On Monday 5th November – a smokey night in Nottingham – Anna & Paul led us through a tasting of six McLaren Vale Wines from D’Arenberg – all based on Grencahe and/or Syrah and/or Mourvèdre.

D’Arenberg  was established in 1912, and the winemaking is now in the hands of the fourth generation, Chester Osborn who says: “I aim to make the loudest, most aromatic, fruit-flavoured wines that have great palate texture and are free of obvious oak: I look for tannins that are long, lively, gritty and youthful with fragrant fruit minerality.”

200 hectares of vines are used to make d’Arenberg’s wines (both estate and leased vineyards) and they are all certified organic and biodynamic. This makes them the largest biodynamic grower in Australia. Furthermore, 50% of the estate’s own vineyards are more than 50 years old, which fits well with the estate’s “mission”.

Altogether d’Arenberg make 72 different wines (probably the largest range in Australia) from 37 varieties grown on over 400 different parcels.

Every white and red wine is pressed in old wooden basket presses, with each red ferment foot-trodden too. Red ferments take place in five tonne open fermenters with wooden hammer boards to submerge the cap.

Do the wines match the mission? Let’s see – here are my notes:


THE CUSTODIAN GRENACHE 2011
(85% Grenache with Syrah + 1% Viognier). Plums to the fore initially and some leaf-mould, vegetal notes, spice and a hint of sawdust…. The palate has supple fruit with a warm cherry-liqueur middle, quite long with sharper and savoury elements and a soft tannic frame…

THE LOVE GRASS SHIRAZ 2013
Darker than the previous wine, more blackberry flavours with a port hint – liquorice, baking spice… Palate has salinity and peppery sweet fruit, tannins and port hints re-surface – very big but wearing its size relatively well.

D’ARRY’S ORIGINAL SHIRAZ/GRENACHE 2013
This is pretty well 50:50 of its constituent grapes. 40 years ago this was launched as “Burgundy” and retains the bottle shape. Very intense dark fruit nose with woody hints. Palate is rich – one might say heavy – with sweet briary fruit with an earthy touch and not much to counter-point it, Big but not, strangely, really very vinous. Not at all like any Burgundy I’ve ever drunk (and there has been a bit….)!

THE BONSAI VINE GRENACHE/SHIRAZ/MOURVEDRE 2013
(GSM:: 48:46:6 from rock-based shallow soil). Very fruit driven nose – plums, damsons and black fruit… The palate is pliant with rich but quite firm tannins framing the long warm fruit. The tannins add balance but this needs food, in the same spectrum as a big S. Rhone village.

THE DERELICT VINEYARD GRENACHE 2011
From old vines, this has open fruity nose, plums again recalling wine 1, but fresher, longer and subtler even though there are woody hints. Palate has supple fruit with a good acidity and spicy tannins giving a cool three-way balance… Lovely!

THE DEAD ARM SHIRAZ 2013
This is from vines that have lost branches to a vine disease caused by Eutypa Lata. One half, or an arm of the vine slowly becomes reduced to dead wood. The grapes on the other side, while very low yielding display amazing intensity. The nose of this is brooding black fruit, tight with slight tarry and woody hints. The palate is also tarry, showing sharp fruit-acid with mineral earth notes, spices again and a big structure in recess… Behind all this there is a very sweet fruit and (to my palate) a hint of that saltiness waiting to evolve. Tried again an hour later that proves true: a very big, very well made, relatively balanced version of big McLaren Shiraz.

These are very interesting wines, which certainly fall in with the winemakers aims. They are big  (they are all 14.2 – 14.6 % abv!) and to my palate some area bit too big. Certainly within the Australian vernacular, if you like that, these wines have a lot to recommend them. I appreciated all the wines – except for D’Arry’s Original – but the wines I really liked were the Grenaches. With the Derelict winning the night.

An excellent tour around this part of the wine world! Thanks so much Ann and Paul…

À Bientôt

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