Tuesday, February 2, 2010


d'Arenberg: there's just so much to love about the place! Outstanding wine, beautiful location, long family tradition, large and diverse range, exceptional restaurant, classically packaged wines, I could go on! All this adds up to the cellar door which is probably my most visited of them all.

I travelled to d'Arenberg this afternoon primarily in search of tasting some of their premier 2007 reds. Unfortunately, my quest was unfulfilled. Despite that the 2006 releases of d'Arenberg's icon wines (Dead Arm Shiraz, Coppermine Road Cab Sav and Ironstone Pressings GSM) have been available for well over a year, I was informed that their 2007 releases would not be released for about another year, as all corresponding releases of these wines will be available to public with closer to 3 years bottle age as opposed to the previous 2. This is probably a good move in my opinion and one that if you can afford it - do it! I normally get around to tasting d'Arenberg's icons at time of release and, in the past, it must be said, they could all benefit from another year in the bottle (the last two Dead Arms being shining examples).

Still, d'Arenberg's 2006 icons are all brilliant reflections of their respective styles and well worth another go round in my opinion. The 2007 Custodian and d'Arry's Original should be available relatively soon though, but the 2007 Galvo Garage and Derelict Vineyard Grenache could be a while away yet.

I scribbled notes on all the wines tasted at the winery today, just be aware that they represent only about a third of d'Arenberg's extensive list available at cellar door.

I wasn't particularly in the mood for d'Arenberg's riesling/sav blanc/chardonnays today so I only tasted the Rhone styles from their white range. All of them impressed me in some form or another, especially the 2008 Last Ditch Viognier and character filled 2008 Money Spider Roussanne.

Another disappointment was the unavailability of the 2008 Noble Wrinkled Riesling, which has received quite a number of good reviews - it was sold out at cellar door. Now I must search the shops!

The two new wines here (a shiraz/roussanne and a sagrantino/cinsault) beautifully reflect the forward thinking and creative blending skills of the d'Arenberg team. The shiraz/rousanne is a beautiful drinking, lusciously ripe style almost akin to shiraz/viognier, while the sagrantino/cinsault certainly has some potential, but I'd like to wait and see where it goes once d'Arry's sagrantino vines have reached maturity.

My tasting notes are posted below.

d'Arenberg The Money Spider Roussanne 2008 ($20)
Buttery, toasty, nutty nose with notes of melon and quince; reflects ample character for the style. The palate is rather pungently set with grapefruit/melon flavours, finishing with punchy acids. Good roussanne. 89

d'Arenberg The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne 2008 ($15)
70/30 blend. Apricot kernel and lemon nose leads into a brightly flavoured palate with viognier's stonefruit varietals providing more of an undercarriage. 87

d'Arenberg The Last Ditch Viognier 2008 ($20)
Adelaide Hills/McLaren Vale. Oak fermented, then 6 months in old (5-20 years) French (mostly) and American oak. Reveals a soft, creamy, more savoury edged stonefruit fragrance, with a bright palate of nicely restrained varietal fruit, finishing fresh yet savoury with a framework of refreshing acidity. Another nice 'modern' Australian viognier? (full review soon) 90

d'Arenberg The Feral Fox Pinot Noir 2008 ($30)
Adelaide Hills. I never liked this wine much until the 2007, and now, I think it's improved again with the more generously oaked 2008. It contains a freshly perfumed, slightly minty/herbal red berry fruit nose backed by fresh cedar oak. The light-medium bodied palate is supple and surprisingly savoury, with a restrained fruit core which finishes pleasingly firm and tight with nice tannins. 91

d'Arenberg The Custodian Grenache 2006 ($18)
Perfumed and floral, with a somewhat spicy, savoury fragrance of redcurrant and earth which precedes a generously ripened, fruit forward and rustic palate touched by sour edged acidity. It's still good value but I'm dying to supple the 2007. 90

