Early this year, I contacted Greg Hobbs owner of Hobbs of Barossa Ranges who we are the UK agents for. The main reason for my contact was to discuss Artisans of Barossa, a collective group of like-minded winemakers of which Greg is one of the founding members.
Allow me to digress, as Greg Hobbs’ new wines have finally arrived in our HQ this week, including the exciting new additions of Tin Lids Viognier, Aria Secca Shiraz and Tango Shiraz / Viognier which form part of their flagship range. We will reveal the full line-up next week, but you’re most welcome to view them here. Unfortunately, after the flagship ‘1905’ sold out just before Christmas last year, there is no new arrival as yet! Perhaps in 2021…
Back to the main thrust of my article – the Artisans. Greg kindly put me in touch with Howard Duncan – the Chief Operating Officer for the Artisans. Howard is an enthusiastic and energetic individual, whose passion for wine results in not one, but two serious and demanding roles. Howard is also the Brand and Commercial Director for another loved and admired brand (which is also exclusive to us), Greenock Creek Wines.
Howard’s response was swift and inspiring, don’t you think?
“The one thing we’re not is an industry – for we are a community of 170 winemakers, and 500 grape growing families who share a common obsession with making world class wine that reflects the extraordinary diversity of this region.”
“If anyone wants to get an appreciation for the diversity of winemaking approaches in the Barossa, and discover antipodean terroir, then they’ll find it in 12 bottles of wine – a six pack of the Artisans ‘Grenache Project’ and a six pack of the ‘Six Origins’. That’s where the real magic of Artisans comes to life, as we see a group of like-minded winemakers come together to share their thoughts on different approaches to making wine (Grenache Project) and the particular influence of origin on the texture, flavour and character of Barossa wine.”
“We take people into new areas of wine, and allow them insight not just into where wines come from, but why it’s important. And not just how wine is made, but why it is made that way.”
I spent much time liaising with Howard, resulting in The Vinorium becoming proud UK agents for the group of brilliantly gifted winemakers. As ever, we like to introduce all new producers with their story and a Q and A…
Artisans of Barossa is such an excellent kinship. Who originally put forward an idea of coming together?
Over the 15 year journey, more than a few people have asked ‘How on earth do you get seven winemakers to work together!? The answer lies in the origins of the group which dates back to 2005 when a bunch of like-minded producers, all part of a new generation of Barossa winemakers that emerged around 2000, decided to work together under the Artisans of Barossa banner to promote their wines and how they were different to ‘the big guys’ in the UK market. They shared a common approach to wine, common beginnings and each was both winemaker and proprietor – all small, family owned winemakers with an intimate connection to place, to vineyards and to the art of small batch Barossa winemaking.
How often do the Artisans come together? How does the group evolve both as individuals and as a group?
15 years on we have seven members of the group, and we bring them together for a monthly board meeting. Aside from the usual board style discussions to be had and decisions to be made, it’s also a chance for all to have their say on the business, and to get around the table and share what’s going on in their own businesses. A somewhat atypical board room, and one that nicely balances the need to talk shop, and also to get a feel for what’s going on outside the four walls of their own winery. We also get the group together twice a year to work on our Project wines – the Grenache Project and Six Origins. That’s where the real magic of Artisans comes to life as we see a group of like-minded winemakers come together to share their thoughts on different approaches to making wine (Grenache Project) and the particular influence of origin on the texture, flavour and character of Barossa wine. If anyone wants to get an appreciation for the diversity of winemaking approaches in the Barossa, and discover antipodean terroir, then they’ll find it in 12 bottles of wine – a six pack of the Grenache Project and a six pack of the Six Origins. For a small Barossa winemaker, these two projects represent our world.
Do you see a strong interest in Artisans’ wines both domestically and from tourists?
Absolutely, as both see great value in being able to more broadly experience the world of small batch Barossa winemaking in one location. Through our tastings (we have over 70 wines to choose from), we like to take each visitor on a journey of discovery in Barossa wine and show them how a human being and a landscape can intersect to produce an seemingly infinite range of wine expression. We take people into new areas of wine, and allow them insight not just into where the wine comes from, but why that’s important. And not just how wine is made, but why it is made that way. Ultimately, we like to think we make people better wine drinkers, and that we fill the void between a glass of wine, and the idea that wine is made from grapes!
