Thorn-Clarke Wines Blog

Shiraz Classification


It’s that time of the year when the vines are dormant and the air has a certain chill to it that rips through all the extra layers of clothing we put on (It never seems to be enough!) It’s the time of year best to enjoy a big Barossa red but it’s also the time of the year we start looking back on the 2019 vintage and start planning the future of our 2019 wines. This month it is time to classify the Shiraz!

Classification of wine is an extremely important element of the wines journey from vine, ferment, barrel and then ending up in a bottle to be enjoyed. The process requires samples from all batches of our Shiraz we have produced that vintage, put them all side by side and work out which ones have the key elements that we are looking for to go in each of our labels.

Initial classification begins in the vineyard well before grapes have been picked, and even before we have our first shoots growing on the vine. Vineyard classification begins post vintage and looks at previous vintages to establish how each block we have will be treated through pruning and fertilisation works. This process sets up how much each block will crop, and at what quality level the wine should end up. This isn’t always a fool proof formula and vintage climatic conditions usually throw a small spanner in the works. That’s where the wine classification comes in.

In July / August each year we pull all of our Shiraz batches from barrel for individual tastings. We can have anywhere from 15 – 30 individual Shiraz batches each year so this is no small task. Each block is judged on its own and against its peers to establish its grade based on three key elements; colour, aroma and taste. These three elements are the structure to how our final blends come together and each label that has Shiraz in it has its own unique identity and style.

It may sound like it’s all fun sitting around enjoying a nice glass of red (and to be honest it can be!) but it is also challenging. The classification can go for days and involves tasting and re-tasting the same wine many times as we make sure that each batch goes the right path to the bottle. Depending on how we taste and classify each wine, it will decide the oak that it will be in, and the length of time that it will stay in barrel. A lot rides on how our palate works on the day!

Classification is a challenging process to do, but is critical for continuing to produce the award winning wines that we currently produce. Now you will know the work required to create our Shiraz wines next time you are sitting back enjoying a glass of red!




News from the Winery


Around the winery

with senior winemaker Peter Kelly

Now that Vintage 2019 is done and dusted the winery team can sit back and take stock of the season.  Every year the vineyards have different seasonal conditions to deal with, sometimes we are blessed with perfect weather, at other times we face challenges.  The 2019 Vintage was full of challenges but the resilience of the vineyards has shone through in the wines that were produced.

Each year the winter rain sets up the vines for the following years harvest and in winter last year, we had extremely low rainfall.  In turn this set us up for having very low crop levels across all four of our growing sites.  We also had some extreme heatwave events throughout the growing season.  Normally this could be a disaster as the fruit can suffer sunburn just like we can.  With the low crop levels and healthy canopies however the fruit not only came through unscathed but seemed to relish the heat!

The final wines are showing all the hallmarks of a classic Barossa vintage.  The whites are crisp, varietal and carry the juicy, vibrancy of the year.  Reds will also be brilliant.  The Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are the stars with deep colour and amazing flavours!  These wines will be so approachable when we release them but promise a long and exciting future if you can age them in a cellar or wine fridge.

Pre Winter News from the vineyard

In the Vineyards

with viticulturist Steve Fiebiger

2018 has seen some extreme dry conditions, with the El Nino like season resulting in significantly lower rainfall this year, currently around 200 mm below average. This continues a run of dry seasons this last decade, with 2012-13 and 2015-16 seasons having similar rainfall. The dry conditions mean we have had to start watering earlier than normal to help compensate for the loss of natural rainfall.

One feature of dry seasons is spring and early summer frost which can be very detrimental to vines and subsequent crops. Fortunately the several frosts experienced this season were early, before the buds had fully burst, and thankfully crop loss was minimal.

Large temperature fluctuations during flowering has resulted in lower fruit set than normal with the effect across most varieties in the Barossa. This unfortunately means less fruit on the vines, but generally increases the quality of fruit produced. It will be another interesting vintage in the Barossa.

Rain has finally come


Finally after a dry start to the year we are hearing the sound of raindrops on our roofs. There has been plenty of records broken so far this year from Adelaide receiving no rain in January at all to the biggest in the driest start of the year on record to the end of April.

Normally to the start of May we would have had on average 154mm, but to date we are at a lowly 22mm. Thankfully with the vines going dormant the lack of rain is more of an issue for our household gardens and rainwater tanks but we will be looking forward to some good winter rains coming up to replenish the ground water and prepare for the next vintage.

For now we can sit back and enjoy the sound of rain with 10mm falling over the past two days and more due tomorrow!

Thats a wrap for vintage 2019


Well the 2019 vintage is all finished now, but it really only feels like it just began! The vintage this year will be remembered for some record breaking hot weather as well as record dry periods. The warmer and dry weather meant that overall our yields were down but with lower yields also means better quality! 2019 will be a step back into the big flavours that the Barossa are known for, and it could be said this vintage is a complete opposite to the vintage we had in 2017 which was a lot cooler than this year!

