Not that this will be comfort for most, but I showed this to my dad, alongside the 2016 Kraehe that sits in the top tier of Powell & Son wines (alongside a couple of the other releases). His words were things like ‘remarkable’, ‘extraordinary balance’, ‘stunning’. Ok. He’s no wine critic, but his due diligence with wine, solid interest and research, and long history drinking the stuff, plus enjoying finishing off my fancy samples, gives him some small authority. Plus he saw a few of the Powell’s wines not only this year, but last.
Psuedo-review aside, this was a striking thing to watch and enjoy in glass over a days. The vineyard is 130 years old. The Dominque Laurent barrels season the wine six months less than the Kraehe, though Laurent barrels are meant to be partly ‘magic’ for their seamless oak integration anyway. Powerful fruit character is the charge. Dream vintage. The build up in this intro comes to this… alongside Standish in full flight, this is one of the best young Barossa wines I have ever seen. Or any Barossa wine. I wanted to stay head above water on such a conversation, especially considering hype and price, but the wine drowned me anyway.
I’ll drop the chat in about the light malty character in the oak profile first, because that’s where the points go missing in this wine. To build up the wine, it’s completely seamless, rich but lively, coursing with complex, layered red and dark berry fruit character in bouquet and palate, fruit sweetness is a forte, but so is earth, brambly herbal-savouriness, an exotic spice character, the notable dusting of white pepper, the faint but shapely chew of coils of tannin, the freshness that lifts the wine and draws it long. Beauty comes despite the muscular feel of the wine, and that lifted perfume, Eden Valley flight and guile, the faint coolness and restraint, are just so damn beguiling and delicious. Amazing wine.
The wine comes from a vineyard that holds 110-year-old vines from Marananga parish in the Barossa, which for me, if sniffing out single vineyard wines outside of Flaxman’s, my pet favourite, is the second in line usually. The site was one of Dave Powell’s first, used since the early 1990s, and often found its way into top wines from That Other Winery’s wines he worked for. Interestingly, the wine is matured in new barrel, but not just any, indeed, in those produced by Burgundy superstar Dominique Laurent – some readers would have heard of these ‘magic casks’, barrels produced uniquely for, and in some respects by, Laurent. He selects his own trees, takes the best bits of those trees, matures the wood for four and a half years, and they are decidedly thicker than most barrels. These barrels are not sold widely, but do get bought by, Domaine de la Romanee Conti, Clos Mogador, Beau Freres in Oregon and Pingus… and Powell & Son. [/private]
Slips into the glass like midnight quicksilver. Polyphonic groans. The deep, dark colour says one thing, the perfume backs it up with its strong wave of dark, ripe forest berries, espresso scents, sweet earthiness, strong lathed wood notes, mocha, liqourice and char. Sound the fog horn. The palate is thick, sumptuous, layered and intense. A dark night of near molasses-textured dark fruits, woody spice, dried fruits and nuts with flickers of salt bush and anise. Paints the palate in thick ribbons of flavour, suede tannins chime in through its length, the finish is bold, strong, gummy. Serious stuff here, though the caveat is that the wood needs time to sink in. [/private]
From vines that date back almost 120 years, from a site in Seppeltsfield, Barossa Valley. The wine matures in barriques. As with the motif of Powell & Son wines, this is no shy and retiring type, nor one that sits in the spectrum of prettiness and ‘South Australia’s answer to pinot noir’ sometimes bandied about by, well, South Australians. The vines are handled by the Powell father-son duo, and they’re moving forward organically in farming practice (across all sites they manage themselves). Quite the perfect storm, you could say.
Powerful grenache of slick texture, lavish fragrance, opulent feel and ripe fruit-sweet spice. It opens with a light, young port note, quickly whipped away on rose water, cinnamon spice, dried cranberry and raspberry jelly scents. The palate is oily, rich, buoyed with ripe berry fruit flavours, touched with licks of that pleasing medicinal tang of maraschino cherries, finishes epically long, sweet and surprisingly light. It rolls with generosity, concentration, density, but holds a freshness underlying that tips drinkability into the conversation early. A unique specimen for grenache, in some respects, where muscular heft meets some sense of elegance.
