For a brand as strong as Torbreck to only be 20-odd years old is a testament to the core of its vision and philosophy to find the best fruit sources across the Barossa and try to highlight their unique and distinctive traits as faithfully as possible.
Simple, and yet not easy.
Originally established by David Powell in the early 1990’s, the global spotlight shining on the region and pushing the wines into the focus of the world’s wealthiest and most hedonistic was inevitably going to find a producer making wines and successfully launching them with price tags at the very top of Australian wine. While they were drawn in to the basket of high octane wines of the time, they were always built up from the best old vine sites that Torbreck could find and pay any premium necessary to secure the best fruit, with winemaking a successive factor matched to the quality of fruit. This is in contrast to many others who tried to take any fruit they could get and use lavish winemaking to ‘doll’ up the wines into something attractive to the market at the time.
Powell has not been involved with Torbreck for some time now, following a series of personal and professional issues he ended up leaving the brand without a cent to his name after building it over 20 years or so. Many would not have handled it is as well as he did, and he is quoted as saying that leaving was the best thing that happened to him. He is now producing wines with his son under the Powell & Sons label. It seems that both Powell and Torbreck have turned over a new leaf and are both thriving, a scenario that does not often play out when brand and personality are so intertwined for so long. His vision for the Torbreck brand seems as strong as ever whilst being able to subtly adapt to the times.
Torbreck ‘Harris’ Grenache – $46
Unmistakably Barossa in its density and richness, particularly coming from the warm Western area of Marananga. It does not however feel overwhelmingly heavy, there is a subtle sense of tension on the palate and it is beautifully balanced from the ripe cherry and raspberry fruit to the dried herbs, licorice and earthy spice all wrapped up in plush, polished tannins.
Torbreck ‘Cuvee Juveniles’ 2018 – $28
The story is that this wine was originally produced solely for a French Bistro to pour, while it now sees commercial production the philosophy of production hasn’t changed. Based on the ‘bistro’ wines of the Southern Rhone, it sees no oak and is made from a blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre. It is juicy, red-fruit driven with a nice floral lift. There is ample depth to the flavours thanks to the old vine sources whilst it barely reaches more than medium body, and a savoury edge of meaty notes provides balance to the fruit which carries through to a plush, juicy finish.
Torbreck ‘Woodcutters’ Shiraz – $26
While the heavy hitting wines of Runrig or the Laird may get Torbreck press and international acclaim, it is the Woodcutters Shiraz which most likely resonates with most Australian wine drinkers who would have had a bottle or two over the past couple of decades. Sourced from ‘younger’ vines than the higher priced wines and seasoned in old oak it is suited to drinking in the short to medium-term. While it retains the core of dark fruit, spice and subtle oak influence amidst a rich, opulent mouthfeel, what seems different is the subtle lift and freshness or as has been noted more accurately, succulence, which is evident across all of the current releases and puts them both amongst the best this producer has made as well as moving tactfully with the times.