This year Thorn-Clarke Wines has celebrated 30 years of the founding of the Thorn-Clarke partnership. 30 Years ago we planted our first Vineyard at our property on the Barossa Valley floor just south of Tanunda called Kabininge. This signalled the beginning of the Thorn-Clarke business and from there, the rest is history.
On the 15th November we celebrated this achievement with a dinner in our beautiful cellar door gardens. Normally you would be safe in thinking November would provide warm, dry weather, unfortunately we got the coldest and wettest day of the month! Even though the weather wasn’t as favourable as we would have liked everyone had a great time.
Sprout cooking supplied some amazing food with former Masterchef contestant Callum Hahn and Themus Chryssidis providing a great selection of food and a big tray of local oysters! What more could you want. We were also luck to have local band Colonel Mustard provide the music in what was their 200th gig together!
2017 has been an excellent year with a near record harvest from our Estate vineyards, a long slow growing season delivered us quality fruit and lots of it.
We also achieved a record crush through our Milton Park winery. The vineyard and winery teams worked well together to make it look easy.
The onset of winter saw our vineyards meet another year of cutting back ‘dead arm’ or Eutypa which is a fungal infection that reduces yield and can kill vines – boring stuff but essential to the longevity and productivity of the vines.
The winery received some new winery equipment including a de-stemmer, filter and tanks – all important for improving quality of our wines and ensuring we are equipped to make the best possible.
Exporting to over 20 markets globally it is exciting to see a number of Asian markets developing a taste for our wines, while Europe and North America have long been good markets for our wines we are increasingly shipping more into Asia.
Our offices are currently undergoing some construction work. What was a section of our offices will soon become a private tasting and wine experiences room. This work will be completed in 2018 and allow us to accommodate groups, events and trade visitors in a smaller and more intimate space than our Cellar Door currently offers.
30 Years Old! In 1987 our Kabininge vineyard near Tanunda was planted, this planting was the first step in what has evolved to become Thorn-Clarke! We celebrated a 30th Birthday in November at the winery with a collection of people who all played a part in the winery becoming what it is today – past and present staff, suppliers, friends and customers.
The year has been filled with both challenges and successes – most of which have been fun….
We wish you all the best for the coming festive season and 2018, we hope you enjoy plenty of quality time, food and wine with loved ones.
Here are some of the images from what ended up being a wet but fun 30 year celebration.
With the warmer weather upon us the 2017 whites are coming into their own. The cooler conditions in the Barossa in 2017 have led to beautifully expressive wines that will perfect for the festive season. The Eden Trail and Sandpiper Rieslings will be drinking perfectly to take the edge of the heat of the day. Drink these while enjoying fresh oysters and prawns. The Sandpiper Pinot Gris and Chardonnay have a little more body and complexity and will be perfect for Christmas day. Try them with turkey with cranberry, chicken with gravy or pork and apple sauce.
A person can’t live off white wine alone though and our reds will definitely hit the mark. The 2015 William Randell Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon were released last month and both are drinking beautifully at the moment. The Shiraz has a powerful palate with blackberry, dark chocolate and smoky oak. This would work well with roasted leg of lamb with a red wine sauce. The Cabernet is from the cooler Eden Valley area and shows lashings of black currant, ripe plums and savoury oak. If you like a bbq, a nice steak and this wine will match perfectly.
Don’t forget our 2016 Shotfire and Sandpiper reds either. They are looking vibrant and plush at the moment and can be enjoyed by the glass or with a holiday meal.
It was great to look back of 30 years of Thorn-Clarke recently and celebrate the occasion with many of our employees, supporters and customers.
I know it is a bit of a cliché but we started from the ground up literally. Buying some land was our first step. Followed by leaning on various family members to help out.
The later went on for quite a while but eventually Thorn-Clarke emerged as a Vineyard focused winemaker. Even though 30 years sounds like a long time it has gone in the blink of an eye. Every year brings new wines, new ideas and new customers and it’s a great place to be.