The Vino Lokal by Artisans of Barossa looks fantastic! Tell us about some of the most popular dishes on the menu… What are the best food & wine pairings for the different Artisans wines?
Vino Lokal was never in the plan! But whilst we’ve been working to begin construction on our new home (open end of next year), we needed a temporary home and this stunning building became vacant in the main street of Tanunda. We signed the lease on a building that was still being renovated, and opened 100 days later! The idea behind Vino Lokal is simple – to the great wine bar for this great wine region. We’ve got plenty of local offerings on the list, interspersed with wines from around Australia and around the world made by people who share our approach to wine, by people who are making not only great wine, but truly interesting wine. Wines that show great skill in the craft of making wine, but also wines push the boundaries whilst respecting the inherent strengths of the vineyard landscape. We like people who are not simply followers of fashion!
Where do you see the Barossa’s wine industry heading to?
The one thing we’re not is an industry – for we are a community of 170 winemakers, and 500 grape growing families who share a common obsession with making world class wine that reflects the extraordinary diversity of this region. We are very proud (and very protective) of our amazing resource of old pre-phylloxera vine stocks, and know that we are capable of producing world class examples of Shiraz, Grenache, Mataro, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, and Semillon. We’re also pushing exploring new paths with other warm climate varieties – Purple Hands are doing a great job with Italian varieties such as Montepulciano and Aglianico, and Schwarz Wine Company has begun working with Grenache Blanc. John and James Lienert from Lienert Vineyards have planted their first Piquepoul Blanc. So where are we heading? Well as a community wherever we’re heading, we’re going together. I doubt you’ll find anywhere else in the world, a region of winemakers and growers that are so committed to going on a journey together. We share an equal pride in the Barossa, in being Barossan. We love working together, and we see value in working together. I expect what you’ll see is an ever expanding bandwidth of wine expression that will continue to amaze and confound. I think you’ll see greater consideration for preserving a sense of place, be that through sub regional or single site wines. And you’ll continue to the distinct impression of each winemaker’s own soul that will make Barossa the world’s most fascinating wine region. That’s where I think we’re heading to!
Are there any exciting new concepts currently being discussed / developed for the Artisans of Barossa releases?
The hamster never stops running on the wheel of creativity at Artisans! We think we can expand on the Grenache Project and Six Origins Project concepts, and find new ways for our winemakers to go exploring, and for wine drinkers to discover Barossa wine through these projects. Our Small Batch program also allows us to take that interesting barrel from a special place, or a new variety, and get it into bottle for someone to enjoy.
What message would you like to put across to the new audience encouraging them to discover wines of the Artisans?
When COVID-19 is behind us, I want you to get together with a group of mates, and bring either the Grenache Project or Six Origins to the table, and go on that journey of discovery in Barossa wine together. (Even better, get two groups of mates and do both!) These wine projects create so much discussion and delight amongst friends, and will help you go a long way in learning more about Barossa wine, and the world of a small Barossa winemaker!
Curated mixed case featuring six different wines & a special brochure
The Artisans of Barossa Grenache Project is an exciting initiative which brings together six Barossa winemakers and a single Grenache vineyard in a brilliant showcase of individual expression in the art of small batch winemaking. The first vintage release in 2017 received acclaim from Australia’s most respected wine commentators.
“There are all manner of groups and initiatives that have proposed a collective yet individual approach to a winemaking schemata, but by my reckoning none so far where a single vineyard of grenache has been explored through the lens of six, diverse winemakers.”
Mike Bennie, The Wine Front
Each winemaker is allocated a single row of 60 year old bush vine Grenache in the Kylie’s Garden Vineyard at Stockwell in the northern Barossa, and presented with a simple brief – make a Grenache you’d like to drink. The results are outstanding and they give us a superb reflection of the 2018 vintage considered to be a standout year for Barossa red wine.