From a single vineyard in Greenock, and from vines planted from what is considered to be one of the original mataro clones in Australia, ‘Kleinig’. Two barriques produced only of this wine. It certainly is a heartier expression of mataro, and indeed, fared much better for judgement on day two. First day open the wine was elbows and knees, and quite aggressive, even. Day two presented a much more fine-tuned wine, though it’s force and impact is not lost.
Big, bold mataro. A fog of dark berries, glace cherry, turned earth, brambles and undergrowth with a strong mahogany/cedar wood character through and through. The palate is dense, thick set, pulsing with brooding dark berry and plummy fruit, salted liquorice like character and flecks of oak, spice, earthiness in tow. It pushes through in full flight right to its lingering, sweet-fruited and sweet-spice, palate staining flavours. No wall-flower. Texture feels slightly gritty, but in a good way, though silkiness settles into the wine on day two. Quite something.
I could write an intro but Callum Powell does such a good job:
This is the only single vineyard wine that we don’t manage the vineyard from the start. Marcus Schulz is a 5th generation grower with vineyards in the Koonunga Hill and Ebenezer districts in the Northern Barossa. He’s into his 70’s now, has over 100 acres of vineyard that he manages biodynamically. Dad’s first wines in 1994 were made from Marcus’s fruit (pressed the same day I was born, funnily enough. Choosing between the winery and the hospital you can guess where he decided to go first). Dad (and so I) have learned most of what we know about growing grapes from Marcus so we thought that it was fitting to name a wine after him. Also this year was the 25th consecutive vintage that we’ve taken fruit from him.
Magic stuff. A hearty wine from Koonunga Hill. Wonder if Penfolds have the jitters seeing Koonunga Hill on the bottle here.
Lusty serve of dark berries, sour plum jam, cedary notes, choc-cherry. It’s hearty, rich scents of fruit and spice. Texture is plush, velvety, long. Indeed, tannins stick gummy and chewy in the palate well after each sip. Density is a thing here too, yet freshness is inherent, almost inexplicable, but wonderful to refresh the palate after each hearty sip. Balance is great here, flavours lip-smacking and generous. Like them bold, with some currency (heritage, site, quality winemaking, et al) then this is a done deal.
Loechel Vineyard, Eden Valley, and the steeper, highest part of the vineyard. Lots of new oak here, matured for 18 months. Fruit seems to marry pretty well with the wood, though it is in a style, so to speak.
Malt-choc scents, red raspberry lollies, sweet earth and a swathe of woody spice scents. Attractive start. Slick and silky in the palate, lifted fruit sweetness and then the chew and drag of puckering, smooth woody tannins. Very concentrated flavours but an almost binary floral, lifted feel to the wine. A bit head-spinning in a way. Has the beauty of Eden with the heft of somewhere lower to the ground and warmer. Quite compelling in its way, but you’ll have to like the strong presence of oak, albeit well married.
It’s mostly grenache with the remainder equal parts shiraz and mataro, old (117-years) and young vines. The wine hangs out in 2500 litre foudre. Large format oak a motif for Powell & Sons, though vineyards seem to be the real calling cards. And a shift to organic farming. Potent conversations.
Rich perfume of dark berries, ripe plums, tobacco, flint and undergrowth. It’s part way between flirty fragrance and guttural grunt. Smooth and rich to taste but set to medium weight. Sweet-and-ripe berry and plummy flavours, a touch of espresso to supple tannins, good length of flavour, some molten dark chocolate character way down the long, sticky finish. Even, slippery, moreish kind of red.
A combo of of 70-year-old vineyard and 50-year-old vineyard, Barossa and Eden, with the fruit matured for 15 months in 4500 litre foudre. It’s no wallflower here. Phew. Alcohol is modest, the punchy flavour is where the action is.
Strong red of muscular, dark berry fruit character, palate staining flavours, serious ripple of tannin. Opens with ripe berry and plum fruits, nougat, sweet spice, malt and dark chocolate. Similar things layer complexity into the fruit core of the palate, a wall of thundering red, deep, dark and yet, curiously smooth as, though there’s some nice gritty chew to tannins in lingering mouthfuls. Serious stuff.
