Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Big Boys of Australia

In recent years the Australian wine industry has seen phenomenal growth not only in sales but in international esteem. Thousands of people and hundreds of wineries have contributed to this success, yet there are a select few whose effect has perhaps been felt more strongly than the rest. Whether they have been on the scene for over a hundred years, or have only been around for a decade or so, their impact has been profound. Read on for a little history and the wines that made it.


The Henschke Family is old name in Australian winemaking. Johann Christian Henschke’s first commercial vintage was in 1868. Owned and operated by family through five generations, the Henschke’s are still producing fine wines to this day. First produced in 1958 the pinnacle of their achievement is the world renowned Henschke 'Hill of Grace' Shiraz. Also of note are the Henschke's 'Mount Edelstone Keyneton Vineyard' Shiraz, and 'Cyril Henschke' Cabernet.

Wines to try:

Henschke 'Hill of Grace' Shiraz: 1991, 1995, 1998, 1999

Henschke 'Mount Edelstone Keyneton Vineyard' Shiraz: 1995, 2000, 2001

Henschke 'Cyril Henschke' Cabernet: 1999


Although the d’Arenberg family has made wine in the McLaren Vale since 1912, the winery didn’t really take off until Francis d’Arenberg took the reins in 1957. It was only two years until he bottled the first red stripe wines now famous the world over. By the 60’s their wines had achieved a cult status among aficionados. The stage was set, and the international fame they have enjoyed from the 70’s to the present day has come as a surprise to no one. Their flagship wines include d’Arenberg 'The Coppermine Road' Cabernet, 'The Ironstone Pressings' Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre, and 'The Dead Arm' Shiraz. Of their lower end wines 'The Footbolt' Shiraz is probably one of their best known offerings. All of their wines are produced in the particularly unique d’Arenberg fashion and are a testament to Australia’s winemaking history.

Wines to try:

D’Arenberg 'The Dead Arm' Shiraz: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002

D’Arenberg 'The Coppermine Road' Cabernet Sauvignon: 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002

D’Arenberg 'The Ironstone Pressings' Blend: 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002

D’Arenberg 'The Footbolt' Shiraz: 1998, 2001


No one can think “Australian wine” without the Penfold’s winery jumping to mind. Not only can Penfolds claim one of the oldest histories in Australia, it arguably holds bragging rights for producing a wine that has done more than any others to prove Australia’s potential and capacity to make fine wines.

Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfold set up shop, as a doctor and a vintner, in 1845 on the outskirts of Adelaide. As the winery has thrived through the years it has transformed from primarily a maker of fortified wines and ports to the primarily shiraz based fine wines we are familiar with today. Of course, it was Penfold’s 'Grange Hermitage,' first produced in 1951 that set the standard, then and now, for Australian wine making.

Wines to try:

Penfold’s 'Grange Hermitage': 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990

Penfold’s 'Grange': 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001


Torbreck is a young winery founded in 1994 by David Powell. In less than twelve years he has made quite a significant impact on the Australian wine scene. Although the winery is named after an ancient forest in Scotland, his wines are thoroughly modern, yet produced in a traditional style from old vines and tailored to the international palate. Torbreck’s 'Run Rig' and 'The Factor' and 'The Struie' top today’s list as must-taste Australian wines. However, even from their low end 'Woodcutters Red' and 'Woodcutters White' David Powell has established a reputation for quality that is unlikely to diminish anytime soon.

Wines to try:

Torbreck 'Run Rig': 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001

Torbreck 'The Factor': 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002

Torbreck 'The Struie': 2001, 2002

Torbreck 'Woodcutters Red': 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003

Torbreck 'Woodcutters White': 2001, 2002, 2003

Clarendon Hills

Clarendon Hills is another young winery that has left a much larger footprint than its short history would suggest. Established in 1989, the winery has an extensive line of wines almost all of which are 100% varietal. However, it is Clarendon Hills 'Astralis' Syrah that truly earned this winery a name for itself in the world of wine. Grown on 70 year old dry grown vines rooted in clay and ironstone, the grapes are handpicked and fermented with natural yeast. After 18 months in 100% French oak the wine is bottled without fining or filtration. Other wines of note include Clarendon Hills 'Grenache Old Vines Clarendon Vineyard', Clarendon Hills 'Grenache Old Vines Kangarilla Vineyard', and Clarendon Hills 'Hickinbotham Vineyard Syrah'.

Wines to try:

Clarendon Hills 'Astralis': 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003

Clarendon Hills 'Grenache Old Vines Clarendon Vineyard': 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003

Clarendon Hills 'Grenache Old Vines Kangarilla Vineyard': 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003

Clarendon Hills 'Hickinbotham Vineyard Syrah': 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003

Chris Ringland

Chris Ringland produced his first vintage of 'Three Rivers' Shiraz only 10 years ago, but, like Clarendon Hills 'Astralis' and Torbreck 'Run Rig', the effect of this superb wine on the Australian wine scene is significant. He was one of the first people in Barossa Valley to concentrate on one limited production parcel for a very serious wine. He also produces 'Randall’s Hill' Shiraz which, although it is prettier and less intense, it remains an outstanding wine.

Wines to try:

Cris Ringland 'Three Rivers' Shiraz: 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999

Chris Ringland 'Randall’s Hill' Shiraz: 1995, 1997


Dr. Henry J. Lindeman is one of the earliest winemaking pioneers in Australia whose legacy continues on to this day. In the late 1843 he planted his first vineyard in New South Wales. By the end of the 19th century his Cawarra Claret was enjoying recognition in Paris and in London. He was devoted to creating quality wines that had a broad appeal and his families continued success was instrumental in bringing Australia onto the world’s wine stage.

Wines to try:

For easy drinking affordable wines, choose any from Lindeman’s broad selection.