In the beginning of the 1980’s my father finished high school and had followed in his father’s footsteps studying economics. Quickly realising a life in economics wasn’t for him and unsure of which path to take, he dropped out of university and decided to travel the world. He eventually found himself working as a lumberjack in the highlands of Scotland, where he met my mother. After some time in Scotland they decided to move back to my dad’s home, South Australia. They first started working in the Barossa in the early eighties. Soon realising how much they were being paid working vintages and enjoying the local wine culture, they decided to hang around a while longer.
This continued for some years, which allowed them to work hard throughout the harvest and pruning season and then spend all of their money travelling through the rest of the year. After time the Barossan wine culture started to make its mark on my parents. They had the opportunity to work for some stalwarts of the Australian wine world; including Peter Lehmann, Yalumba, Wolf Blass, Saltram and Rockford. Time spent travelling turned to working Northern Hemisphere vintages in the old world of wine, mostly through Northern Italy and France’s Rhone Valley.
These experiences led them to understand the secret to success of the Barossa’s wine: its ancient, dry-grown old Rhone grapevines which had been planted a century ago by the Barossa’s original settlers – and in the soil and climate which suit those varieties so well.
By the beginning of the nineties they scoured the Barossa looking for available old vines for which to make their own wine. Due to the recent wine glut and resulting vine pull scheme many of the vineyard’s owners had neglected their vines for some years, some looking to uproot and turn the land to grazing.
The growers were convinced otherwise. My parents then developed a share farming agreement, in which they would work the vines and over years bring them back to health, which would provide them with a share of the fruit to make their own wine. After five years the vines began to produce a crop and my mother and father now had access to some of the most sought after grapes in the Barossa and from some of its oldest, most sacred vines.
They named their brand after the place that they had met in Scotland, and its wine quickly received international acclaim. The wines had been described as “having one foot in the Northern Hemisphere and one foot in the Southern Hemisphere”.
At the beginning of 2014 my father and I began a new chapter: Powell and Son. We had a vision to create expressive wines which tell of true Barossan terroir and its diversity. We chose the six vineyards which we believed to be the most expressive of the different Barossan districts throughout the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley – planted to Shiraz, Grenache and Mataro.
I had spent my childhood in the Barossa growing up with my father in the hot and sunny Marananga of the Barossa Valley, as well as the cooler, high hills of Flaxman’s Valley in Eden Valley with my mother. I understand their difference in wine style, but equal greatness of the two regions and I want our wines to reflect that. Therefore approximately half of our production is from each region. Our most premium wines are two single vineyard shirazes – one from Flaxman’s Valley in Eden and one from Marananga in the Barossa.
The six vineyards we chose represent our single vineyard series: two Shiraz vineyards from each the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley, one Grenache vineyard and one Mataro vineyard. Some of these vineyards are the same vines that my parents first brought back to life and my family has now been tending to for over two decades. Many now live well into their second century of age. We name our single vineyard wines after the original settling family that had the foresight to plant those vines to the variety and soil that they did over one hundred years ago. For those people we will be eternally grateful.
We make five wines under our regional series, which showcase traditional styles of wines that have been made in the Barossa and stood the test of time: a Grenache Shiraz Mataro blend; a blend of Barossa and Eden Valley Shiraz, a Barossa Valley Shiraz and an Eden Valley Riesling. In this series we also produce a Barossa Valley blend of Roussanne Marsanne, which we recognise as one of the great white wine styles of the world and is our most premium white wine that we make.
From our focus on terroir expression we believe it important that we work the vineyards ourselves and so in the Winter season we prune the vines and maintain through Spring and Summer, then vinify the grapes in Autumn. We use rod and spur for our Shiraz and bush vine pruning methods for our Grenache and Mataro. We employ a minimalistic approach in the vineyard to ensure an honest expression of that vineyard site through to the bottle. Our viticultural management involves organic practices and some of our vineyards are run biodynamically.
The vinification process is highly oxidative; involving open concrete fermenters, pumping over and basket pressing. After fermentation we are highly reductive to retain the wine’s character. All wines are aged in French oak and in a combination of large oak foudré, barriques and puncheons.
We aim for freshness of fruit, vibrancy and liveliness but will not compromise vineyard expression. All viticultural and vinification decisions are made based on a balance of these two qualities. By doing so we believe that we create wines that are expressive of their place: our home, the Barossa.