25% of the total crush value in South Australia.
Average prices for Barossa Valley varieties remained stable in 2018, with Shiraz at $2252 per tonne, down 1% from last year. At Eden Valley, the average price of Shiraz increased by 11% to $2636 per tonne and Cabernet Sauvignon increased by 15% to $2354.
*Wine Australia estimates the response rate for wine grape crush in South Africa to be 85%, so the actual total Barossa crush is estimated at between 75,000 and 80,000 tonnes.