You judge a Thai restaurant by its Pad Thai and a Barossa Valley producer by their entry level shiraz. Rules for life. This wine comes from Kraehe vineyard in Marananga. As young Callum Powell tells me, it spends its life post-harvest in a 4500 litre foudre, for 15 months. A serious approach to the ground floor.
Has that high drinkability yet generosity going on. Lavish spice, sweet-ripe forest berry fruit characters, raspberry liquorice straps, salt bush and pepper seasoning. Lush texture, slippery, smooth as can be, almost Porter-like in a way, finishes long and rippling with sweet fruit and spice. A touch of tartness to acidity on exit is the only quibble. That being said, a pearler of a Barossa shiraz here.
The past saw marsanne in some new oak, the roussanne not, and the wine a feat of blending rather than co-fermenting. Layering in the detail. The total new oak is 20% but you’d hardly know aside some textural elements that might trigger something in you. It feels like a fine wine from the get-go, is the other message.
Slippery texture, a touch of gras with cool melon and ripe apple scents and flavours the mainstays. It shows sniffs and licks of nougat-halva too, a well-rolled-in seasoning of oak and lees time. Length is excellent, the wine feels like it stains the palate but finds some velocity to tighten up and go lightly-nutty-bitter to close, way-way away. Medium weight white of high interest and drinkability, is the takeaway.
Always a suite of wines I look forward to… Powell & Sons going sort of quietly about their business, focussing on older vines, good sites, expressions that speak of Barossa Heartland. This is off a quartz-riddled vineyard in Flaxman’s of the Eden Valley, which seems to be a bit of a theme from vineyards/wines I like from that parish (think Ruggabellus too). The vines are 90-years-old or so.
Beautiful riesling, arrow shaped, lively with fruit-floral characters, strong sense of ‘minerality’ and a finish that trails off and then puckers up with light talc-like chalkiness. It’s precise, energetic, fine-boned yet packed with lip-smacking limey flavours. Refreshing and complex at once. The best release of this wine yet.
Red A lush, intriguing mix of wilted rose petal, gingerbread, dark chocolate and toasted caraway seed notes. Polished and velvety, with a core of black cherry and kirsch flavors, persisting on the long and complex finish. Drink now through 2030. From Australia.—M.W.
Shiraz Barossa Steinert Flaxman’s 2015
94 points | $625 | 200 cases made |
Red Rich and expressive, with a wild, fresh-turned earth aroma, mingling with smoke and sandalwood details and blackberry and white pepper flavors. Presents dense and fleshy tannins. The espresso-laced finish makes for a complex finale. Drink now through 2030.—M.W.
Shiraz Eden Valley Loechel 2015
95 points | $90 | 250 cases made |
Red Decadent, with date nut bread, dark chocolate and espresso flavors that are accented with sandalwood and mahogany aromas. The creamy and plush cherry and plum flavors are extremely generous and expressive on the epic finish. Drink now through 2030.—M.W.
Tasting Powell & Son’s new range of Shiraz and Riesling
In the second of a two part feature, Peter Dean lunches Barossa ‘bad boy’ Dave Powell to find out what life is like after leaving Torbreck, the winery he founded 20 years ago. In this piece we taste Powell’s new wines from new venture Powell & Son. And very good they are too.
Tasting the top-rated wines of Powell & Son including a £425 bottle of single vineyard Shiraz. For a full interview with Dave Powell click here
The first wine from Powell & Son that we kick off with at an eventful tasting lunch is an Eden Valley Riesling 2015 that is pure lime peel and minerality. It’s a delicious aperitif, that makes your mouth water. There’s a terrific depth of flavour and a dry, lean finish. Powell says that the vines the fruit are from are very low-yielding and he likes to keep it that way “I don’t piss about trying to stretch yields.” In 2015 he is only producing 300 odd cases.
The first red is Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2014 (70%, 25%, 5%) with some of the vines 60-100 years old. The wine spends 15 months in a 24hl French foudre which adds structure. Wow! the nose is sensational – chocolate, eucalyptus and deep red fruit. The colour is almost Burgundian red, it doesn’t look its age. This is fine wine, great balance, lots of fruit, good integration of the wood and a nice length.
