Top drops: Les Jardins de Babylone, L’Inextinct Petit Chablis, Keller riesling and Powell shiraz

From left: Les Jardins de Babylone, L’Inextinct Petit Chablis, Keller riesling and Powell shiraz.

  • The Australian

Savvy wine lovers will be familiar with the lofty price tags attached to the classic wines of the great regions: Lafite from Bordeaux, Richebourg from the Cote d’Or, Barolo from Piedmont and so on. But how about petit chablis at $150 a pop? Dry German riesling at $1155? And more …

L&C Poitout Petit Chablis Franc de Pied L’Inextinct 2014, about $150.

Petit chablis is the jumping-off point to the inimitable wines of the Chablis region. That said, there is nothing entry level about this 100 per cent chardonnay wine, made from ungrafted 100-plus-year-old pre-phylloxera vines. The first impression is of an extra dimension of old vine plushness coating the intense, classically chablis attributes of line, drive and minerality. Grand cru power without the plump. About 80 dozen produced each

Didier Dagueneau Les Jardins de Babylon 2011, $272 for 500ml

The Dagueneau Loire Valley dry white wines are legendary for their quality and scarcity, the rarest of birds being its sauvignon blanc Pouilly Fume Asteroid at more than $1000 for a 500ml bottle. It also produces this acclaimed sweet wine — moelleux — made from petit manseng, one of the predominant grape varieties of the Jurancon region.

Klaus Peter Keller G-Max riesling, $1155

In 2010 a double magnum of the 2009 Klaus Peter Keller G-Max riesling sold at auction for €4000, with one European wine merchant saying it could “be compared to the Montrachet of Romanee-Conti”. A recent shipment to Australia of the 2014 G-Max sold out in a New York second for $1155 a bottle. Fortunately there are some more affordable Keller wines around, such as the riesling Von der Fels 2014 for about $

Powell & Son 2014 Steinert Flaxman’s Valley Shiraz, $750

With their first vintage, father and son Dave and Callum Powell have produced this quintessential Eden Valley shiraz from 120-plus-year-old vines; it compares favourably with anything from its more famous neighbours in the Barossa and Eden valleys. Amazingly agile for its size, it combines power and complexity with superb balance and length, and is reminiscent of the great Hermitage wines of Domaine Chave, where Callum has

Winemaker Dave Powell Back In The Saddle

WORDS Anthony Madigan


Dave Powell looks relaxed in jeans, Rossi boots and black t-shirt. He has long hair; looks like Tim Winton. He’s 53. Doesn’t want to talk about the T-word. Doesn’t want sympathy. He tells me everything. He’s originally from Adelaide’s eastern suburbs. He’s adopted; his natural father tracked him down, but his natural mum’s not interested. He loves Australia; always stands for the national anthem. He doesn’t miss the jets and dinners; he once had the highest frequent flyer points in Adelaide. He consults to Chateau Tanunda. He doesn’t go out much; a few beers at the pub. He can still fill a swear jar. He loves cooking mushroom risotto. He doesn’t have much money. He was on half a mill back in the day. “Money doesn’t make you happy,” Dave confirms. Over $17 burgers under a warm pergola at The Table in Lyndoch’s main street, Dave, sucking on a cigarette, pulls the cork on a $750 wine: Powell & Son 2014 Steinert Shiraz from the Eden Valley. Dave is bankrupt but the wine is filthy rich, an epic drink with stunning intensity, concentration and length. The high-country freshness is welcomed. Power and finesse: a ballet dancer on a wood-chopper’s shoulders. Powell is about to be in the headlines for the right reasons. There’s nothing wrong with the confidence. “The 15 is better,” he smiles. Dave consults to the company that owns the brand – Riverside Vintners. He has no cut in the business. He makes several wines with his son, Callum, 21, pictured above.


