We take time out to speak with
of Hobbs Vintners
Another Vinorium Exclusivity
The historic vineyard located in the idyllic, rugged surroundings of the Barossa Ranges was planted at the beginning of the last century and is home to some of Barossa’s oldest vines. Now owned by Greg and Alison who, in 1995 left their life in the city to move their family Sean, Bridget and Jessica to start a new life among the vines.
With a strong belief in organic and biodynamic practices, Greg and Alison have managed to bring renewed vitality to these ancient vines by carefully and painstakingly hand pruning and removing dead wood from the vines to re-establish their original shape, helping the vines to continue to prosper. The unique soil and cooler climate in the Barossa Ranges allow the vines to be ‘dry-grown’, only watering in extreme conditions to maintain the health of the plant. The soil is coarse, yellow, podzolic soil on top of clay subsoil, mixed with decomposing rock which has ideal water retention allowing for this practice. This results in extremely low yields of highly concentrated grapes, the cooler climate helping to preserve essential acidity, a combination that produces wines of great power and intensity.
Greg and Alison collaborate with their neighbour, winemaker Chris Ringland to produce their 1905 Shiraz, produced from the vineyards original vines planted over a century ago. For their Gregor Shiraz, an Amarone style wine produced from hand-picked, semi dried grapes and their Tin Lids, a Shiraz-Cabernet blend, Greg and Alison have worked for the past 10 years alongside Pete Schell of Spinifex. These flagship wines are made from extremely low yielding vines in miniscule quantities of just 130 to 300 cases.
What motivated you to leave your city life and begin your new life as winemakers? Has life changed for the better?
As a family with 3 young children (8,6,4) Allison and I wanted to give our children the chance of growing up in the country. We had no intention of making wine, we were only going to grow great quality fruit. At first, we started to sell our grapes to Rockford. After meeting our neighbour Chris Ringland, it took him 2 years to talk us into making a wine. We were not going to sell this wine, it was just for family and friends to drink. That was in 1998. We have made wine ever since. In our first vintage we made 30 dozen wines, now we make about 1800 dozen. Yes, life is better.
Tell us about the Barossa Valley, what makes the region so special? What drew you here in the first place?
We moved to the Barossa for a lifestyle. But, it is one of the 10 great wine regions of the world, and Australia’s premier wine region. Climate, soil and location make it special. It is only 60 minutes to Adelaide. The wine community as a whole is very supportive and helpful.
Do you meet with other Barossa producers and winemakers and exchange views/experiences? Do you swap wines?
Yes, we regularly meet with Chris Ringland and others. Especially the other members of the Artisans of Barossa. In talking with others, you always exchange ideas, views and experiences. We swap and buy wines from many producers.
The soils of the area are known to be unique. Can you tell us about the soils at your vineyard and how they influence the wines?
The soil in our region of the Barossa Ranges is yellow podzolic. It is a very lean soil containing quartz with a clay layer below. We do not have mains water, but, we do have a small dam. From this we try to give the vines a very small drink if we can. On years like 2019, we had no dam water so the vines had a very hard year.
Is there a particular block that you feel stands out above the rest? If so, what makes it superior?
There is not one part of our vineyard that is any better than the rest. We were just very lucky to buy one of Australia’s great vineyards.
"When you are regularly in touch with and speak to people/winemakers of the calibre of Pete Schell and Chris Ringland, you would have to be a fool not to be influenced."
How have Pete Schell and Chris Ringland influenced you? Does Chris still consult on your winemaking?
Yes Chris still does some consulting for us. When you are regularly in touch with and speak to people/winemakers of the calibre of these two you would have to be a fool not to be influenced. They have so much passion and are both gifted but also technically astute winemakers. You learn that balance is the key, it creates silkiness. Wines should have no jagged edges, they should be able to be consumed young but should also be able to be aged.
You have an ability to craft a real powerful style of Shiraz. Was this the style you always loved (passion for Italian Amarone perhaps?) or is it a product of the old vines and the terroir?
90% of a wine is made in the vineyard. We endeavour to work with our fruit and make wines with minimal intervention.
The idea of making an Amarone style wine initially came from discussions around our vineyard. Due to our location we have a longer and slower ripening period than the Barossa Valley floor. This is simply due to the cooling effect of our elevation. This allows us to let our fruit hang on the vine longer. If you want, a natural drying style. From this discussion/idea we came up with the idea of picking the fruit a little earlier and rack drying them to achieve a more Amarone type characteristic. This was in 2002, we have been doing it ever since.