Powell expresses a love for Grenache-based wines (his son has just come back from an internship with Jean-Louis Chave) and says that he’s purposely kept the percentage of Shiraz down as the Western Barossa produces Grenache that’s “as good as it gets”. He is producing just 450 cases. He recommends drinking this in 5-8 years when there is an interplay between primary and secondary characteristics with a little tertiary kicking in.
The first single red varietal is the Barossa Valley Shiraz 2014, which has just a bit of Eden Valley fruit in the blend to give the aromatics a lift, the rest of the fruit is from Barossa vines that are 20-30 years old. The wine spends a year in oak and then in tank. There is a purple edge to the wine and the nose is rich, inky with a hint of mint. On the palate there is a terrific depth of flavour – intense black fruit with a good balance of acidity on both sides of the mouth. It is simply delicious. Powell describes it as “The best $60 wine you can get for $30, it will sell like crazy.”
As its name suggests the Barossa & Eden Valleys Shiraz 2014 is a blend of fruit 50/50 from the two valleys. The influence of Eden Valley is immediately obvious with lifted aromatics and a cleaner and fresher nose and taste. There is a leanness to the blend that is elegant and appealing, and a purity that comes from the different flavour profile of the Eden Valley fruit. It is probably his most ‘complete’ wine drinking now and has a great length. He has produced 500 cases.
Powell says that his vision is to create the DRC of the Barossa “with some drinking wines attached.” and this is how best to approach his two top single varietals Loechel Eden Valley Shiraz 2014 and particularly the Steinert Shiraz 2014 which has a trade price of £425 a bottle. Although there is not much difference in the vineyards, the gap between these two wines and the others in the range is immediately apparent in all areas of tasting – purity, freshness, acidity, balance and depth of fruit – very much blackcurrant and blackberry.
The Loechel was drinking very well at lunch, served with pork, the Steinert was in a somewhat closed state, although the depth of flavour was very powerful.
The Loechel had more lifted aromatics and was better now or, as Powell described it, “It’s got its tits out – it’s saying come and get me.”
“But put the Loechel in the cellar for a few years and you will get something very sexy,” Powell says. He adds that although the Steinert is seven times the price of the Loechel and the price differential is not immediately apparent between the two wines “It is in a different league, believe me.”
The vines are 120 years old and the grapes the size of blackcurrants. There is 360 cases produced.
“It’s important to have a wine like this. It helps the winery from a prestige point of view but it also subsidises a lot of the other wines. At the end of the day you have to ask yourself ‘do I want to buy a Ferrari?’ ”
“The Loechel is better value for sure but it’s like do you want a Filipino or an Eastern European hooker – they’re both expensive.”
And with that I bid a hasty retreat before I get sucked into a lunch that ends somewhere the middle of the next day which it very possibly could have.
I am very much buying some of Powell’s new wines. I have gone for the Grenache Shiraz Mataro, and the two shiraz – Barossa and Barossa & Eden Valley. They are available from Zonin UK.
Dave Powell needs no introduction. The founder of Torbreck took the brand from zero to hero, making among the Barossa’s most iconic wines. His own stock, on the other hand, did the reverse. In 2002 he lostcontrol of the company then, in 2008, his minority shareholding, before leaving under a cloud in 2013. He was declared (and remains) bankrupt. But when I caught up with Powell earlier this month, he was in ebullient form. With good reason. He’s back doing what he loves – hands on wine-making, this time with his son Callum under their eponymous label, Powell & Son.
A blessing in disguise
The straight talker’s anger and disappointment about losing Torbreck still simmers beneath the surface. But Powell is reflective too. Seeing the upside of the loss he tells me “it [Torbreck] got too big and it got away from me…or [correcting himself] rather I got away from it.” He wouldn’t be the first winemaker frustrated by the global ambassador role which comes with having been the face of a brand sold in 45 countries. In a subsequent email exchange with Powell junior Callum reveals, “I was so eager to make wine in the Barossa and work with great vineyards, but I wasn’t so interested in the corporate end of it all.”
