A visit to the McLaren Vale almost obligates to visit one of the most famous wine producers in the region – d’Arenberg. Just a few seconds in the cellar door and you see how much this place differs from the others. A huge amount of medals and awards, very well-trained and professional staff, a massive portfolio of wines and pleasantly commercial ambience in the cellar door make a visit very attractive and memorable.
The d’Arenberg story with a red stripe
Joseph Osborn purchased 25 hectares of vineyards in 1912, in where he cultivated grapes and sold them to winemakers from the region. His son, Francis ‘Frank’ Ernest, abandoned his medical studies and decided to support Joseph in the wine business. Initially the Red Stripe * had been producing bulk wines, but since Francis completed the construction of the winery in 1928, the Osborn family began to pay more attention to the quality of work in the vineyard and started to produce wine under its own brand, d’Arenberg. In addition Frank has increased the extent of its vineyards up to 78 hectares.
A few vintages later grandson of Joseph and son of Francis, Francis d’Arry Osborn, joined the family business. He changed the general concept of wine culture in McLaren Vale and promoted the Red Stripe as a leader. D’Arry was, and still is, the wine enthusiast and he achieved a huge success in wine. It took him few years to make his brand a leading brand in Australian winemaking; he also enthusiastically promoted the wine region of McLaren Vale and South Australia.
D’Arry was an active member of the associations and initiatives related to wine (eg. Wine & Brandy Producers Association of South Australia, the South Australian Chamber of Commerce, McLaren Vale Wine Bushing Festival, McLaren Vale Winemakers Association and many others). For his services he was awarded the Order of the Queen’s Jubilee Medal (1978), the Medal of the Order of Australia Birthday Honours Queen (2004) and since 1995 d’Arry is the Patron of the Australian Wine Industry.
At the moment d’Arry still participates in social wine life of the region, though less active than in previous years. He supports his son, Chester, and daughter, Jackie, who continue to run the business; the masterpiece of the Obsorn family.
The Present – who is (not) hiding behind the Red Stripe?
Today the d’Arenberg is run by d’Arrys son, Chester Osborn, who is the icon of Australian winemaking, an incredible persona, a wine connoisseur, a charismatic man with amazing sense of humour. Every self-respecting wine lover, not only from the DownUnder, should recognize the name of Chester Osbourn and at least few of his wines.
Chester took over the business from his father in 1984. His fascination of the tradition has a big influence on his philosophy and he decided to return to the old, traditional practices in the vineyard. Neither chemicals nor irrigation is allowed in the vineyards wherever possible.
How does Chester describe his own wine philosophy? „The art of our wine making is about great viticulture, extremely gentle handling of the grapes and fermented must, strict ferment temperature regimes and no fining or filtration. Obviously it is a lot more complex than this however there’s a lifetime of knowledge required to describe it all.”
Chester is an important figure in the world of wine, not only in South Australia. His passion for the wine, his talent for making incredible wines that win many awards and medals during world-wide competition, his charisma, open-mind and interest in Australian winemaking made him and icon.
The art of being special
Chester does things different, he thinks in a different way and he sees in a different way. This is what you call a visioner’s mind.In this case ‘being different’ means ‘being special’.
Let’s look closer at one of his wine, The Dead Arm Shiraz, that is made from vines affected by the illness called ‘the dead arm’ (each of the arms of the vines dies one by one, reducing yields from one year to another, until the vine dies). In France, for example, if the vine is infected by the dead arm, it is removed and replanted with a new vine; the same in other vine growing areas of the world. But Chester took advantage of this situation and decided to create a wine from the grapes from not-infected arms of the infected vines. Dead Arm Shiraz is not only tasty but also has been awarded for its quality and character that you can’t find anywhere else.
It’s not only the philosophy that makes d’Arenberg special. If you look closer at the portfolio of wines you will see the difference in the quantity of wines comparing to any other McLaren Vale producer. In the cellar door there are about sixty wines to taste (yes, sixty!).
Furthermore it is impossible not to draw the attention at the names of the wines from d’Arenberg’s portfolio. Take a look at them: The Broken fishplate, The Ironstone Pressings, The Witches Berry, Tyche’s Mustard Single Vineyard or the Gnome with Stephanie Rose Tinted Glasses. They are unforgettable, aren’t they?