The small team – which also includes GM Paul Breen and winemaker Igor Kuciv, is based in a stone cottage with a constant pall of cigarette smoke pouring from the windows on a dusty track near Lyndoch with tall gums and big paddocks. Wanker marketers will probably scoff at the Powell & Son label: humble old school minimalism meets lab sample with a hint of ‘Wanted’ poster. Callum designed it. I love it. Looks like the labels I once made for Mum’s apricot jam jars. Really, any packaging carrying the name Powell shouldn’t have to try too hard. You’d be disappointed if craziness didn’t meet genius. Securing the Steinert Vineyard was key; the vines are more than 120 years old. Rockford used to source the fruit. Now Powell & Son pays $10,000 a tonne for it. They’ve done much work in the block. Dave had feared for the 2016 vintage; then 30mm of rain fell, raising hopes. Dave looks forward to vintage and the staff bonuses: Bundy and Twisties. Dave lives with mental health issues; he’s on top of it, but it’s for life. Two years ago, when he left the T-word, he walked a lot, like Forrest Gump, sometimes at 2 o’clock in the morning. He walked for five hours some days. He lost 25kg, but has put five back on. There were dark days. Today is a good day: Dave is happy, joking and smiling. The mind is occupied. He’s in a good place. Whatever happens with Powell & Son – great things, I suspect – it must go on the record that someone in this proud little wine community of ours is prepared to talk so openly about the black dog. That’s more important than 99 points. Or 100…


PS: Dave phoned us to add something. “Can you please make sure you mention Callum in the article? It’s very much a father-son team. He designed the label and is driving the wine style. I’m proud of him.” Sure thing.


See the full Dave Powell interview in the March-April edition of WBM – Australia’s Wine Business Magazine.


































































It’s a typical, bolshy, open and honest Dave Powell that I’m speaking to. Resplendent in ‘fucks’ and ‘shits’, he’s speaking from a vineyard he’s been working in all morning, shouting at the horizon, celebrating his new found head of steam. “I’m pretty fuckin’ good – for a couple of years I hid under a rock, but, I’ve surfaced and am pretty into all this. The Torbreck shit, the life before, it’s all ancient history, I’m glad to be out of the past”, Powell offers.

He details some of the back history of what went down from his side of the fence. I’ve known him for a generation, almost, and it seems that the muddy waters run deep, but we move past it pretty quickly. “I made a bit of wine in 2014 with my older son, I’m happy as a pig in shit, back to pruning grape vines, working with Callum is great. Working with vineyards is a big part of what we do – it feels right again and I’m enjoying that we’ve now got plenty of time to do what we want when we want”.

The winery is at Riverside Vintners in Lyndoch. Powell & Son shows all the DNA of his past, but there’s a freshness and vitality to the wines that seems to lift them, “the great thing about these wines is you can see the thread with my winemaking. I’ve made the wines like I always have, but here I’m aiming to maintain purity and freshness. Callum’s been big on that too – keeping the wines a bit brighter, fresher feeling and less made to order, let’s say”, offers Powell.

“I’m the happiest I have been in years, having a life, working with son and friends, not dealing with bullshit. I don’t want to build a new Torbreck, and I’ve had people offering me shed loads of money. I just said I’m not interested, I don’t want to do it, this is the place I want to be”.

The new range comprises one white in an Eden Valley Riesling and a suite of reds that span both Barossa and Eden Valley. “I love the Eden Valley and about half our fruit comes from Eden now”. The flagships are old vine, single vineyard, $100 and $750 respectively. Heady stuff, but it’s Powell power all the way.

2014 Barossa Valley Shiraz

This wine, the entry level shiraz, is Barossa Valley in its essence. Shiraz from oldish vines, sent to bottle unfined and filtered, poured in glass with heartiness of place. Made by Powell & Son.

It’s a great drink, black in colour, scents of briary berries, violets, roast meat and earth. In the palate it sloshes around with r

ed fruits, meaty notes, black olive tapenade savouriness offering creamy texture and a fleshy finish. It feels unadorned, vibrant, even with its dense, mouth-filling ways. It’s tattooed with Powell and Barossa. A legion will love this.