So it would seem all’s well that ends well. From Dave Powell’s perspective it’s fun getting back into the vineyard and winery, working with his son “to stay young” and having more liberty – “I don’t have to kow tow” (though he concedes “you still have to play the game.”) From Callum’s perspective he is able to do what he wanted but on a small scale, keeping it in the family, whilst benefiting from his father’s decades of experience. Both in the Barossa (Powell senior worked at Yalumba, Peter Lehmann, Wolf Blass, Saltram and Rockford before establishing Torbreck), then trotting around the globe selling Torbreck (and tasting the great wines of the world).
“So it wasn’t all bad after all…a blessing in disguise” concludes the 22 year old, whom his father is quick to assert is “no passenger.” Indeed, Callum’s take on the Torbreck debacle is that it made him “very, very determined. Losing Torbreck made me realise that if this [winemaking] was what I was going to spend my life doing then I was going to have a precise vision of what I was to do and it was going to be a hell of a lot of heartache and hard work to do it, so the result of that vision had better be worth it.” And as he candidly admits, “Currently as a 22 year old, I mostly bring vision” to Powell & Son (Callum is currently completing his winemaking studies in Adelaide – useful, says Powell senior, because he runs his pHs high).
A shared vision – Callum and Dave Powell, Powell & Son; photo credit Powell & Son
Vision which has undoubtedly been informed by Callum’s “very influential few months” in Hermitage in 2013 with acclaimed Rhone producer Jean-Louis Chave. Having always planned to work alongside his father he told me, “We had a lot of time to talk about the style of wine that we wanted to make. Neither of us wanted to make a new range of Torbreck wines, for many reasons. I love the Northern Rhone for its savoury characters – tapenade, meatiness, funk, smoke. I think it gives so much character and life to a wine, and at the bottom line it’s much more site-specific. A red wine full of fruit and jam can come from anywhere, those savoury characters are much more regional. I also believe that the best Barossan wines are of that style, but to do that it can’t be as ripe, it can’t be overly extracted and the fruit has to come from great sites. Find great vineyards and let them tell the story.”
So while Powell & Son’s wines share Torbreck’s sensuality (the flesh and achingly refined tannins), there is greater emphasis on savouriness and restraint – more lift, less alcohol. Intriguingly for me, all without resorting to the much earlier picking, whole bunch or Viognier co-ferments which typify so many of the new breed Barossa Shirazes which have been forging exciting new pathways for the genre. I asked Powell how he achieved such finesse and funk without losing the sensuality of fruit so naturally gifted by the Barossa?
Of course it helps that Powell & Son’s wines more fully embrace the Eden Valley. For Callum the region has been “a forgotten hero for years….Many great Barossan wines are made with a high percentage of Eden Valley shiraz, but the consumer assumes that it is a Barossa Valley shiraz as it is labelled ‘Barossa’ and Eden Valley doesn’t get its deserved recognition.” His father agrees that Eden Valley Shiraz has been “a really important component” for Powell & Son, “giving the aromatics, pungency and exotics” which Viognier can bring to the party. However, while Powell believes Viognier can be useful for Barossa Valley wines “which can be a bit one dimensional,” he doesn’t think you need it in Eden Valley. “It’s like Cote Rotie” he exclaims – “all the best examples are 100% Syrah.”
But finesse and complexity inevitably boil down to vineyard specifics too. Especially if you are not blending (i.e. going down the single vineyard route), asserts Powell senior, “you’ve got to have great vineyards.” And as we know from Torbreck, Powell is a veritable heat-seeking missile on that front. Steinert and Loechel, the father and son duo’s top single vineyard 2014 Shirazes are dizzyingly good, positively lyrical single vineyard Eden Valley Shirazes. When I asked him if it was difficult to source fruit from great vineyards second time around (old vine Barossa Shiraz is much more sought after since the 90s when Powell founded Torbreck), Powell said he had been surprised that it hadn’t been harder. There and again, he still pays top dollar and when many growers’ main income stream is cattle or agriculture, they are happy to lease to Powell & Son who run the vineyards.
Aside from the Eden Valley factor, Powell says the approach is not so different from Torbreck – ultra-low yielding vines, sympathetic use of oak and getting the tannins right, so you don’t need to add them. It’s about being able to taste when tannins are ready, he explains, then using a component of whole berry (perhaps 50%) “and leaving wines on skins long enough to get a really sublime quality, a delicacy.” I loved how Powell & Son’s single vineyard Shirazes seduced with the attack and finish as opposed to the mid-palate. And I loved their Eden Valley ruffle and truffle – of tannin and earthy yet other-worldly funk. You’ll find my notes on Powell & Son’s first releases below. First, a bit about what’s in the Powell pipeline.