Of great help to us in the early years were my two Grandfathers. One was a winegrape grower and farmer all his life with a very dry sharp sense of humour. The other a retired school teacher with a sharp mind and love for the land. They were quite dissimilar in character. But both were a great help to us. One of my first jobs on the vineyard was to help water them, as baby vines need a good drink to get established. We had an old Bedford truck which had been rigged up with a water tank on the back and we spent the day driving up and down the rows of vines watering them by hand. In the middle of Summer it was a good workout!
Later on when we were establishing the winery we had this old genset up that needed constant attention. Keeping the winery running on this old genset was one of banes of our lives. It was a great day when we could finally connect up mains power and put that old genset to rest. So it is kind of ironic that next year we are installing a large bank of solar panels at the winery to lessen our dependence on mains power!
Late Spring / Early Summer is a time of great anticipation in the Vineyards as we await to see how much fruit is going to successfully set following flowering. This is one of the earliest indications of the likely size of Vintage.
Several key factors play their part here, most importantly air temperature, soil temperature, soil moisture levels, vine nutrition, and vine canopy condition.
Air temperature in the range of 15ºC to 30ºC is ideal. Extended cold periods do not allow the pollen to develop properly, and high temperatures cause pollen to dry and become unviable.
Cold soil temperatures and high soil moisture levels result in flowering over an extended period with usually poor set. High soil temperatures and low soil moisture levels result in poor photosynthesis in vine leaves also resulting in poor set.
Very high nutrient levels particularly nitrogen, and low level of trace nutrients particularly zinc are common causes of poor fruit set.
Excessive canopy growth results in shading of the flower clusters within the canopy reducing flowering and set, whilst under-developed canopies result in overly exposed flower clusters also reducing flowering and fruit set.
Overall, a quite complex array of interactions are at play here. Thankfully early indications are showing good fruit set in the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley – only two thirds of the growing season left now to determine what Vintage will be like!
Recent success on the show circuit has seen both our Sandpiper Riesling and Eden Trail Riesling receiving high accolades at separate shows.
The 2017 vintage of our Eden Trail Riesling has received a Gold medal at the Melbourne International Wine Show continuing on from a strong 2016 vintage.
Sandpiper Riesling has received the Elite Gold Medal and the Canberra International Riesling competition, arguably the best Riesling competition in Australia. The Sandpiper Riesling also only just missed out on getting a spot in James Halliday’s Top 100 wines of 2017, Receiving a well earned 95 points.
Whitey surrenders to four delicious fleshy new ‘uns from Thorn-Clarke winemaker Pete Kelly.
Thorn-Clarke Sandpiper Eden Valley Pinot Gris 2017 ($20; 11.5% alcohol; screw cap)
Long of the belief that you can’t grow good Pinot gris anywhere that won’t grow good Pinot noir, I hit the dogma wall at this wine. Like you wouldn’t expect to grow the best Pinot noir in the Eden Valley, but then unless we knew the lesson of colonial history, you’d never think the Riesling grape of cold Germany would grow well there, either. Which of course it does.
It’s as unlikely as Riesling working brilliantly in the Clare valleys, until you appreciate that parts of Clare, like the Polish Valley side of the range, are very similar geologically and sunshine-wise to parts of Alsace, where Riesling and Gris make serious mojo magic.
This lovely slurpable has a topnote that smells like Craneford when they’re baling hay. Below that fascinator there’s all sorts of fruit from lollypop-simple dessert salads with meringue, banana and pineapple, to honeydew and strawberry. There’s also lots of lollyshop bubblegum and frivolous whatnots that make it somehow childish simple, which it’s not. Not at all.
Rather, it’s just downright disarming in its bare-faced charm. That bit grabs me so convincingly I don’t even bother delving into the refined complexities lying beneath the rosy freckles.
In keeping with simple impulses, I wanna run off with this bottle now. To the Stanley’s fish café of a decade back for battered flathead and chips with fresh-sliced chilli and lotsa salt. You comin’ with?
Of this new quartet blanc, this was the first I opened. I proceeded, half-imagining it was a fluke. Nope. This fab four is the best white release yet from Thorn-Clarke. By a long shot.
