Grapevine Archive for d’Arenberg
It is, quite literally, a rotten name: an asexual spore that causes the phenomenon known as ?noble rot? (latterly known as botrytis cinera), named after the German botanist who first discovered the spore, Karl Wilhelm Gottlieb Fuckel. Noble rot dehydrates the grapes on the vine, concentrating the sugars and making the great sweet wines of Sauternes, Tokaji and elsewhere.
I was delighted with readers? responses, which were often as witty as they were thoughtful. Most importantly, there was an overwhelming degree of support for us listing the wine.
This has been taken on board: though the first batch was so small that it sold out in a matter of days, I am delighted to announce that a new shipment has arrived for members to purchase.
We were able to get hold of this latest consignment after a large merchant cancelled their order on account of the name. With our members? enthusiastic comments in my mind, I therefore stepped in and bought all we could get hold of. This still isn?t much ? it?s very rare ? so anyone who would like some is advised to order quickly.
The wine uses the classic Sauternes blend of semillon (77%) and sauvignon blanc (23%), grown in McLaren and Adelaide Hills. It is beautifully made, fragrant and luscious, but also refreshing, and would make a fine partner to fruit-based desserts. D?Arenberg?s winemaker Chester Osborn can be seen here enjoying it with a passionfruit soufflé and explaining more about it:
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!
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.
I know many members will adore the wine, so I shipped a small quantity (it’s very rare).
Straightforward so far. More complicated has been the debate it has caused at our office in Stevenage. The wine’s name, as you might expect from Chester, is especially quirky, quite lewd sounding in fact, and some may even say offensive (despite being technically correct)…
Should The Wine Society list it in all its glory or not? We would be interested in your comments.
Perhaps, for some, tasting nine wines at 10.15am on a Wednesday morning may seem out of the ordinary and slightly too much to take on. But when you are in company of Claire Scott, a lively, passionate representative of d’Arenberg Wines from Adelaide, South Australia, you can’t help but be excited about what’s on offer.
Being an Adelaidean myself, perhaps my excitement was more for the area these wines come from and the memories of home. However, on tasting these wines and hearing of the stories and passion behind them, I left feeling that d’Arenberg is about more than just the wet stuff – it’s the character, the personality and the commitment to their product which make them as successful as they are.
Established in 1912, by Joseph Osborn, d’Arenberg is headed by fourth generation winemaker, Chester Osborn – who describes himself as slightly crazy. In daring to be different he planted grape varieties traditionally associated with France, Spain and Italy – including marsanne, roussanne, viognier, tempranillo, sangiovese and sagrantino – not knowing what they would create.
Fortunately their McLaren Vale location, with its proximity to the ocean providing cooling ocean breezes and its Mediterranean climate, proved these varieties to be a success and d’Arenberg have planted their feet solidly in the wine market both in Australia and internationally.
The real personality of Chester Osborn comes through not only the wine, but through an eclectic collection of titles including: The Money Spider, The Coppermine Road, The Footbolt, The Wild Pixie (referring to Chester himself), The Dead Arm and d’Arry’s Original, each with a personal story behind it.
For me, particular highlights of the tasting included the modestly priced d’Arenberg White Ochre (£6.95), a blended white which is deliciously fruity, fresh and floral on the nose, and does not disappoint on the palate. Perfect with light salads, fish, or as an aperitif, this wine is summer in a glass.
For the reds, the d’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz – their most reputable wine – provides a complexity that gives a deep, ruby red colour, red fruit and spicy character on the nose, and definitely delivers on the palate. Spicy, mocha, liquorice and aniseed flavours combine with good body and tannin to create a well balanced red which will develop to an even greater level with age. Perfect with an Aussie barbie!
In celebration of their centurion achievement next year in 2012, the Osborn family are taking their creations to the next level and are currently in production of a sparkling wine with the working title of DADD – perhaps to be comically paired with the well known Mumm? – to add to their cracking range.
I tilt my glass to the Osborn family and the pride that shouts “don’t just drink me, enjoy and savour me” from their wines.