92 Points


2015 Eden Valley Riesling

“Ive always loved Eden Valley riesling, always wanted to work with it. The vineyard needed a fair bit of work so we really worked the site, it needed some help, but it’s a beauty of a site; the vines are 85 years old”, offers winemaker Dave Powell. New beginnings. Fruit is from the Steinert vineyard, which also forms the shiraz wine that sits at the top of the Powell & Son releases (2014, $750).

Pure, crisp, refreshing. Delicate and driving. Has bright fruit, fine lacy acidity, really tangy but succulent and energetic. Fragrant of florals, citrus, wet pebbles and just-ripe green apple. Really good drinking.

92 Points


2014 Barossa & Eden Valleys Shiraz

Barossa Valley and Eden Valley meshed for essence of Barossa, or something like that. Vineyard sources are 60-plus and 40-plus years old, respectively. Loechel vineyard shiraz happens to be the Eden component, which makes up the second-to-top wine (2014, $100). Callum Powell, or Powell junior, suggested to his dad Dave Powell that the wine should spend time in foudre to pump up the fruitiness and freshness. Job done.

Slippery, rich, dense, slurpy hit of shiraz. Big scents of black currants, figs, dates, faint eucalyptus, pepper and game meat. In the palate, concentrated, dark fruited, meaty, trimmed with thick, suede tannins, finishing perky on spicy orangey acidity. Stains the palate, but feels pure in ripe, bold fruit. Impact, but drinkability. It’s seductive and balanced for its ilk.

93 Points


2014 Barossa Valley Grenache Shiraz Mataro

Winemaker Dave Powell is typically casual in his description of this wine, “Mataro is out at Koonunga Hill, grenache comes from a few sites, some older stuff, shiraz from usual places. You know, it’s made to be serious, a step up, but also a good drink. And its got the varieties that go well here”. Powell and his son Callum are using a lot of large format oak barrels, foudres typcially, and opting for wood that has been previously used.

Bold wine of concentration, meatiness and spice. Reeks of roast meats, mocha, maraschino cherry, briar and clove-like spice. In the palate, more of that slick, rich texture you’d expect from a Powell wine, imbued with more roast meat, smooth dusty tannins, liquid spice, orangey acidity and a firm, puckering finish. It’s serious and yet shows drinkability in youth. That said, give it a year or so before approach. Good, hearty wine.

93 Points


2014 Loechel Eden Valley Shiraz

The premier tier of Powell & Son wines is focussed on single vineyards and applying all new oak to the fruit sourced from them. The rest of the range relies on mostly foudre, and mostly used oak. It’s a separation in ideology. At this level, maybe more Dave than son Callum Powell, whose influence seems to have been a tethering down of the oaky impact one might have seen in the past from wines under Powell senior’s guidance.

The Loechel vineyard is an exceptional site, according to Dave Powell. It’s about 50 years old and not far out of Eden Valley township. It needed to be sung from the rooftops, he says.

It’s a wine that shows impact and concentration but never feels dense and heavy. The bouquet is attractive in currants, figs, faint sage notes and a clove-like oak character. The lush, controlled flow of fruit sit high in the palate on crushed rock tannins and pomegranate acidity, though there’s plenty of slippery-slidey dark berries, warm roast meatiness, sweet spice and lightly herbal accents. Impressive wine; weight and poise married. Good mouthful of complex red wine. One for the cellar too.

94+ Points


2014 Steinert Flaxman’s Valley Shiraz

From a 120-year-old, dry grown vineyard in Flaxman’s Valley of the Eden Valley. Flaxman’s feels a bit like dress circle Eden, when you take a look around. Beautiful part of the world, some serious winemakers/winegrowers/vineyards staked out in claims there.

The price tag is $750. It’s taking on the top of the Australian tree. Why not?

(adult language warning) “It’s got to be good enough”, growls Dave Powell, “the wine has to be fucking good, or people will say you’ve got to be fucking kidding”. Right on.

“It’s got everything to make epic wine. Best wines. From a 120 year old, dry grown vineyard at 480 metres, facing south east. From that, you’ve got a pretty good chance of making fucking good wine, so if you cant make a half decent wine you should have a look at yourself”, explains Powell. It spends 18 months in pretty serious wood too.

