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Tobreck Vintners

I was confident the new Torberck releases would be excellent and my tasting affirmed this. The Wine Advocate's Australian specialist, Erin Larkin, has today published her reviews of the wines and she clearly agrees; with scores that are almost all identical to the ones I gave in my offer of last Friday. 

Tasting the new releases from Torbreck is something I always look forward to and this year it was especially rewarding. The extraordinary 2018 vintage of The Laird showcases old vine Barossa Shiraz at its most extreme levels of power and concentration, whilst retaining surprising elegance. The 2020 RunRig is the latest in a string of vintages that have made this one of my favourite Cote Rotie style wines outside of the Rhone.

From the entry level Juveniles up, these are wines that really deliver. It's too early for there to be much in the way of critic reviews but the wines invariably rate very highly. RunRig alone has ten rating at 99 or 100 points in Wine Advocate. Production very small for the top wines and allocations are tight; just a couple of cases are available for most.

ETA Feb 2024

2018 The Laird

£1230.00 per 3 Bot Case, in bond (£1484.04 Duty & VAT paid)
£4438.00 per 6 ltr, in bond (£5347.02 Duty & VAT paid)

100% Shiraz. Gnadenfrei Vineyard, Planted 1958

Single-vineyard wines that are at the behest and mercy of the seasons are very exciting to view over time. You understand the essence of the style of the wine and the vineyard DNA, so you sit, patiently waiting for the vintages and seasons that meet your personal proclivities to roll around. The 2018 vintage is one of those for me, as will be the cool 2021 and 2022 seasons. The fruit is sourced from the Gnadenfrei vineyard, which was planted in 1958, in Marananga. The fruit was picked over a variety of picks at optimal ripeness and matured for 36 months in new French oak barriques by Dominique Laurent. Eminently red-fruited in the mouth, this 2018 The Laird is reflective of the 2018 season, in that it is pure, fresh, laden with blood plum, saturated in red berries and framed by savory, exotically spiced black tannins. The oak, while a prominent feature of the wine, supports the fruit at all times and assists in extending the flavor through the finish. Thick in the mouth, yet still fresh, there is a moreish quality to this wine. I love it. (It is likely unnecessary to tell you that the wine is incredibly full-bodied. It is enveloping and huge but wonderful.) 2023-2053
99 points Erin Larkin, Wine Advocate

The nose displays seductive aromas of brambles, black cherry and garrigue herbs. The hedonistic palate has Port-like intensity and aromatics but is not overtly alcoholic. Mature fruitcake flavours are lifted with blue fruits and lively acidity. For such a powerful wine, this is remarkably elegant and composed. Very fine indeed. 2028-2043
97 points Simon Quinn, VinQuinn


2020 RunRig

£960.00 per 6 Bot Case, in bond
(£1168.07 Duty & VAT paid)

98% Shiraz, 2% Viognier

Tasting the RunRig beside the Descendant is always a wise move, in order to gain some contextual understanding of how they are similar and, perhaps more importantly, how they differ. This 2020 RunRig was sourced from six different vineyards across Barossa (in Lyndoch, Rowland Flat, Moppa, Ebenezer, Light Pass and Greenock) and includes a 2% "dosage" (as winemaker Ian Hongell described it) of Viognier. Matured for 30 months in a combination of new French oak (50%) and second and third fill barrels, the wine rests on its lees for that time. The lower percentage of Viognier here is a seductive and effective thing, adding just enough slick and polish to make this the sybaritic wine that it is, but little enough to allow the grunt, grit and muscle of the Shiraz from all those glorious locations to shine through. Despite the very long time in oak, the wine is balanced and excellent, big in almost every possible way but with an undeniable sense of class and length of flavor. Executed with detail and precision, this wine is clearly defined in its expression of house style. 2023-2043
97+ points Erin Larkin, Wine Advocate

Lots of fresh summer pudding, rosewater and Indian spice aromatics. Delicate and inviting. Supple and effortless. Loaded with red berries and a little citrus lift. Tasted blind this could be mistaken as old world. One of the finest vintages of RunRig yet. Beautiful. 2025-2045
97+ points Simon Quinn, VinQuinn


2020 Descendant

£440.00 per 6 Bot Case, in bond
(£544.07 Duty & VAT paid)

