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Wine Front – Mike Bennie

wine front 2 website

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

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