We won’t uncover the details or methods used by each winemaker as this will spoilt the fun of sampling through the case of a dismissively identical wine. You will, however, read about each winemakers approach in the special brochure included with the mixed case.
In a suggested tasting order:
Artisans of Barossa Grenache Project 2019
Grenache Project (only available as a mixed six-pack). The Artisans of Barossa 2019 Grenache Project is six individual wines made by six winemakers from one Barossa Valley Grenache Vineyard. The wines are made by Peter Schell of Spinifex, John and Tim Duval of John Duval Wines, Jason Schwarz of Schwarz Wine Company, Greg and Allison Hobbs of Hobbs of Barossa, and Simon Cowham and Corey Ryan of Sons of Eden. The project also welcomed Phil Lehmann from Max and Me Wines as a special guest winemaker for last year’s project. Each winemaker was allocated a single row of 6o-year-old bush vine Grenache in the Scheer Vineyard at Rowland Flat, in the Southern Barossa and presented with a simple brief – make a Grenache you’d like to drink. The results are outstanding and a superb reflection of the 2019 vintage, considered to be another standout year for Barossa red wine.
£155.00 per case of 6
A journey of discovery across a diverse ancient vineyard landscape.
Six origins. Six artisan winemakers.
Six expression of Barossa wine.
Six Origins is a new project by Artisans of Barossa, following in the footsteps of the hugely successful Grenache Project. Whereas the Grenache Project explores the influence of winemaking on the terroir of a single vineyard, the Six Origins project will turn your attention to the influence of origin.
The foundations of the Six Origins Project lie in the diverse and undulating Barossa landscape, and the perspectives of six skilled artisan winemakers. Each maker a knowledgeable and respected advocate for the particular qualities of Barossa wine. Each charged with producing a wine that presents a distinctive expression of Barossa wine determined primarily by origin.
If you line up the bottles, you will see the continuous line painting the diverse landscape of the region…
Collectively, Six Origins project showcases the diversity of Barossa Valley and presents us with a ‘journey of discovery’.
In the suggested tasting order:
2018 High Eden Shiraz – Peter Schell, Spinifex Wines
2018 Light Pass Shiraz – Jason Schwarz, Schwarz Wine Co.
2018 Keyneton Shiraz – Greg and Allison Hobbs, Hobbs of Barossa Ranges
2018 Angaston Shiraz – Corey Ryan and Simon Cowham, Sons of Eden
2018 Gomersal Shiraz – John Lienert, Jack West Wines
2018 Ebenezer Shiraz – John and Tim Duval, John Duval Wines
Quite by chance, amongst our current HQ stock, we stumbled across 10 cases containing signed bottles. We have set them up separately here….
Artisans of Barossa Six Origins Shiraz 2018
Our very own Greg and Allison Hobbs from Hobbs of Barossa Ranges selected a parcel of Shiraz from a vineyard in Keyneton, made notably famous by the Henschke’s, on the eastern edge of the Eden Valley.
“The fruit for our Six Origins Shiraz was grown by Phil and Sarah Lehmann at their Boongarrie Vineyard in the eastern Eden Valley, adjacent the Eden Valley to Keyneton Road. The vineyard was planted 20 years ago across an undulating landscape of sedimentary soils dotted with rocky outcrops and ancient redgum trees. At 460 meters above sea level, the elevation tempers the daytime heat and provides cool airflows at night. 2018 was a great year for Shiraz in Eden Valley, with the preceding winter and spring rains topping up the dams and providing a good reserve of water to support the vines through the dry harvest season.
On the nose, the wine displays plenty of fine pot pouri notes of dried flowers and herbs. The palate is full of rich black fruit and dark chocolate with red fruit nuances adding complexity. A ripe and delicious Shiraz with a plush mid-palate and refreshing minerality built around a wonderfully muscular structure.“
John and Tim Duval need little introduction… From a family boasting four generations of South Australian vignerons, John Duval is one of the world's best-known winemakers. After 28 years with Penfolds, including 16 years as Chief Winemaker, John launched his own label in 2003. Now with his talented son Tim stepping not the driving seat, the father and son team selected a parcel of Shiraz from a single vineyard in Ebenezer as their contribution to the first release of Six Origins.