Thorn-Clarke Sandpiper Eden Valley Chardonnay 2017 ($20; 12% alcohol; screw cap)
$20 Chardonnay is something I normally approach like bat goozie, so I was even more delighted to find this clean, clear spring-and-summer waft of a thing knocking that prejudice out of the ring. It’s obviously been made to a price, but with a great deal more intelligence and sensitivity than most Chardonnaise show.
It has a grainy, almost chalky aromatic edge in the same hayfield as the gris. Firm white peach, sapodilla and comice pear are the first fruits to come to mind, with none overwhelming. It’s a smooth, clean, honest perfume with just a fleeting insinuation of French oak and fetta, and, dammit, enoki.
But we’re here to drink, not talk, surely? Same deal: down-the-line fresh-faced honesty with a stack of immediate appeal, but plenty hidden in there for the fancy gang and nerds to discuss. Just get on with it, I say. With pont-l’Évêque and/or port salut and some fresh-sliced pear. Like comice. Get on with it.
Thorn-Clarke Sandpiper Eden Valley Riesling 2017 ($20; 11% alcohol; screw cap)
I was about to go on about Dr Loosen’s Riesling in Mosel vs Pfalz vs Alsace etcetera, et al, but get over it, Whitey. And forget all that stuff about lemon and lime and citrus blossom. In keeping with the form of the pair above, this is like powdered vegan cherub’s cheeks grilled lightly in butter. I can think of no better introduction to Riesling. Swoon. It has the flesh to handle the sort of brutal chill too many restaurant fridges deliver, but it’s best just slightly on the chill side of cool. Which is precisely what it is. Also: Deadly.
($24; 11.5% alcohol; screw cap)
Tell me another premium white wine producer whose elite superwine is one whole $4 more expensive than its standard version? And we’re still an entire buck short of $25? Get down.
Only slightly less chubby than those rosy cheeks, this is that previous wine cranked in the finest, most tasteful and intelligent direction. It has less flesh, more bone. Its spine, for example, is not quite brittle, but approaches ground-up bone china in its dry, fine-grained authority. The sinews and pink muscles around that bit will hide it if you’re not in the mood to think too hard.
Grilled squid with lemon, please. And would you mind if I left my clothes here on the chair? I need to go out and lie in the sun.
This Winter, much of our time in the vineyard is spent on the task of “Reworking” vines affected by a naturally occurring fungal disease Eutypa Lata. The fungus results in toxins in the wood of the vine that cause the tissue to die, leaving the tell-tale dead arm on the vine with obvious yield and quality implications. The same fungus also affects many fruit trees including Apricot, Peach, Nectarine, Lemon and Olives, as well as many Australian Natives.
The process involves cutting off the affected wood, cutting back as near to the trunk as practical to ensure the diseased sections are removed. Cuts are sealed with a protective paint to prevent fungal spores entering the wounds and re-infecting the treated vines. Canes are laid down to new trellis wire to form a replacement cordon that will hopefully give disease free production for another ten years.
Where the disease extends to the trunk, the trunk is removed about twenty centimetres above ground level and again the cut is protected by paint. Once the growing season commences, shoots called water-shoots will burst from latent buds below the bark surface. The strongest of these shoots will be selected to be trained up to the cordon wire to form a replacement vine trunk and eventually replacement vine cordon arms free of Eutypa.
We are several years into a significant programme of reworking affected vineyards with almost half our vineyards receiving attention to date. The payback for us as Winemakers is the vineyards quickly return to full production, with higher quality fruit with less quality variability. This has an obvious payback in the quality of wine we are able to produce.
Jame’s Hallidays Wine Companion has been released and once again we have retained our 5 Star winery rating. This makes it twelve consecutive years of being 5 Star rated. On top of that we have received some fantastic scores on our wines with 8 wines scoring over 90 points.
Ron Thorn Shiraz 2014 – 95 Points
William Randell Shiraz 2014 – 95 Points
William Randell Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 – 95 Points
The 2014 William Randell Shiraz has continued is good form on the show circuit by picking up another gold medal at the 2017 San Francisco International Wine Show. This follows on from the Gold Medal received at the 2016 show for the 2012 William Randell Shiraz.
