Thorn-Clarke Wines Blog

Philip White review on our new 2017 whites


A fab quartet blanc from Thorn-Clarke

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.

Winter vineyard works

Image1 – Vine before being pruned

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.

Image 2 – After being pruned

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.


James Halliday’s Wine Companion 2018


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
  • Eden Trail Riesling 2016 – 95 Points
  • Thorn-Clarke Malbec 2015 – 93 Points
  • Shotfire Quartage 2014 – 91 Points
  • Sandpiper Riesling 2016 – 91 points
  • Sandpiper Shiraz 2015 – 90 Points

Gold again at San Francisco


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.


Feature in Halliday’s Top cellaring selection


We have had 3 of our wines feature in the Halliday Top Cellaring Selection and receive a solid 95 points.

William Randell Shiraz 2014

William Randell Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Ron Thorn Shiraz 2014

Article in the Advertiser


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.


Vintage 2017 has begun!


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!



Rob Geddes Australian Wine Vintages 34th Results


Another successful year for Thorn-Clarke wines in the Australian Wine Vintages with some great results.


William Randell Shiraz 2014 – 94 Points (Top 100)

William Randell Cabernet 2014 – 94 Points

Shotfire Quartage 2014 – 94 Points

Ron Thorn Shiraz 2012 – 92 Points


Rob Geddes Top 100 for William Randell Shiraz 2014


We have recently recieved the honour of being placed in Rob Geddes Top 100 wines for the 2017  edition of the Australian Wine vintages Gold book. Rob is one of only about 30 Australians who have qualified as a Master of Wine (MW), so to be in his top 100 is certainly an honour! We will have the full list of our awards soon.

James Halliday’s Wine Companion 2017 Results


Another year has rolled around and another successful Wine Campanion list of results. We have retained our 5 star rating with James for the 11th Consecutive year and are still a 5 Red Star winery.

Our top rated wines for the 2017 edition:

Eden Trail Riesling 2015 – 96 Points

Sandpiper Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 – 95 Points

Terra Barossa / Sandpiper Shiraz 2014 – 93 Points

Eden Trail Shiraz 2014 – 93 Points

Thorn-Clarke Malbec 2012 – 93 Points

Shotfire Cabernet Shiraz 2013 – 90 Points

Sydney International Wine Competition 2016



Top 100/Blue Gold: 2014 Sandpiper Shiraz and 2014 Sandpiper Cabernet Sauvignon:

We are very happy to announce that two of our Sandpiper varietals our 2014 Sandpiper Shiraz and Sandpiper Cabernet Sauvignon have received a Top 100/Blue Gold award at the Sydney International Wine Competition for 2016.

This award is well earned as there are logistical constraints to judging wine alongside appropriate food. Firstly the judging panel being of such high calibre is only kept together for a limited time, secondly only a maximum of 2,000 entries are accepted. Thirdly, only the highest pointed wines (20% plus or minus) from the first phase Varietal judging can be advanced to the Style Judging – “Judged With Food” phases. For consumers, all this makes this Competition’s Awards very meaningful, but it also means up to 80% to 85% of the total entry do not receive Awards recognition.

Sydney International Top 100 Blue Gold

2015 International Wine and Spirits Competition Trophy: 2012 Ron Thorn Shiraz


We are very proud to announce that our 2012 Ron Thorn Shiraz has won the Trophy for Best Shiraz/Syrah in show at the 2015 International Wine and Spirits Competition!

Please see our press release below for more detail:

“Australian wine producer Thorn-Clarke Wines continued its remarkable run of trophy wins yesterday at the London-based International Wine & Spirits Competition.

The 2012 vintage of Thorn-Clarke’s flagship Ron Thorn Shiraz came away with the Trophy for Best Shiraz / Syrah in show, in a field of outstanding wines from around the globe.

The 2012 Ron Thorn is only the second release of this super premium Shiraz named in memory of Cheryl Clarke’s (nee Thorn) father Ron who was a Barossa grape grower.

Over the last 15 years the family-owned ‘quiet achievers’ have logged an impressive record of 23 trophies for their Barossa wines from International and major Australian wine shows.

Winemaker Helen McCarthy was thrilled with the win commenting;

‘I’m really happy with the result given it’s only our second go at making Ron Thorn.  The wine was made with a respect for our past and an eye on our future.   It proves that our vineyards are amazing and that simple somewhat non-interventional winemaking is best.  We look forward to continuing to making world class Shiraz from the St Kitts vineyard well into the future.’

The International Wine & Spirits Competition was established in 1969 and is now in its 46th year.

What sets the IWSC apart is the formidable reputation of its judging process. Our panels of carefully selected industry experts comprise Masters of Wine, buyers, sommeliers, WSET qualified educators and respected wine journalists. Every single wine is assessed on its own merits within the context of its class.

Currently receiving entries from around 90 countries, the IWSC is truly international in its reach and recognition.”

James Halliday’s Wine Companion 2016!


We are very pleased to announce that for the 10th year running Thorn-Clarke has been awarded the 5 red star rating from James Halliday. Not only that but eight out of the twelve Thorn-Clarke wines reviewed including our Ron Thorn and William Randell Cabernet Sauvignon, received James Halliday’s special value star which is given to wines that represent outstanding value!

2012 Ron Thorn Shiraz: 97 Points

2012 William Randell Cabernet Sauvignon: 97 Points

2014 Eden Trail Riesling: 96 Points

2012 Shotfire Quartage: 95 Points

2013 Shotfire Shiraz: 95 Points

2013 Thorn-Clarke Graciano: 94 Points

2012 William Randell Shiraz: 93 Points

2013 Shotfire Quartage: 93 Points

2012 Eden Trail Shiraz: 93 Points

2012 Shotfire Cabernet Shiraz: 92 Points

2010 Thorn-Clarke Vintage Port:90 Points

2014 Sandpiper Riesling: 90 Points





Ron Thorn Shiraz: Grand Gold Medal


We are proud to announce that Ron Thorn Shiraz 2012 has been awarded a Grand Gold Medal at this years Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. This was the only Grand Gold Medal awarded to Australian wine.

Ron Thorn Shiraz 2012 is now available to purchase in our cellar-door and selected retailers world wide!

2012 Shotfire Quartage: 95 Points James Halliday


Another fantastic score, this time 95 points from James Halliday for our 2012 Shotfire Quartage. This highly respected wine expert made the following comments “A blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot and merlot. Comes from a distinguished line of wines that have over-delivered, and this wine is up with the best of those made to date. While much of its quality comes from the vineyard, it has also been very well made; its blackcurrant, redcurrant, cherry and spice flavours flow in a seamless stream across the palate and aftertaste.”

This wine is available from our online store, via our wine club or reputable distributors around Australia.