The 2019 season started in spring 2018 with a very dry start with very little rain over winter, continuing to well below rainfall in spring and summer. This meant our vines had to work a little bit harder over summer and it kept the vineyard guys busy trying to keep the water up to our very thirsty vines! January was one of the driest months on record with Adelaide not recording any rainfall at all. Thankfully we received more than that here in the Barossa but unfortunately not enough to make much of a difference. The drier start to the season meant that the vines produced smaller bunches with much smaller berries than usual. Overall the vintage was anywhere from 30% to 50% down on average across the Barossa. Overall this means that when 2019 wines are released there will be less of them, but you will want to snap them up as the quality will be amazing.

Early reports out of the winery are looking good. Bright and vibrant whites have come from our cool climate Mount Crawford vineyard, and for the third year in a row we look to have some more award winning wines coming up! The red wines showed some amazing depth in colour right from crushing. The winery workers hands showcase the colour that is in the wine this year! The lower yields from vintage also mean that the flavour has intensified in the fruit so expect some really strong and bold wines coming from our reds in 2019.

Now we look to get the vines refreshed with some fertiliser spread to get them ready and rejuvenated for next year before they go to sleep over winter! The winery guys will be busy getting the wine into their barrels and getting ready to bottle our next vintage.

The work never ends around the vineyards and the winery!


2019 Vintage is well under way


2018/19 summer has been a hot one! In fact January 2019 was one of the hottest on record, with the temperature record being broken with a staggering 48.6 degrees in the Barossa! With little to no rain over summer, and a below average spring rainfall berry sizes are small, and overall volume is down as vines are struggling through the heat just like we are!

What does this mean for the wine? Smaller berries mean we will get less juice out of our fruit than average years but the overall quality will be higher with more intense fruit characters and darker wines.

We are in the middle of processing our whites, with all the Pinot Gris off, and the remainder of the Riesling coming off this week. Reds have started with our Barossa Valley Shiraz coming in, as well as Cabernet Franc and parcels of Merlot.

It will be interesting to see the final outcome but all signs are looking positive for some good looking fruit, just unfortunately not much of it.

News from the Vineyard and Winery


Around the winery

with senior winemaker Peter Kelly

As the temperature warms up in the vineyard so it heats up in the winery too.  In only eight weeks or so we will begin harvesting fruit from our Barossa vineyards and the anticipation is building.  Right now we are getting some of our 2017 reds ready for bottling before vintage.  This means more space in the barrels and tanks when grapes start arriving but more importantly, more reds for you all to enjoy.  The maintenance team is in full swing as well, making sure that when the time comes our crusher, press and fermenters are ready to go.

The dry winter and spring weather that we have had is both a blessing and a curse.  Generally a warm but dry growing season will give us intense flavours and colours in our reds and beautiful fragrance in our whites.  On the other hand it also means we may not have as much fruit to go around, truly a ‘catch 22’ situation.


In the Vineyards

with viticulturist Steve Fiebiger

2018 has seen some extreme dry conditions, with the El Nino like season resulting in significantly lower rainfall this year, currently around 200 mm below average. This continues a run of dry seasons this last decade, with 2012-13 and 2015-16 seasons having similar rainfall. The dry conditions mean we have had to start watering earlier than normal to help compensate for the loss of natural rainfall.

One feature of dry seasons is spring and early summer frost which can be very detrimental to vines and subsequent crops. Fortunately the several frosts experienced this season were early, before the buds had fully burst, and thankfully crop loss was minimal.

Large temperature fluctuations during flowering has resulted in lower fruit set than normal with the effect across most varieties in the Barossa. This unfortunately means less fruit on the vines, but generally increases the quality of fruit produced. It will be another interesting vintage in the Barossa.

William Randell 2016 Vintage Launch


We are excited to announce the launch of our 2016 vintage of William Randell Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2016 wines in the William Randell range continues on the rich history of rich, complex Barossa style wines that have been successful over the past 18 years.

The 2016 vintage started off with a warm dry spring that led into similarly dry conditions in December and January.  The warm weather brought harvest on a touch earlier than normal and we started picking fruit in the first week of February, with the William Randell being picked late March and early April.  We received a couple of good rain events throughout just prior to vintage led to milder conditions and a long even ripening period and excellent flavour development.

The William Randell Shiraz shows deep red with inky purple hues.  This classic Barossa style shows rich blackberry, liquorice, spice plum and smoky oak on the nose.  The palate is dense with ripe mulberry and berry compote and generous supporting oak.  The tannins are savoury and long with spicy, plush finish.

The Cabernet has a dense black red colour, with lifted blackcurrants and violets with perfumed briary fruit on the nose.  The palate shows ripe varietal characters with plush elegant fruit and savoury French oak.  The palate is long and refined with complexity and balance.