91% Shiraz, 9% Viognier Co-fermented. Descendant vineyard, planted in 1994 with cuttings from the RunRig vineyards

The Descendant is a Shiraz Viognier blend, co-fermented. This year, the 2020 Descendant comprises 91% Shiraz and 9% Viognier; the vineyard is in Marananga and was planted in 1994, from cuttings form the RunRig vineyard. It matured for 20 months in second fill French oak barriques, previously used for the RunRig. In every way (price, vineyard source, cepage, maturation), this wine is a baby RunRig, although there remain some stylistic differences in the mouth. For one thing, this 2020 Descendant has been matured (as mentioned) in older oak, so the imprint of oak flavors is more subtle. While there is no denying that the texture has an extreme slick and polish (it is almost thick in the mouth, truly plush) from the high percentage of Viognier, the wine is pure and glossy and exuberantly fruit driven. The tannins, which exist very much within the wine, are savory and exotically spiced: star anise, clove, hints of cardamom, licorice, red dirt and iodine. This is very good, luxurious, enveloping, sybaritic, with lots going on. 2023-2043
96+ points Erin Larkin, Wine Advocate

Hoisin and plum sauce open on the impressively intense and charismatic bouquet. The long and stimulating palate, offering mulberry and orange peel, is plush with bold, yet fine-grained tannins and refreshing acidity. The Viognier provides lift and aromatic profile. This immense beauty is well worth cellaring. 2026-2038+ 
96 points Simon Quinn, VinQuinn


2020 The Factor

£440.00 per 6 Bot Case, in bond
(£544.07 Duty & VAT paid)

100% Shiraz predominantly from the Gomersal and Marananga sub-regions of the Barossa

The 2020 The Factor is 100% Shiraz and made up of fruit from Gomersal, Krondorf, Marananga and Ebenezer in the Barossa Valley. The wine was matured for 24 months in a combination of new (40%) and seasoned French oak barriques. In the glass, the wine verges on black, and the nose echoes this abyss-like shade. Blackberry, blood plum, black cherry, licorice, campfire embers, cocoa dust, clove, iodine, vanilla pod and red dirt—this is the core of the wine, the beating heart. The tannins, like a skeleton that protects it, are velvety, plush and structural. Like a skeleton, the tannins are entrenched in the fruit, concealed by a skin of flavor. This is a sybaritic, superstar wine that reflects the warm, concentrated, dry, low-yielding vintage from whence it came. This is classic, polished, midnight Torbreck here. 2023-2043
96 points Erin Larkin, Wine Advocate

Gorgeously voluptuous and typically Barossa nose. Floral and black fruits, with a counterpoint of tapenade. The seductive palate very much mirrors the characteristics of the bouquet. Tannins are bold but supple. There's rich and sensual fruit cake on the long, tapering finish. An elegant take on old school Barossa Shiraz. 2028-2038+
96 points Simon Quinn, VinQuinn


2020 The Gask

£258.00 per 6 Bot Case, in bond (£325.67 Duty & VAT paid)
£118.00 per Mag, in bond (£146.96 Duty & VAT paid)

100% Eden Valley Shiraz

Eden Valley. The 2020 The Gask is dense and muscular, with a wall of fruit that rises up in the mouth. It's inky and concentrated, with mulberries, blueberry compote, salted licorice, blood plums and layers of earth, black tea and silty tannins. There's a blackcurrant pastille elegance here that tells us it's Eden down to its blood and bone. Speaking of . . . there's a marrow/charred lamb fat character that edges the fruit. It only serves to make it all the more delicious. 2022-2037
95 points Erin Larkin, Wine Advocate

This is tightly wound, hinting at rose perfume. The dense palate displays a mass of black fruits and a graphite streak. Very pure, with typical Eden valley lift and freshness. 2028-2038+
95 points Simon Quinn, VinQuinn


2021 Hillside Vineyard Grenache

£282.00 per 6 Bot Case, in bond
(£354.47 Duty & VAT paid)

From a unique parcel of single vineyard old bush vine Grenache from vines planted in 1949

