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  • Jancis Robinson
Written by
  • Jancis Robinson
8 Jul 2014

Our regular columnist in Australia Max Allen asked in Australia at the crossroads? which way the wine industry would go. High-profile Barossa Valley producer Torbreck is surely taking the high road with their announcement that they have bought the famous Gnadenfrei vineyard (pictured) in Marananga, which supplies their top single-vineyard wine The Laird.

The five-acre Gnadenfrei vineyard was owned by the legendary Malcolm Seppelt, and is on a south-east facing slope on the eastern side of the ridge that separates the Seppeltsfield and Marananga sub-appellations of the western Barossa Valley. Laird_2It was planted with one of the original Barossa Shiraz clones in 1958 on particularly dark, heavy clay loam over red friable clay over limestone. The vineyard is dry farmed and unmechanised - just the sort of prime site likely to secure the long-term reputation of this extraordinary part of Australian wine history.

The vineyard has been the source of The Laird since its first release in 2005, and was under contract to Torbreck until the acquisition. But the purchase is surely an example of the sort of long-term planning that is needed for small to medium-sized Australian wine producers to have a viable future.

Torbreck Vintners now own several renowned vineyard sources supplying their top wines The Laird, RunRig and Descendant, while the rest of their grape needs will continue to come from other owned, share-farmed and leased sites and its particular grower-based network of contracts.

According to Craig Isbel, Torbreck Vintners' chief winemaker, 'The purchase is significant not just as a highly prized asset, but equally as a strategic move that helps us secure our long-term ambitions - the consistent production of international fine wines grown from Barossa's greatest terroirs.'

Peter Perrin, once of Bleasdale but recently appointed general manager in the wake of the very public departure of Dave Powell, commented, 'This is a great opportunity for both Torbreck and the Barossa to continue its fine-wine story, and to further explore the detailed journey from regional wines to site-specific wines. It is all possible thanks to patient capital allied to an informed, long-term vision.'

Chairman of Torbreck is Colin Ryan, long-standing backer of Australian wine projects such as some of those of the late Len Evans, and the owner is Pete Kight who also owns Quivira in Sonoma, California.

The photos are taken from the producer's website.