The wine groans with its heft, dark, foreboding, meaty, gravelly wine, but there’s still a lift and undercurrent of pure fruit, despite the work of spicy wood and chomp of tannin. It feels like an echo chamber in the palate; thick ricochets of dark fruit and meatiness bobbing through the mouth, then firmed up with cedary-oak spice, and chewy dark chocolate-coffee powder tannins. Flickers of garrigue and bouquet garni appear, and they’re seen in the dense bouquet too. To inhale, the wine is full of dark fruit, figs, dates, warm earth, char and herbal spice. It’s a palate staining mouthful, but finds a rise. It’s foreboding, but draws you in. Pretty epic.

96+ Points

Gourmet Traveller

It played out like a like a lost season of the ’80s TV soap, Dallas. Barossa born and bred David Powell spent a stint as a lumberjack in Scotland in his youth before returning to his vine-roots to become a cellar hand at Rockford Winery and eventually forging the mighty Torbreck wine business, named after his lumberjack days, from scratch. Then he lost it all in August 2013 when his business partner, American billionaire Peter Kight, “ousted” Powell to take control of the brand. A full on he-said-she-said public battle ensued and, let’s just say, the accusations were salacious enough to make even J.R. Ewing blush. A year after parting ways, Kight then shelled out, by all accounts, a very large sum of money to purchase what is referred to by the locals as, “Australia’s most expensive vineyard.” Formally known as Gnadenfrei Vineyard, located next to the Gnadenfrei Church in Marananga, it is now better known as The Laird Vineyard, Kight’s lock, stock and barrel flagship. And, over two years on, the Torbreck portfolio remains largely the same, while Powell’s influence on the wines he named after his old lumberjack days increasingly fades. But what, many avid followers ask, has happened to David Powell?

In September 2015 I caught-up with David Powell and his son Callum, a young, talented winemaker in his own right, still studying oenology at Roseworthy, in Barossa. As I drove down a dirt road in Lyndoch towards the address I was given, it was like going back in time. In fact, I hardly recognized the newly renovated, original Torbreck winery when I arrived right in front of it. I had last visited it some years ago when doing a tasting with former Torbreck winemaker Dan Standish, during a stint when he was making his own “Standish” wines there. It was pretty much just a shell then. There is something very sentimental about Powell and his son doing-up the old Torbreck place for their new project, although I never thought I’d be using the word sentimental in the context of David Powell.

I’ll let my tasting notes of the bottled wines speak for themselves. After the tastings, I asked Powell, “What’s different?” Powell commented that he had no interest in doing the Torbreck thing all over again. “It’s back to basics for us,” Powell said, including his son as a full partner in this project – a “father and son work ethic. We’re working with small parcels and a focus on Barossa – but not just Barossa Valley – with an emphasis on Eden Valley.” Now there’s a surprise! Powell focusing on the generally cooler climate, more restrained expressions of Eden Valley? But it works, with all that power for which Powell has perhaps been best known now being expressed as bright, polished intensity.

“Our focus is on finding great vineyards and fruit. We’ll be naming the single vineyard wines after the founders who originally planted the vineyards in order to pay homage to them. We haven’t named them all yet though because we’re still researching the history of some of the old vineyards.” These single vineyard flagship wines include two Shirazes, one coming from the “Steinert” vineyard of 120+ year old vines in Eden Valley, and the other a yet unnamed wine from a vineyard of old vines located in Marananga in Barossa Valley. There will also be a single vineyard Grenache coming from the 100+ year old Barossa Valley vineyard that was formerly the basis of the Torbreck Les Amis label. The Steinert Shiraz was produced from 2014, while the first vintage of the Marananga Shiraz and the Grenache will be 2015 (both currently still in barrel).

