Wed 15 Feb 2012

South Australia Series, Part Three: d’Arenberg

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With d'Arenberg's Claire Scott
After a brilliant and informative staff tasting here at the Wine Society offices last year, I was eagerly anticipating my visit to d?Arenberg in McLaren Vale to meet up with Claire Scott who is now based back in Adelaide (after the usual Aussie jaunt in London!).

This year d?Arenberg celebrates their centenary and all that the family has achieved in the last 100 years. Wine production began in the family in 1912, with Frank Osborn embracing the vineyard after purchasing a property with his father Joseph. In 1957 Frank?s son d?Arry became the third generation winemaker and created his own label, d?Arenberg, named after his mother. The now famous label, with its familiar red stripe and coat of arms, continues to achieve national and international success. One of Australia?s First Families of Wine, the brand is now headed by fourth generation vigneron, viticulturalist, experimentalist and chief winemaker Chester Osborn or more affectionately, The Wild Pixie (the eponymous and delicious wine is a Society exclusive).

Our visit began with lunch at d?Arrys Verandah, adjoining the cellar door and overlooking a blanket of gloriously green vineyards ? a contrast to the usually brown Australian summer. The setting is beautiful and the food equally impressive. My slow roast pork belly and pork mignon with fresh peach pickle, kohlrabi and radish slaw was scrumptious, and was delightfully accompanied by The Money Spider ? a roussane with a floral nose, exotic fruit flavours of peach and paw paw; a little spicy, slightly nutty and great acidity for cutting through the succulent, juicy pork belly.

Tasting was informal and relaxed, much like the vibe of the whole place, and began with a glass of fizz ? the yet to be publicly released centenary celebration label (lucky me!). After tasting a few whites with lunch, we swiftly moved through to some gnarly reds including The Footbolt Shiraz (£11.50 per bottle): gorgeous ruby red in colour, black fruit, a hint of some red fruit, peppery and sweet spice, eucalypt and oak ? affordable for everyday drinking but delicious and with good potential to age.

With an array of interesting labels ? Feral Fox, Derelict Vineyard, Galvo Garage? ? it was comforting to wrap my hands around a glass of the iconic Dead Arm Shiraz (£27 per bottle), knowing the meaning of its name! Named after a vineyard condition that affects the vine, giving it a ?dead arm?, it is produced from small bunches of concentrated, highly flavoured grapes on the healthy part of the vine. Much love and attention is given to this one, gently pressed and matured for nearly two years it is complex and elegant with deep black purple fruit and floral layers with gentle oak, sweet spice and liquorice.

Casually strolling through, chatting to staff and generally keeping in tune with day to day activities, d?Arry ? now in his 80?s ? stopped to chat to us and show us his boat, locked up in a shed on the winery grounds. At this point, I realised it is still very much a family place but with an ?artist? at its helm making the brand bigger and better. Chester?s direction for d?Arenberg appears to encompass two branches, retaining great classics and icons, sticking to what works, but also experimenting with new blends to give d?Arenberg an edge on their tough competition. ?Chin, chin?, d?Arenberg, you have won me over!

Jo Mansell
Member Services

For a list of d’Arenberg wines stocked currently by The Society – as well as a chance to buy tickets for our centenary tastings with Chester Osborn in May – click here.

Categories : Australia

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