Thorn-Clarke Wines Blog

2018 Barossa Gourmet Weekend


The 1st September the Barossa celebrated the 2018 Barossa Gourmet Weekend. Here at Thorn-Clarke Wines we hosted a tasting master class called Dare to Pair. We selected a group of local producers who are masters of their crafts to come along and share a bit on their story and showcase their produce.

We were joined by;

  • Graham Linke from Linkes Butchers
  • Rick Steicke from Gully Gardens
  • Jan Angas from Hutton Vale Farms
  • Victoria McClurg from Barossa Cheese Company.

Our guests were able to learn the history of these Barossa Families and a bit more about their business. It was an honour to have these producers at our event; so much history and the best produce in the Barossa.

We had a great selection of food to pair from our producers; from mettwurst to dried fruit, fresh cheese to spreads, we had everything needed to create the perfect tasting plate.

The wines we presented were our Eden Trail Riesling and Chardonnay, and our Barossa Trail Grenache and Shiraz. These two ranges are a great way to look at the difference between our two climates split into regions in the Barossa. We were then able to taste the wines and the food together to see which matched best with each of our wines. It was a fun challenge and one that lead to some very healthy discussions amongst the groups.

After the tasting we split into four groups for a bit of fun competition. The groups were tasked with creating the perfect tasting plate based on what they had tasted. Some interesting combinations were created, and showed how different each pallet is from the next.

We had a great day, with lots of laughter and plenty of good wine and food consumed.

Hope to see you at the next event!

Perth Royal Wine Show Results


Thorn-Clarke Wines had a great showing at the recent Perth Royal Wine Show again with all wines entered coming out with a medal. Our wines have been done consistently well over the years at the Perth Show and 2018 has continued with the tradition. Check out the list of medals below.


2017 Shotfire Shiraz

2018 Sandpiper Riesling


2018 Eden Trail Riesling

2017 Eden Trail Chardonnay


2018 Sandpiper Pinot Gris

2017 Sandpiper Cabernet Sauvignon

2017 Sandpiper Shiraz

James Halliday’s Wine Companion scores released


Well, another year has gone by and another round of Wine Companion results have been released.  The 2019 Wine Companion has seen Thorn-Clarke Wines retain the 5 Star rating for the thirteenth consecutive year. That’s not bad considering we have only been selling wine for 18 years!

We have also retained our red star rating! The red star rating is the next step up from a 5 star rating and is a sign of exemplary quality. To achieve this rating you need consistency through your wines and you will also need to have two wines rated at 95 points or above.

The list below shows all the scores we have received from Halliday’s team of reviewers for the 2019 edition of the Wine Companion. Unfortunately some of these wines have sold out, but we do still have a few left!

2019 Wine Companion Scores

95 – 2015 Shotfire Quartage

95 – 2017 Sandpiper Riesling

94 – 2015 William Randell Shiraz

94 – 2016 Barossa Trail Shiraz

94 – 2015 William Randell Cabernet

93 – 2016 Shotfire Shiraz

93 – 2017 Sandpiper Pinot Gris

92 – 2017 Eden Trail Riesling

91 – 2016 Barossa Trail Grenache

90 – 2016 Sandpiper Cabernet

89 – 2016 Sandpiper Shiraz

88 – 2017 Sandpiper Chardonnay

88 – 2016 Sandpiper Merlot

High praise continues for Quartage


The 2015 Shotfire Quartage has once again shown it’s strength by winning another Gold medal at the Melbourne International Wine Competition. The 2015 vintage has seen  some great success over the past year with numerous gold medals and highly awarded reviews.

With only small a small amount of the 2015 remaining, make sure you have some of this award winning vintage in your cellar to enjoy!


Award Highlights;


Gold Medal

Melbourne International Wine Competition 2018

New Zealand Wine Competition 2017

Berliner Wine Competition 2017


95 Points

James Halliday

A long established blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot that has often exceeded expectations, both with the quality of the estate grown fruit, the way the components are handled in the winery and the blending process. Everything about the wine defies the normal yawn that greets Barossa Valley Bordeaux blends with its bright mouthfeel and cedary fruit flavours.