2014 was the first vintage for “Powell & Son,” the wines soon to be released. This was what winemakers euphemistically label a “challenging” year. I’ve referred to it as a rollercoaster vintage in my other South Australia reports, its mid-season marked by scorching heat waves, followed closely by bucketing rain. My most recent Barossa tastings in September 2015 suggest that while they were some very good to excellent wines made in 2014, it is not a consistent year in terms of quality. Powell comments, “2014 wasn’t a bad vintage, but you had to know what you were doing. Generally it was more of a Grenache year. Eden Valley Shiraz was more successful than Barossa Valley.” And 2015? “2015 was near perfect and gave decent yields,” he grins, in typical David Powell fashion, daring me to disagree. I can’t; the barrel sample tasting I conducted with Powell of his 2015s revealed some incredibly exciting wines in the pipeline. David Powell is back.

2014 Powell & Son Riesling
The 2014 Riesling is both pronounced and expressive with a lovely honeysuckle and orange blossom nose plus an intense core of lime cordial. Dry, light to medium-bodied and elegant, the palate slowly opens to reveal nice vibrancy and texture, with a long and minerally finish. 300 cases produced.

2015 Powell & Son Riesling
The 2015 Riesling is a step-up from the previous vintage, offering gorgeous floral, jasmine and lemon drops notes with hints of crushed stones, beeswax and yuzu. The palate is intense, zesty and very tightly knit with tons of freshness and an appealing steeliness carrying the taut flavors to a long finish. 600 cases produced.

2014 Powell & Son Barossa Valley Shiraz
Deep garnet-purple in color, the 2014 Barossa Valley Shiraz has notes of crushed blackcurrants and blackberries with suggestions of tar, licorice, black pepper and dusty earth plus some raw meat notes. The palate reveals a concentrated, very serious wine for the “entry level” with savory, muscular fruit supported by nice freshness and a firm backbone carrying the long and chewy finish. It would benefit from another year in bottle. 600 cases produced.

2014 Powell & Son Grenache Shiraz Mataro
Blended of 70% Grenache, 25% Shiraz and 5% Mataro, the 2014 Grenache Shiraz Mataro gives a lovely perfume of kirsch, anise and cloves over a pronounced core of mulberries, black cherries and black berries plus some mincemeat, chocolate box and loam nuances. Medium to full-bodied, the palate is surprisingly fine and elegant, with youthful brightness supported by firm, grainy tannins and it finishes with great freshness, plus tons of spiced orange notes. 450 cases produced.

2014 Powell & Son Barossa & Eden Valley Shiraz
The deep garnet-purple colored 2014 Barossa & Eden Valley Shiraz is beautifully perfumed of black raspberries, crushed blueberries, black cherry pie, violets and anise with a meaty undercurrent and hints of lovely fallen leaves and potpourri. Elegant, lively and vibrantly fruited in the mouth, it has ripe, fine, firm tannins and great length with a touch of herbals coming through in the finish. Give is another 2-3 years in bottle. 600 cases produced.

2014 Powell & Son Loechel Shiraz
Coming from the western section of a single vineyard in Eden Valley of 70 year old vines, the deep garnet-purple colored 2014 Loechel Shiraz offers wonderful depth of expression and complexity. Black plums, blueberry pie, roses and tar intermingle with sage and dark chocolate nuances. Full-bodied, taut, rich and voluptuous but in no way heavy, some toast and spice notes compliment the fruit on the palate, framed by lovely fine tannins, finishing gracefully yet with great persistence. 250 cases produced.

2014 Powell & Son Steinert Shiraz
This single Steinert vineyard wine along with the upcoming (from 2015) yet to be named single vineyard wine from Marananga (Barossa Valley) are the Powell & Son flagships. Coming from a single vineyard of 120+ year old vines in Barossa’s cooler Eden Valley, the 2014 Steinert Vineyard Shiraz is a very pretty wine possessing a deep garnet-purple color and lifted nose of kirsch, crushed red currants and black raspberries with suggestions of wild thyme, lavender, black pepper and cloves. Medium to full-bodied, it has a firm backbone of grainy tannins supporting elegant yet intensely flavored fruit with great harmony and freshness to the very long finish. Note that while I didn’t produce a note for it, a barrel tasting of the 2015 vintage of this vineyard and the single vineyard wine from Marananga revealed two very profound 2015 wines in the pipeline.