There probably couldn’t be a more contrasting character to Peter Gago’s school master personality than that of the formidable Dave Powell, Torbreck’s loud, ebullient creator. Powell is a large physical presence with an equally large personality. If I was a farmer I’d describe him as a magnificent beast. Straight-talking, opinionated, passionate, occasionally crude, he is clearly a force of nature in the Barossa. Talking to him there’s a more than mischievous glint in his eye. It’s easy to imagine the hoot you’d probably have spending a night out on the tiles with Powell, though given his evident enthusiasm for a soiree you may well probably find yourself checked into A&E by morning.
Torbreck’s wines are like the man, big hearted, rich, hedonistic, over-the-top sometimes, but are wines that somehow manage a certain elegance, garnered from their old vine Barossa origins, accompanied by a deft hand in the cellar. Despite their weight and exuberance these wines remain surprisingly nimble and on their toes and silky across the palate. Not all of the various Torbreck bottlings hit the stratosphere, though the prices of the best bottles do, but as a range they are a byword for opulence and deliver flavour and sensuousness in spades. You don’t need to shell out a fortune to savour Torbreck’s delights. The most sought after labels like RunRig or the Laird are very pricey, the latter will set you back £600 quid, but for me there’s tremendous joy to be had from the seductive and fruity Grenache-Shiraz-Mataro [Mourvedre] blend Cuvee Juveniles or the opulent and delicious Woodcutter’s Shiraz.
The real secret here, apart from Powell’s enthusiasm and evident ability, lies in the parcels of dry grown 50-150 year old vine Shiraz, Mataro and Grenache that Powell has searched out in the Barossa, vineyard parcels that were once overlooked, but today are rightly prized as some of the finest and most precious vineyard plantings in the world. It was the potential of these vines that inspired Powell in the early 1990s and that lead him to establish Torbreck as a result of his own efforts in bringing back these neglected plots to health. Today of course Powell’s wines are extremely well known and Torbreck success story and example has inspired others in the Barossa too but it’s the raw material ingredients that are essential here and which allowed Torbreck to head to the top so swiftly. The gift Powell had was in spotting that potential, nursing these vineyards back to health and capturing their essence in bottle in the most splendid and exuberant way.
The following were tasted with Dave Powell back in May at the London Wine Fair.
Cuvee Juveniles [Grenache-Shiraz-Mataro] 2010
Mid depth; ripe, perfumed and lifted nose; very attractive; perfumed palate; silky and round. Great introduction to the Torbreck style. Perfumed and fruit driven. 90/100 May ‘12
The Steading [Grenache-Shiraz-Mataro] 2009
Deepish; ripe; heady and rich [like Powell himself]; very ripe and late picked in feel; velvet and satin on the palate. 91/100 May ‘12
Les Amis [Grenache] 2009
Mid red: very ripe, unctuous and hedonistic; very ripe, old vine Grenache 90/100 May ‘12
The Pict [Mataro] 2009
2009 Dense in colour; ripe, feral whiff and some lift on the nose; lots of mataro [mourvedre] influence; ripe palate; great mouth feel; big and alcoholic with lots of flavour. 92+/100 May ‘12
Woodcutter’s Shiraz [Shiraz] 2010
Deep and saturated; similar depth on the nose with lots of black fruits; big and ripe with almost creamy palate; ripe and voluptuous; this is great stuff. Very opulent. 93+/100 May ‘12
The Struie [Shiraz] 2009
Deep; resinous nose with liquorice and black fruits; ripe opulent palate; some chew and depth also; very ripe and opulent again. 93+/100 May ‘12
The Gask [Shiraz] 2008
Deepish; opulent, sexy and lifted nose; rich and very opulent notes on the nose; satiny; ripe palate very sexy. 93+/100 May
The Factor [Shiraz] 2007
Mid red; development at edge; some coffee and mocha notes; feels pretty mature. Less impressive than most. 88+/100 May ‘12
The Descendant [Shiraz-Viognier] 2007
Deep; layers of flavour and some mocha tones; very nice palate with good depth; satiny and opulent 92+/100 May ‘12
RunRig [Shiraz-Viognier] 2007
Earthy; feral and seductive; really satiny and opulent; real decadence here; surely too much of a good thing! Lots of life; almost Grange like in that respect. Curious elegance too on the palate despite alcohol. Very good 93+/100 May ‘12
The Laird [Shiraz] 2007
Opulent; sexy wine; spices; real; decadence; some VA lift; sexy, strawberry notes; decadence again; length. 94+/100 May ‘12
Tags: Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley, Cuvee Juveniles, Dave Powell, Grenache, Les Amis, Mataro, RunRig, Shiraz, The Descendant, The Factor, The Gask, The Laird, The Pict, The Steading, The Struie, Torbreck, Woodcutter's Shiraz