The 2016 vintage of our Shiraz and Cabernet will reward patience but is incredibly well balanced now. Read more about our two new releases and the history of the brand HERE

Sandpiper Riesling Success


Our Sandpiper Riesling has had a successful month on the show circuit. In the last 4 weeks our new 2018 Vintage has received a Silver Medal, 3 Gold Medals and to top it off it received two trophies!

The 2018 growing season for our Riesling had all the hallmarks of a classic vintage.  Consistent warm temperatures produced perfect ripening conditions for our Mount Crawford vineyard, which is located on the Southern edge of Eden Valley.  This along with good winter rains and a dry harvest period resulted in vibrant varietal flavours, excellent natural acidity and a long balanced finish.

If you haven’t tried our new vintage yet, here is what Senior Winemaker Peter Kelly had to say about the new multi award winning vintage;

“Showcasing vibrant pale straw with green highlights, the nose shows perfumed floral notes along with fresh cut white peach and kaffir lime leaf.  The palate follows through with juicy citrus flavours and light spice, along with a long balanced acidity and a fine minerality on the finish.”


Best Riesling of Show, Rutherglen Wine Show
Best White Wine of Show, Rutherglen Wine Show

Gold (Top in Class)
Royal Adelaide Wine Show

Rutherglen Wine Show
Perth Royal Wine Show

Barossa Wine Show

See the full list of awards and tasting notes HERE

Robert Parker Reviews


We have had some great news out of the United States with the Wine Advocate reviewing some of our current vintage wines with great scores being obtained across the board. The Wine Advocate are historically tough judges of wines, which means getting the scores we have shows the strength of our wines.


Ron Thorn Shiraz 2015                                                                                                                                                  95 Points

Yes, the 100% new oak shows on this bad boy, but the fruit is so massively concentrated that I don’t see it being a problem. The 2015 Ron Thorn Single Vineyard Shiraz is a full-bodied, plush wine, with loads of baking spices, vanilla, boysenberry and cola. Long and dusty on the finish, this should be a long-lived wine.


William Randell Shiraz 2016                                                                                                                                 93 – 95 Points

Stereotypical Oz Shiraz to some extent, the 2016 William Randell Shiraz is big, ripe and heavily accented by American oak. Cedar and vanilla notes blend with rich, plummy fruit, those sweet notes brought together and balanced by savoury dry tannins. It’s a big-ass steak wine, one that will be appreciated by consumers at steakhouses around the world.


William Randell Shiraz 2015                                                                                                                                         93 Points

The 2015 William Randell Shiraz comes from the far north of the Barossa Valley and was aged 14 months in American oak (40% new). Vanilla and boysenberries feature prominently, alongside baking spices and powdered cocoa. It’s full-bodied and plush but then comes to a crisp, tart finish.


William Randell Cabernet Sauvignon 2016                                                                                                    90 – 93 Points

I tasted the 2016 William Randell Cabernet Sauvignon as a final blend, one month before bottling. Mint and cassis mark the nose, followed by a full-bodied, ripe wine that seemed creamy-textured and soft. For a Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s awfully plush and easy to drink.


William Randell Cabernet Sauvignon 2015                                                                                                             93 Points

The 2015 William Randell Cabernet Sauvignon is a single-vineyard, Eden Valley bottling with plenty of intensity and varietal character. Mint and cassis notes dominate, but there’s a healthy portion of new French oak that shows as well, adding lovely notes of baking spices and vanilla. Full-bodied and velvety in texture, it still shows enough delineation and length to please purists.


Shotfire Shiraz 2016                                                                                                                                                       91 Points

Ripe, dark-fruited and sexy, the 2016 Shotfire Shiraz spent 14 months in American oak (40% new). Blackberries, cola and baking spices pick up hints of vanilla, while the full-bodied palate offers soft supple tannins and a long finish.


Shotfire Cabernet Shiraz 2015                                                                                                                                    91 Points

The 2015 Shotfire Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz is a 76-24 blend. It favours the Cabernet in its aromas and flavour profile as well, with mint and cassis leading the way, the Shiraz serving mainly to help round out the mid-palate and provide some juiciness to offset the dry Cabernet tannins. It should drink well for several more years.


Shotfire Quartage 2015                                                                                                                                                 90 Points

A blend of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, 23% Petit Verdot and 17% Merlot, the 2015 Shotfire Quartage offers up mint and cassis on the nose along with hints of classic tobacco and cigar box. It’s full-bodied, with supple tannins and a velvety texture.


Sandpiper Cabernet 2016                                                                                                                                             90 Points

Mint, chocolate and cassis play easily on the nose of the 2016 Terra Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon. A blend of several vineyards, including a bit from Eden Valley, its medium to full-bodied yet shows the variety’s hallmark restraint and fine tannins on the finish.


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.