The Barossa Valley and its historic family grapegrowing legacy were on show at the 22nd edition of the Hospice du Rhone, an international conference held in Paso Robles, California, that is devoted to the promotion of Rhone-based grape varietals.
Organised by Chuck Hayward, the leading authority of Australian wines in the US, the seminar panel featured sixth-generation grapegrower Adrian Hoffmann from the Ebenezer district of the Barossa Valley along with four winemakers that purchase his fruit for their wine projects.
Joining Hayward and Hoffmann on the panel were winemakers Michael Twelftree of Two Hands Winery and Twelftree Wines, Chris Ringland from Ringland Vintners, Paul Heinicke of Soul Growers and Russell Johnstone of RBJ Vintners. Following a brief video introduction, each of them offered comments on their wines and answered questions from Chuck about their wines and how they related to Adrian’s vineyards.
“The goal of the seminar was to show the Barossa in a new light,” Hayward said in his introductory remarks.
“The Barossa is more than just numbers and lines on a map. It is a living and breathing wine culture, shaped by people, from yesterday to today, that is unique in the world of wine.”
The seminar was attended by more than 350 people who tasted through nine wines including examples made from shiraz, grenache or mataro as well as blends from those varieties ranging from current releases to museum wines back to 2002.
Hoffmann said the seminar was very well received. “And even though we have a lot of follow-up work to really capitalise on the work already done, I think we have done ourselves, the Barossa and our country proud, even if there was a Yank and a couple of Kiwi’s in the mix.”
Twelftree showed his 2015 Twelftree Grenache Sturt Road, the newly released 2016 Bella’s Garden Shiraz and the 2010 Ares Shiraz. He said, “I had only positive comments from many people telling me how enjoyable our seminar was, I think it worked because we told a human story. We were there to highlight Adrian and to get him talking. People loved our Australian frankness and honesty, we kept it upbeat and interesting and the video segments allowed the panel discussions to stay focused and not too long. The wines were all different and of a very high quality. It was great to see the Barossa on centre stage with so much positivity.”
Chris Ringland presented two wines from the Hoffmann Vineyard: 2012 Chris Ringland Dimchurch Shiraz and 2007 Chris Ringland Shiraz Hoffmann Vineyard. Ringland said: “Beyond the opportunity to taste wines and learn more, meeting winemakers, grapegrowers, marketers, retailers and crazy wine lovers was an unexpected benefit. It’s a unique experience in the world of wine.”
Paul Heinicke of Soul Growers showed wines that had never been presented to the public. The wines that saw their premiere included a 2016 shiraz from a 100 year old parcel of vines from Hoffmann’s vineyard alongside a new mataro. He said: “Hospice du Rhone was a great vehicle to show Australian Rhone varietal winemaking on the world stage and highlight the history of Barossa winemaking.
“The Hoffmann story highlights the depth and history of winemaking in the Barossa Valley as well as the shared goal of producing the highest quality wine from a generational vineyard. The relationship between grower and winemaker is an essential part of the Barossa story and it clearly resonated with the audience.”
Hayward said: “It is important for the future of the Barossa Valley that the winemakers and growers begin to own their own narrative. It’s dangerous to let others define the region and I think this seminar, produced at one of the wine world’s most prestigious conferences, was a huge step in that direction. It was an honour to be part of it.”
• Chuck Hayward has worked in the wine industry for more than 30 years, first in retail at the acclaimed Jug Shop and later with internet pioneers JJ Buckley. His knowledge about Australian and NZ wine has led him to become America’s leading expert in these categories. He recently founded Vinroads Marketing and Consulting which seeks to assist wineries with sales, marketing and educational efforts in the US. Email [email protected]
Photos: Chuck Hayward.