"How was 2021 for you, was it as good as I've heard?" I asked winemaker Ian Hongell. "I initially held my powder. But once the wines resolved in barrel, and they came out the other side, I knew they were pretty good. They weren't as obvious. There's a brightness to the 2021s; they're seamless, and there's lifted freshness," said Hongell. The fruit for this 2021 Hillside Vineyard Grenache is from the Hillside vineyard, planted 1949, in Lyndoch. It matured for 18 months in large form (2,400 liters) French oak foudre. This is very good. There is a core of sweet red fruit at the very heart of this wine, but it is wrapped in a casing of very fine, savory tannins. The alcohol is 15%, but it in no way minimizes the freshness of the fruit, and the cool season is evident in the outlay of flavor across the palate. To repeat, this is very good. 2023-2033
95 points Erin Larkin, Wine Advocate

Plummy and rich. So succulent. Hard to spit. Lingering strawberry and violet fragrance on the back palate. Seductive. French patisserie. Firm underling tannins. This is a stand-out value. 2025-2035
95 points Simon Quinn, VinQuinn


2021 The Struie

£174.00 per 6 Bot Case, in bond
(£224.87 Duty & VAT paid)

57% Barossa Valley 43% Eden Valley Shiraz. Average age of vines 50 years.

The 2021 The Struie is 100% Shiraz from both the Barossa (57%) and the Eden Valley (43%), and it matured for 18 months in French oak (20% new). The proportion of Eden Valley inclusion is usually around 25%, but in 2019, it was down to 10% due to the very low yields. So, this 2021 Struie is blue-fruited on the nose, with blueberry, licorice, black tea, crushed rocks, summer raspberry, layers of campfire embers and clove. It might be that in many of the tasting notes from 2021, that the wines outperform previous vintages. This is because the cool season was long, so great ripeness was achieved, without the stress or impact of heat events and disease. It's a lovely, lovely year that has made wines with freshness and intensity. The tannins through the finish here are savory and fine and black. 2023-2043
96 points Erin Larkin, Wine Advocate

Classic Barossa shiraz on the nose. Lovely blueberry fragrance and a touch of orange peal. Superbly elegant despite it's muscular structure. Impressively fine balance and dusty fine tannins. Long tapering ginger cake and plum pudding. A great example of what first attracted me to the Barossa. 2028-2038+
95 points Simon Quinn, VinQuinn


2021 The Steading

£174.00 per 6 Bot Case, in bond
(£224.87 Duty & VAT paid)

51% Grenache, 28% Shiraz 21% Mataro
Multiple vineyards ranging from 40 to 150 year old vines

The 2021 The Steading is incredibly sweet on the nose: summer raspberries, blood plums, black cherry, licorice, star anise, some cardamom and chewing tobacco. This offers insane value for money, at around $40AUD, but then, I feel like it has been that price for at least a decade, so it has been an insane value for a long time. This is reliable, delicious, complex, plush/generous and, through the lens of this lovely cool vintage, a superstar. The best yet. 2023-2033
95 points Erin Larkin, Wine Advocate

A mix of dark and blue fruits. Dense and intense. Ripe and full. Dark chocolate and cherry. Supple but firm tannins. Impressive focus. Peppery with a saline kiss on the finish. 2026-2038
95 points Simon Quinn, VinQuinn


2022 The Steading Blanc

£138.00 per 6 Bot Case, in bond
(£181.67 Duty & VAT paid)

62% Roussanne 28% Marsanne 10% Viognier

Like the Cuvée Juvenile Blanc, this 2022 The Steading Blanc is Roussanne-led (50%), followed by Marsanne (43%) and Viognier (7%). While the Roussanne went straight to tank (i.e., no oak), the Marsanne and Viognier were fermented and matured in seasoned French oak. That is undoubtedly what brings the softness to the middle palate, while the Roussanne contributes white flowers and chalk to the perimeters. There is also green apple (skin), loquat, lychee, white plum and nashi pear. This is lovely, complex, plush and laden with white pepper through the finish. The phenolics have a firmness to them—very attractive in a white wine. 2023-2033
93 points Erin Larkin, Wine Advocate

Fragrant apple, elderflower, raspberry and white currant. Minority Viognier but it really lifts the floral component. Gently oily, with a touch of tannic grip. Yellow plum. Bright and fresh; this tastes like sunshine. Now-2030+
94 points Simon Quinn, VinQuinn