93 Points

Campbell Mattinson

Thorn Clarke’s “Bordeaux blend” is one of the more reliable performers on the Australian red wine landscape. Little fanfare, much satisfaction. This 2015 release is on the mark again. It’s ripe and bold but mellow too; it’s already settling into a sound drinking zone. Blackberry, earth, leather, some undergrowth, some mocha, a eucalyptus lift. Strong tannin but it suits the full-bodied style. It’s in a good place, but it will keep and mature over a longish period too.

91 Points

Bob Campbell MW

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot. Reasonably rich, fleshy wine with dark berry, plum, chocolate/mocha, liquorice and spicy oak flavours. An accessible red in a crowd-pleasingly mouth-filling style

91 Points

Tyson Stelzer

The crunch of Cabernet Sauvignon is lifted by the floral allure of cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, fleshed out with Merlot. The result is a finely structured style of red fruit presence, classy, cedary French oak, and fine-boned tannins that will sustain it for the medium-term.

Sydney Dinner with the Winemaker


On Thursday 21st June we hosted out Dinner with the Winemaker event at the new Meat and Wine Co in Barangaroo, Sydney. It was a fantastic night full of great wine, good stories and lots of laughs.

Senior Winemaker Peter Kelly came across for the night and showcased a range of our new release and some special museum release wines for those who attended. We had a look at the new 2017 Eden Trail Chardonnay which is a new oaked Chardonnay project for us, and we looked at some museum wines as well; the 2006 William Randell Shiraz and the 2008 Shotfire Quartage. Both were drinking exceptionally well and worked extremely well with the amazing food put on by the team at the Meat & Wine Co.

The new 2015 Ron Thorn Shiraz made an appearance as well and this big Barossa Shiraz was drinking beautifully on the night, but will benefit even more with the more patience you can have.

A quick game of wine options saw guests trying to work out a mystery wine. The first question sorted the majority out, and from there we worked our way down to the final two with a question on what year it was made in! We had a winner and the bottle reveal showed we were drinking a 2009 Terroirs St Kitts Malbec. This is a range we produced in the 2000’s and was one of the earlier labels we had running.

It was a fun night and everyone had a ball! Keep an eye out for our next dinner! They are always a lot of fun and you get to drink some amazing Barossa wines.


End of another Vintage


Vintage 2018 has drawn to a close and the cooler weather has set in once again. We had some fantastic weather this vintage, with cool nights and warm days with very minimal rain events. This has led to rich flavours and amazing colours already showing in the wines. We can’t wait for the whites to be released in a couple months time to see how good 2018 really was!

Win a trip to the Barossa!


What could be better than a free trip to the beautiful Barossa Valley? I can’t think of any!

Imagine, relaxing at our Cellar Door overlooking our estate vineyards with a platter and a glass of wine, then spending time touring around the Barossa enjoying all the sights and finish it off with accommodation in a luxury bed and breakfast. For one lucky couple this could be yours!

For every 6 bottles of wine purchased on our website you will receive one chance to win the ultimate Barossa getaway!


This amazing prize includes;

Return flights to Adelaide

2 nights accommodation at the beautiful Gabel Hill Studio Retreat

3 days car hire

Private tasting and a platter at our Cellar Door


What are you waiting for? Head over to our shop and buy a minimum 6 bottles of wine delivered to your door to enter, with free delivery for 12 bottles or more!

The winner will be drawn in a live Facebook video at 4.30pm CST (Adelaide time) on the 16th March, 2018.

If you are interested in the legal talk, you can find the terms and conditions HERE.


Vintage has begun


This morning market the beginning of vintage for Thorn-Clarke Wines. In the early hours of the morning picking began on some of our Eden Valley Pinot Noir. This will be the base for our Thorn-Clarke Sparkling. Next week we will start to see a few more white varieties being picked and the following week things will start getting busy around the winery. It is said every year, but it is hard to believe vintage is upon us again!

Thorn-Clarke celebrates 30 years


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!

Here’s to another 30 years!


What happened in 2017?


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.


Ben Chapman

General Manager

Wine debrief with Pete

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.

30 Years of Thorn-Clarke

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!

Sam Clarke

Steve’s vines

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!


Steve Fiebiger


Golden Riesling



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.


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.