“This Shiraz was sourced from the Ebenezer district, which lies to the north of the township of Nuriootpa in the driest and warmest part of the Barossa. The landscape here is predominantly ironstone rich red-brown loamy soils over sub surface claydeposits. Formed over 200 million years ago, that positions Ebenezer amongst the oldest viticultural landscapes on the planet. The excellent water holding ability of the soils, and the east / west orientation of the vine rows which positions the canopy to shade the fruit from the western sun ensures the vines perform well in these dry conditions.
Flavour descriptors are typically in that blackberry, Christmas cake and spice territory, with overall style parameters closely associated with the plusher, textured styles of Barossa Shiraz. This is certainly a flavoursome and mouth filling wine, yet it still reflects the Ebenezer vineyard character and echoes our stylistic preference towards wines of restrained power and fine tannins.”
Many will know Jason Schwarz from Schwarz Wine Co. His superb vineyards planted at the at the end of World War II produced the fantastic Thiele Road Grenache enjoyed by our customers for before we sold out only last month. Jason selected a parcel of Shiraz from Colin Kurtz’ 80+ year old vineyard at Light Pass on the Barossa Valley floor.
“Light Pass surrounds the village of the same name and sits to the north east of the township of Nuriootpa, bounded by Pipeline Road to the north, Research Road to the West, the Penrice Road to the south and Stockwell road along the eastern boundary. Afternoon easterly gully breezes descending from the adjacent foothills of the Barossa ranges are a significant influence on grown at Light Pass. At 180 - 210 meters above sea level, the vineyards floor benefit from their cooling effect, enhancing red fruit and spice expression in wines that are typically soft, supple and flavoursome.
My Six Origins wine is from Colin Kurtz’ vineyard planted in 1933 in a patchwork of ancient deep red and brown sandy loam soils over subsurface clay and limestone. The nose shows a fine blend of red and dark fruits and hazelnut, with flows through to a classic ‘black forest cake’ palate of raspberry, red plums and dark cherry. Typical of Shiraz from Light Pass, this is a soft, plush and flavoursome wine with excellent length, soft tannins and a fine line of bright acid.”
John Lienert from Jack West Wines is a great friend of the Artisans of Barossa. The Lienert family settled in the Gomersal region in the mid-19th century and after six generations as crop farmers, John Lienert became the first member of the family to branch out, plant vines in the rich red soils of the Barossa’s western ridge and to finally begin making wines. As you probably guessed, John selected a parcel of Shiraz from his own vineyard at Gomersal as his homage to the region.
“Gomersal lies at the southern end of the Barossa Valley’s western ridge. The soils here are mostly brown loamy earth, with rich deposits of red ironstone over limestone scattered across the higher elevations. Good country for bold Shiraz. What defines the western ridge is the extended exposure of the vineyards to the sun, and our vineyard possibly sees more sunlight hours each year than any other in the region. That makes for small berries and thicker skins which produce wines of great colour, intense flavour and firm tannin.
For the Six Origins wine, I selected a wine displayed a heady mix of black/ blue spiced fruits on the nose that flows through to a palate loaded with black cherry and sarsaparilla spice wrapped around a firm tannin backbone. To me, a classic expression of Gomersal Shiraz.”
Many of you have come across Peter Schell’s wines previously from our own shelves under his own Spinifex label. Peter together with his wife Magali Gely, Spinifex sources grapes from some of the oldest Barossa and Eden Valley. Pete selected a parcel of Shiraz from a vineyard at High Eden as Spinifex’s contribution to the first release of Six Origins.