We had a feature article in the Adelaide Advertiser this week on our 2017 Vintage Festival Event. Have a read below!
The Barossa and Shiraz are inseparable partners – Australia’s most famous regional-varietal wine duet. Of course, this suggests that it’s a one-size-fits-all kind of deal; what you’ll get is a big-boned, rich, ripe, dark-fruited, full-bodied, warming, comforting red wine. That is all. But no, it isn’t. The pairing is far more complicated than it first seems. In the 170 years that Shiraz has been growing there, all manner of differences, from vine age to micro-climate and vineyard aspect, make for infinite variations on the central theme. The fruit from Keyneton will produce a whole other style of Shiraz compared to wine made from a vineyard in, say, the Gomersal district. Or Lyndoch. Or Seppeltsfield … and so on. The 550 wine grape-growing families plus vignerons and winemakers of the Barossa are most conscious of these subregional variations, a Barossa Grape and Wine Association project having identified three main “grounds” – north, central and south – and more defined traditional districts or “parishes” now often noted on Barossa labels. The most obvious differentiations occur between the higher altitude Eden Valley to the east and the Barossa Valley floor that lies west of the hills, hovering from Angaston south-west to Willamstown. Eden Valley Shiraz tends to be more vibrant red, medium-to-full bodied, with aromatics in the mainly red and blue fruits, such as red and black cherry, raspberry, blueberry and plum, with violet, sage and pepper. From the Valley floor the Shiraz generally will be more deep purple in colour, fuller bodied, opulent, rich and robust, with a blacker fruit spectrum, such as dark cherry, plum and blackberry characters plus the savoury elements of fruitcake, spice, licorice and chocolate. These variations, due mainly to differences in altitude, climate and in particular temperatures, as well as soil vitality, will be put to the test in three Barossa Vintage Festival events from April 20-22. Thorn-Clarke Wines explores several wines in its portfolio from the two sub-regions. Rojomoma hosts an intimate lunch with its own wines and Eden Valley’s Flaxman Wines in a comparative look at the diverse styles. The BGWA also is hosting an all-day Barossa Grounds Tour through the region. At Thorn-Clarke’s cellar door in the Eden Valley, out of Angaston, the hill and gully view sets a mood to see the quite clear division in two Shiraz’s: the Eden Trail from the vineyard you can see and the William Randell, a blend of two Valley floor vineyards. Other single-vineyard barrel samples will highlight further diversities of style. The first is a rich, jubey, fresher fruited style with spicy tannins, while the second is a more traditional, big-shouldered and richer version of the variety, showing dark chocolate and a touch of jaffa, its oak and tannin elements softening. “When everyone thinks of the Barossa they think of massive tannins, rich, stewed characters, but the Eden Trail is more elegant, more vibrant and with fresher fruit,” says Thorn-Clarke’s Paul Judd. In a totally different setting of Rojomoma’s small shed in the Ebenezer subdistrict, north of Nuriootpa, a sold-out lunch crowd will taste Eden Valley and Barossa floor wines beside a menu by Flaxman Wines’ Col Sheppard, a MasterChef top tenner. His Estate Shiraz will match up against Bernadette Kaeding and Sam Kurtz of Rojomoma’s Raj’s Pick Shiraz – both flagships, same variety but very different styles. The Flaxman shiraz is complex, rich but not heavy, says Col. “That’s the big difference between the Eden Valley and the Barossa Valley; you can have every bit as much complexity and depth of flavour but you just don’t get that weight,” he says. While each wine is similarly made, Bernadette notes the bigger and richer Barossa floor version, compared to the florals and spice of the Eden Valley style. “The difference in where they’re grown is the main thing that separates them,”she says.
After a very cool summer, the 2017 Vintage has finally begun for Thorn-Clarke Wines. With deliveries of Shiraz starting to arrive into the winery, things will start to get busier over the next week. If you aren’t already, follow us on social media to keep up to date with all the action!