The lunch in the Verandah
It’s not all about wines, but also it is all about food. The restaurant itself looks great and the food on the plates makes everyone hungry ;) And what is important for me, there’s a large selection of the vegetarian food in the restaurant.
Apart from great food and beautiful wines, you can also book a tasting at d’Arrys Verandah or a wine pairing. Remember to book the seat in advance – as far as I remember the restaurant is always full!
The only thing you need to consider while planning your lunch or dinner at d’Arry’s Verandah is the money you will have to spend on as it is not a cheap restaurant. For example the tasting costs 95$pp, wine and food pairing is another 55$ pp; 3-courses meal is 80$pp. If you want a bottle of wine the price will go up, obviously. Although I was very surprised with the prices of wines, which are not that expensive; and the wine per glass starts from 6-9$ and finishes at 16-24$ per glass for special wines and d’Arrenberg’s icons.*
Much ado about… wines
Tasting at d’Arenberg is a pure pleasure as long as someone is able to easily decide which of the dozens of available wines he wants to try. I am not like that. I was a bit stressed due to the fact that it was the fourth cellar door I’ve been visiting that day and my taste buds needed a little more time per each wine. Therefore it was impossible for me to taste all the wines from d’Arenberg’s portfolio.
M. tasted almost all the wines that were available for tasting. I was jealous. Oh yes I was indeed! He didn’t need to make notes so he had more time for the wines. Additionally M. is kind of a freak (sorry Babe!)- he has sort of a hard disc in his brain and this hard disc records all the experience related with wine; he can remember all the wines he ever tasted with details and bring them back on demand within few seconds, even many years after the tasting. Moreover this hard disc is well-configured, has an unlimited capacity, never crashes and is always right.
I’m telling myself I will be the same ‘when I grow up’ but somehow I don’t believe in it. It’s a gift, a gift of a wine-freak mind and I’m not like that; I am ‘just a wine lover’ and I need to carry my wine journal with me ;)
Back to the topic! Here is a list of all the amazing wines with their crazy names I had opportunity to try at d’Arenberg’s cellar door. Some of them already appeared in the Tasting Room and below you will find the links to their tasting notes; the others will be added soon.
- D’Arry’s Original Shiraz Grenache 2011 – read more
- Dadd Sparkling Brut NV – read more
- The High Trellis Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 – read more
- The Dry Dam Riesling 2007 – read more
- The Money Spider Roussanne 2013 – read more
- The Peppermint Paddock NV – read more
- Bonsai Vine Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2010 – read more
- The Cenosilicaphobic Cat Sagrantino Cinsault 2009 – read more
- Ironstone Pressings GSM 2010
- The Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
- Dead Arm Shiraz 2010 – read more
- Dead Arm Shiraz 2006 – read more
- The Vociferate Dipsomaniac Single Vineyard Shiraz 2010
- The Swinging Malaysian Single Vineyard Shiraz 2010
- The Amaranthine Single Vineyard Shiraz 2010
- The Noble Wrinkled Riesling 2011
- The Noble Mud Pie Viognier Marsanne Pinot Gris 2011
- McLaren Vale Vintage Fortified Shiraz 2006
Unforgettable moments and personal impressions
The entire crew behind the bar in the cellar door made a massive impression on me. Each person knows literally everything about each wine from the portfolio, about the region of McLaren Vale and South Australia wine industry in general. I felt like a VIP while tasting wines and I’ve seen all the visitors being treated this way – no matter what level of wine knowledge they’ve reached.
I appreciated every single minute of my visit in d’Arenberg and I am grateful for that amazing experience. I don’t know if it is a coincidence and all of the employees are very passionate about what they do or is it the philosophy of the Osborn family; in fact it doesn’t matter. I find it exceptional and I think it’s been one of the best customer services I’ve experienced in Australia.
My wine tasting experience makes me a fan of the brand. I am very positive about the Red Stripe and I am pleased that, despite such extensive portfolio, d’Arenberg keeps the high quality and such diversity of its products.
I really recommend visiting d’Arenberg’s cellar door and The Arry’s Verandah. After the visit you will never be the same and your thinking about Australian winemaking will change. Trust me, I know exactly what I’m talking about ;)
Have you been to d’Arenberg yet? What is your experience in the cellar door? Which wines you loved the most? Share your impressions with me and leave a comment below!
* prices from d’Arenberg’s website for 2015; the source of the historical facts are: a brochure about d’Arenberg and archive Red Stripe newsletters;