“High Eden is an area of approximately 40 square kilometres defined by its high altitude of 400 - 600 meters above sea level. Located in the upper reaches of the western edge of the Eden Valley, the soils here are yellow sandstone, mixed with quartz rock and decomposed granite. Annual rainfall in a typical year can be 720-750mm per annum, making it one of the wettest parts of Barossa. The poor vigour and low moisture retention qualities of the soils combined with elevated altitude and cool temperatures produce very low yields of an average of 2.5 – 3 tonne per hectare. This Shiraz is sourced from a dry grown 20 year old vineyard at High Eden just below 500 meters above sea level. It’s an easterly facing block, with the east-west vine rows adding further protection for the fruit from the heat of the western sun. On the nose there is savoury spice, and dark brambly fruits which flow to a palate of peppery spices and blue and black berry fruits - it’s cool and elegant in feel – without the overt sweetness inherent in Shiraz from warmer, lower parts of Barossa. It’s what you should expect from High Eden Shiraz, mid weight with good strong tannins, firm, fresh and athletic.”
The Sons of Eden winery takes its name from the partners Corey Ryan (winemaker) and Simon Cowham (viticulturalist) who learnt and refined their respective crafts over many years working in the vineyards and cellars of Eden Valley. Their collective contribution to the Six Origins project is sourced from a vineyard at Angaston (where our very own Jaysen Collins sources from as well) on the eastern edge of Barossa Valley.
“The landscape here is challenging, the sub surface geology dominated by rich deposits of marble covered by thick sediments of pebble and bright red soils which have washed down from higher parts of the ranges over the last few million years. The vineyard is at 360 meters above sea level and has an easterly facing aspect, with vines planted east-west. It receives excellent exposure to the soft morning sun, with the ranges behind providing shade in the afternoon which assists with slowing down ripening. Hence whilst located in the Barossa Valley, the distinctive geography of the site results in the fruit being harvested at the same time as Shiraz from Eden Valley.
What makes this wine so intriguing is that you can detect both classic Barossa Valley and Eden Valley Shiraz characteristics in a wine made from a single vineyard location. The wine smells and tastes the way it does entirely because of the unique location of the vineyard. Deep crimson in colour with a perfumed spicy mix of wild-berry and dried Spring herbs. The palate is richly concentrated with a focused red fruit core surrounded by delicious, supple layered tannins.”
"blended from barrels selected by the winemakers from each of their cellars"
Artisans of Barossa Barrel Blend Shiraz 2017
This wine is another great initiative and blended from barrels selected by the winemakers from each of their cellars. Each parcel of wine is selected specifically for its rich and generous character, deep black fruit and spiced flavour - the hallmarks of top class Barossa Shiraz. Each barrel was sourced from vineyards across the most prominent sub regions of the Barossa Valley, including Moppa, Ebenezer, Greenock, Marananga and Eden Valley. Quite simply, this is a wine of extraordinary value.
94 - 95 Points Stuart McCloskey "The bouquet is incredibly floral following the initial pour, and then invites you in with a warming hug of blackberry, clove, anise, mint, toast and warmed Barossa earth. The palate is swish, generous, and super-sexy for the money. The sheer length boosts the value. Blue, black, and red berries intermix fabulously with an open and silky texture. Overall, a wine which overdelivers (as it should given the winemakers behind the label) and leaves you with a big sigh of quaffable satisfaction. Ready and waiting but certainly has the quality to age for 5-8 years. Decanted for 2-3 hours and served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
95 Points - Magdalena Sienkiewicz "Great nose with impressive purity. Flawless fruit (blackcurrant jumps to the forefront) with a touch of ink, wild flowers and vanilla. The palate is again impressive as the flavours gently wrap around the senses with luscious softness. There’s clearly bags of quality fruit in the blend given the overall balance and striking length. Much suppleness and freshness makes the Barrel Blend utterly delicious and I can see this being a go-to wine for summer suppers."
Artisans note: “On the nose, there are aromas of dark plum and chocolate with hints of cardamom pod, clove, aniseed and cracked black pepper. The palate is rich with dark fruits and dark chocolate supported by a long savoury line of gentle tannin. The wine finishes smooth and long in the classic style of great Barossa Shiraz. Enjoy with braised meats or a cheese and charcuterie board.”