In the pipeline
Powell is plainly very happy indeed with the 2015 wines. Though most wines are still in wood, he rates it as better than 2014 – “bigger.” As for the 2016s, Callum told me there will be two single vineyard Shirazes from Eden Valley, two from the Barossa Valley and one single vineyard Mataro and one Grenache from the Barossa Valley. The regional wines are more affordable and give an idea of traditional regional styles throughout the Barossa: Barossa Valley Shiraz, Eden Valley Riesling, Barossa Valley Roussanne/ Marsanne, Barossa & Eden Valley Shiraz and Barossa Valley Grenache/Shiraz/Mataro.
The single vineyard wines are clearly at the core of both Powell’s vision. Callum told me “most of what I wanted to do was work with great single vineyards throughout the Barossa that can make a great, balanced wine on their own and the label [which he designed himself] does nothing more than states what the vineyard is: vintage, variety, district of the Barossa, and within that we named the specific vineyard after the family that originally planted the vines.” Hoping to secure that vision into the future, father and son plan to buy the top vineyards – in the next five years if possible said Dave (Powell & Son currently lease all the vineyards and the winery).
Powell & Son Riesling 2015 (Eden Valley)
The fruit is sourced from 80+ years old Riesling at 480m from the Steinart vineyard in Flaxman’s Valley, at the southern end of the Eden Valley township. It is also the source of Powell & Son’s top single vineyard Shiraz. Powell used to make Riesling at Rockford from the very same site. The fruit was hand harvested on 6th March 2015, whole bunch pressed, cold settled and cool fermented to dryness at 12-15˚C, then racked off solids and cold stabilised prior to bottling. So far so classic. But while it has Eden Valley’s freshness and pronounced florals – lime blossom and more exotic jasmine – the overall profile is softer – subtly textural – with lingering ripe apple and talc-like minerals, the palate more opalescent than taut and focused. I suspect this will broaden its appeal, but I missed a bit of the snap crackle and pop of energy which I associate with top Eden Valley wines. pH: 2.92, TA: 6.5g/l, Alcohol: 12.0% 600 cases. Made off site by Jo Irvine.
Powell & Son Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2014 (Barossa Valley)
This melt in the mouth orange peel inflected GSM comprises 70% Grenache, 25% Shiraz and 5% Mataro. It’s round and velvety yet persistent with very attractively lingering freshness – not a hint of confection here. The fruit and spice do the talking. Though it’s not the most concentrated GSM, that’s no bad thing when the oak is this sensitive (4,500l foudres) and the fruit supple and concentrated enough to wear its alcohol gracefully. Very drinkable in a velvety not crunchy style. Hand harvested on 5th – 19th April 2014, the fruit was sourced from Western Barossa vineyards aged 80+ years old. The fruit was and de-stemmed into open concrete fermenters where it fermented for 7-10 days. It was then basket pressed to complete the ferment in stainless steel, then racked into foudré with full malolactic fermentation in oak where it aged for 15 months. Bottled without fining or filtration. pH: 3.51 TA: 6.4g/l Alcohol: 15.0% 450 cases.