2022 Cuvee Juveniles

£144.00 per 12 Bot Case, in bond
(£204.94 Duty & VAT paid)

Grenache, Mataro (Mourvedre), Shiraz from mostly unirrigated old vine vineyards, plus a little Counoise and Carignan

Grenache (45%), Mataro (36%), Carignan (17%) and the balance Counoise, the 2022 Cuvee Juveniles is made utilizing a number of different fermentation and maturation vessels in order to allow the fruit to speak clearly, without the encumbrance of obvious oak characters. On the nose, there is brooding black plum, blueberry, blackberry, cherry, licorice, cassis and bramble. This is fresh and precise, a really beautiful wine. The spool of flavor through the finish draws out to a long close. This is supple and good, with graphite. 2023-2032
91 points Erin Larkin, Wine Advocate

Very Cotes du Rhone nose. Mulberry and wild strawberry. Silky and sensual. Bags of fruit but serious structure and balance too.  Fine mineral streak . Long and focused. Now-2030+
92 points Simon Quinn, VinQuinn 




The Vintages

An above average winter rainfall led into a below average spring and summer rainfall, producing small bunches and small berries, leading to a reduced yield. Quality was certainly high, particular amongst our red varieties of Shiraz, Grenache and Mataro. 2018 wines will be remembered for their impressive colour, structure and longevity.

Strong winds at flowering at the beginning of the growing season reduced berry and bunch count in many vineyards. The difficult seasonal conditions continued up to harvest: a dry winter and spring were followed by very hot and dry December and January. 2020 was a difficult season to manage for both grower and winemaker with yields much lower than anticipated. Older vineyards with deeper roots remained steadfast under these conditions and produced small volumes of deeply concentrated wines from the lower yields. While the yields have been small, the overall quality has created deeply coloured and textured wines that resonate their place of origin.

The 2021 summer growing season was mild, with even and cool daily temperatures throughout. Enhanced by good rains provided during the winter and spring of 2020, our vineyards grew wonderful canopies and developed well-formed grape bunches. As a result of this long flavour development cycle in the vineyard, 2021’s signature is wines of high aromatic lift with densely coloured tints and exceptional balance.

The 2022 vintage was characterised by above average winter rains making up for a dry autumn, leading to full canopies and healthy vines for the harvest. A severe hail storm across some parts of the Valley in late October resulted in lower average yields.
The summer was remarkably mild with very few days above 30 degrees. Slow ripening in the cooler conditions made for a gentle and drawn out vintage season, resulting in wines with higher natural acidity, rich colours and fine tannins. The wines from 2022 will reward those patient enough to cellar them away.

Torbreck was established in 1994 from the resurrection of old vines vineyards that had fallen into disrepair on selected sites in The Barossa Valley. This share farming agreement enabled a small supply grapes from an ancient vineyard and in 1995 the first RunRig was vinified, a shiraz-viognier blend, released in late 1997 alongside a 1996 blend of grenache, Mataro (aka Mourvèdre) and shiraz known as The Steading
The two wines quickly attracted a large amount of attention as critics and wine lovers began to laud them. Twenty five years later Torbreck makes 19 different cuvées to continued acclaim, sourcing fruit from a number of old, some might say ancient, dry-farmed vines in vineyards that are among the best in the Barossa. Among the sites acquired or leased is the historic and beautiful Hillside estate in Lyndoch with its gnarled vines near 165 years old and original settlers farm house.

The ethos here is to show just what the Barossa can do with the grape varieties that initially made its name – Shiraz, Grenache, Mataro together with some Marsanne and Roussanne. It will come as no surprise to anyone who has tasted them that Torbreck’s wines have been something of a tribute to the great wines of the Rhône Valley while remaining essentially Barossa.
In 2017 winemaker Ian Hongell took on the role as Chief Winemaker overseeing all production and viticulture. Working closely with his team he is the custodian of numerous plots of old vines amongst Torbreck’s five estates running up the western ridge of the Valley. Furthermore Torbreck works in collaboration with more than thirty Barossa families who own a patchwork of vineyards that supply a wide cross section of old vines that make up many of the cuvees.

The wines are all bottled unfined and unfiltered. 

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