Your Gregor Shiraz is incredibly powerful and loved by many of our customers. What prompted the decision to create an Amarone style Shiraz? Did you experiment a lot?
No experimentation... Just a love and passion to make great wine.
As well as the many positives relating to the quality of the old vine fruit, are there any challenges to working with such ancient vines?
No. Working with old vines is a bit like working with your grandfather. If you work them too hard (over crop them) they will produce rubbish fruit and probably die. Let them produce as much fruit as they like and you will reap the rewards.
We have read a report of Phylloxera being found in the Yarra Valley and wrote about it in our weekly magazine. Is this a concern?
Phylloxera is a primary concern of all in the wine industry. Our wonderful country Australia with its vast distances between vineyard areas gives us the ability to contain the spread. This will only be effective if we are diligent in educating and making people aware of their responsibilities to stop the spread of phylloxera. It will spread, it will spread because big wineries cut costs. They move machinery all around Australia, an accident will happen as some stage, but it will not have an effect in our area in my lifetime. Hopefully by then we will have ways to contain it or destroy it.
We know that it’s a very busy time for you at the moment. How is the harvest going? Anything of particular note from the current vintage?
28/3/19. We will most likely pick our shiraz next week. It has been a dry winter and a very dry spring and summer. Quality is sensational, yields will be anything from 40% to 60% down.
Do you have a personal favourite out of your wines? If so, what makes it a favourite?
No. It is a bit like asking if we have a favourite child. Yes, the one I am drinking now!!
Tell us about life as a family run winery, the joys and the difficulties (if any!)
There are joys and difficulties in any family run business. The great joy of life here when our children were home was always being around when they were here. The other great joy is that I spend every day with my wonderful wife.
Would you like to pass any message to our world-wide customers?
Buy more Hobbs wines (of course!!). We will always make the best wine we can, if we do not think it is good enough to put our name on the bottle, it won’t happen. Last point - keep an eye on the 2018 wines. At the point of production and up until now they are the best wines we have made. They still have at least 12 months in barrel to go, but look stunning.
The quality of the 2015 release was confirmed when Joe Czerwinski awarded them some of the highest scores Hobbs had received with the incredible 98 points scored for the1905, just a single point behind Joe’s score for the monumental Standish 2016s. For the wine to literally make Joe's "hair stand on end" is quite a statement!
98 Points - Joe Czerwinski (RobertParker.com) "Produced from vines planted in 1905 overlooking Flaxman Valley, Hobbs's 2015 1905 Shiraz was made with the assistance of neighbor Chris Ringland. Despite being aged in 100% new French oak puncheons, raspberry and chocolate aromas mark the nose, while the palate is full-bodied and creamy-textured. The wine is dense yet fresh, vibrant and actually made my hair stand on end when I tasted it—it's that exhilarating to taste such a magical amalgam of richness and drinkability. At around 150 cases produced, it may not be easy to find, but for true Shiraz lovers it should be a required quest."
Out of stock
98 Points - Joe Czerwinski (RobertParker.com) "Owner Greg Hobbs jokes that the 2015 Gregor Shiraz is their "big-production wine," because he bottles 500-600 cases annually. The grapes are picked a bit earlier than those for the 1905 Shiraz and then air-dried on racks before being crushed and fermented. Scents of smoke and black pepper emerge on the nose of this fantastically concentrated elixir. It's full-bodied and unabashedly rich, with notes of cracked pepper, chocolate and dark fruit supported by silky tannins and a long finish. It should drink well for a decade or more.
£59.95 per bottle
Hobbs Tin Lids Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
96 Points - Joe Czerwinski (RobertParker.com) "This wine was made together with Sean, Bridget and Jessica Hobbs, their 'kids', or Tin Lids as they were often called. Their youthful influence on this traditional Aussie blend has resulted in a vibrant wine with the fresh herbal flavours of Cabernet merging seamlessly with the rich dark red and blackberry flavours of Shiraz. On the nose, you’ll find liquorice and blackberry essence, spicy notes of pepper and sage with a hint of freshly picked mint, meaty and savoury aromas and subtle notes of cedar. The palate is full-bodied with dark red and blackberry flavours and the lovely herbaceous characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon The wine has a fresh acidity, very fine grain tannins and a long perfumed finish."
£28.95 per bottle