Powell & Son Barossa Valley Shiraz 2014 (Barossa Valley)
The entry level Shiraz is sourced from different 20-30 year old Western Barossa Valley vineyards with a bit from of Lyndoch in the south. If you are a fan of Torbreck Woodcutters Shiraz, you will love this. It has a beautiful nose awash with heady damask rose and a spicy backdrop of black pepper which resonates on the back palate together with hints of charcuterie. In the mouth, it has Powell’s hallmark gorgeous velvety texture and lovely balance, length and fluidity to its beautiful principally red berry and cherry fruit. The grapes were hand-harvested between 5th – 15th April 2014 and, thereafter, winemaking followed the same path as for the GSM. pH: 3.61 TA: 6.2g/l Alcohol: 15.0%
Powell & Son Barossa and Eden Valley’s Shiraz 2014
The Shiraz was sourced from 40- 70+ year old Shiraz – a 50:50 blend of Eden Valley and Barossa Valley fruit, which explains the wider bandwidth of the harvest, from 5th – 24th April 2014. The Loechal vineyard – the younger of the two single vineyard wines – contributes to this blend. Thereafter, winemaking followed the same path as for the GSM and Barossa Valley Shiraz. This is the funkiest wine of the pack – really earthy. To the point where I raised the brett flag. Powell said I wasn’t the first to do so, but the wine has been analysed and there’s no issue with brett. It has a deep savoury, peppery earthy nose and palate. Though it has impressive freshness, it seemed to tail off a bit on the finish. When I went on to taste the Loechal single vineyard Shiraz, I could see that it shared this wine’s savoury, terroir-driven profile but, where the Loechal is a cream of the crop pick from best vines, it has the stuffing and wherewithal to run with the earthiness which, while pronounced, seems much better integrated – an important strand of Loechal without dominating it. Perhaps this blend needed time for the Barossa Valley fruit component to come up? pH: 3.5 TA: 6.2g/l Alcohol: 14.5%
Powell & Son Loechel Shiraz 2014 (Eden Valley)
This 250 case single vineyard Shiraz comes from the best parcel of Loechel – a western section of the vineyard which is planted on a steep, low yielding easterly aspect with high drainage. The vines, which are 40+ years old, were planted by Loechel family. The fruit was hand-picked on 24th April 2014. Although the Shiraz was processed similarly to the other reds, Loechel was racked into new Domnique Laurent French oak barriques for 15 months. Not that you’d know it. The oak seems on the backfoot. Rasping black pepper and sensual white truffle notes snag your attention from the off and maintain it from pungent, musky, animal-charged start to lingering finish. I think of Patrick Süskind’s novel ‘Perfume’ about the darkly obsessive (murderous) scent-seeker Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. And ‘Leviathan,’ a book I’ve just read about whales by Philip Hoare; he calls ambergris – the so-called ‘floating gold’ prized by parfumiers – for what it really is, hardened sperm whale dung! There’s a sweetness too. Of juicy black berry, raspberry and red currant which parries with this wine’s lifted, as if aromatised, savoury, earthy, gamey notes. Great lightness of being delivered with intensity. Stunning and perfectly unique. pH: 3.68, TA: 5.6g/l, Alcohol: 14.5%. The estimated UK RRP for Loechel – Eden valley floating gold is £85, which puts this wine within the grasp of many more premium wine hunters than its floating platinum – Steinart.
Powell & Son Steinart Shiraz 2014 (Eden Valley)
The fruit is sourced from the 5 acre Steinart vineyard in Flaxman’s Valley, which is planted to 120+ year old dry grown Shiraz vines at 480m. It was hand harvested on 28th April 2014 and, having undergone a similar fermentation process to the other reds, was racked into new Domnique Laurent French oak barriques where it aged for 18 months. Where Loechel ploughs a pungent and earthy furrow, flirting with the feral and decay, Steinart Shiraz is prettier and pleasingly uplifted. It’s more firmly in the fruit and ephemeral flowers zone. And mineral as opposed to earthy. It has a deep purple hue with the inky, florals to match – a swirl of wild violets and peonies is headily laced with riffs of savoury black pepper, sensual white truffle and orange peel spice. Notes which encircle and echo around its fine fretwork of earthy old vine tannins. Great line, length and levity, with a profound sense of delicacy – a translucency – to its mineral-sluiced fruit. Absolutely stunning. pH: 3.77 TA: 5.5g/l Alcohol: 14.5% With an estimated price point of £575, Steinart is firmly pitched in the so-called luxury wine zone which Powell so successfully occupied with his top wines at Torbreck alongside Henschke Hill of Grace and Penfolds Grange. And it belongs there.
Deep garnet-purple colored, the 2014 Loechel Shiraz reveals notes of crushed black berries, black cherries and mulberries with hints of sage, lavender, dark chocolate and loam. The medium to full-bodied plate is youthfully taut and firm with finely grained tannins and lovely harmony finishing long, earthy and multilayered.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lisa Perotti-Brown MW
2014 Steinert Flaxman’s 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.”