d'Arenberg d'Arry's Original Shiraz Grenache 2006 ($18)
Reveals meaty aromas of dark plums, cherry, spice and aniseed which could use a touch more intensity. Its meaty cherry flavours are complemented by bright acidity and sour edged fruit, with a savoury undertone and loose-knit tannins. 90

d'Arenberg The Twentyeight Road Mourvedre 2007 ($35)
Red colour, slightly closed nose yet savoury and deep, with baked earth and black plum notes expressed in a muddy fashion. Medium-full bodied, its palate is very tight and grippy, revealing ultra-ripe plum and prune undertones and some dark chocolate/herbal notes. Ultra firn, sandy tannins are also distinct. Quite a masculine wine. 91

d'Arenberg The Derelict Vineyard Grenache 2006 ($29)
Top perfume - very even elegant and integrated for the variety. Cherries, plums and blueberry with some spicy chocolate oak complexity. Palate has opened up nicely over the past 15 months, revealing a more smoother, supple and downright delicious expression of its complex, old vine fruit and sweet oak characters. An excellent 06 grenache. 93

d'Arenberg The Wild Pixie Shiraz Roussanne 2008 ($29)
Roussanne skins chucked into the mix of a 95/5 blend. Its ripe plum and dried apricot perfume is given a great big aromatic lift in a similar fashion to shiraz viognier. The brimming palate is full, soft, creamy and totally satisfying, delivering an ultra ripe expression of plum and berry fruit with soft, creamy vanilla/chocolate oak. A good one for the masses. Cellar door special? 91

d'Arenberg The Galvo Garage Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Petit Verdot Cabernet Franc 2006 ($30)
McLaren Vale/Adelaide Hills. I'm not a big lover of cross-regional blending but the Galvo Garage style almost always tickles my fancy. The 2006 contains an intense, minty red/black berry fruit nose with fresh, lush vanilla oak and a hint of dried herb, showing the great aromatic quality typical of the blend and the label. Its medium bodied palate reveals dried herb undertones to its vivd red fruit flavours, with a velvety mouthfeel and well controlled tannins. A good drink now or much later wine (for fans of the style). 92

d'Arenberg The Sticks & Stones Tempranillo Grenache Shiraz 2005 ($29)
Interesting to see d'Arenberg have changed their temp/grenache/souzao to a temp/grenache/shiraz, just as Yalumba will stop making their temp/grenache/shiraz or so I've been told. d'Arenberg's TGS is dark and pruney with scents of rich chocolate and raspberry. Bony tannins provide an assertive framework for its dry, savoury and medium bodied palate, but I still think I'd like to see the souzao return ala Portuguese....89

d'Arenberg The Cenosilicaphobic Cat Sagrantino Cinsault 2007 ($29)
Certainly a typical d'Arenberg project of lofty ambitions both wine wise and in terms of labelling(!). It's 91% sagrantino (from 5 year old vines on the property) with 9% cinsault (vines planted 1958) added for depth and weight. It's tight nose shows dried herb, redcurrant and rhubarb notes in more of a savoury, Italianette fashion, but its lighter bodied palate which is framed by very firm, tight tannins could use more depth of flavour to balance the package. 87

d'Arenberg The Ironstone Pressing Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2006 ($60)
70/25/5. Great, savoury, rich yet deep and inviting nose reflects truly even ripeness of its old vine fruit character. It's extremely long on the palate, a lot softer and more accessible than it was in October 2008, it's now decidedly even and elegant. It announces a myriad of flavours - prune, plum, meat, chocolate, berries all layered in fine fashion. It's an exceptional d'Arenberg GSM really, which successfully integrates its 15% alcohol. (full review soon) 94

d'Arenberg The Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($60)
Still one of the best McLaren Vale cabernets I've had for some time. It's deeply fruited in a very regional fashion, showing currant-like dark fruits, rhubarb and lovely chocolate/cedar oak. The palate is wonderfully concentrated, essence-like and silky, with a long, savoury and persistent finish scored by ripe yet sandy tannins. Very regional but true. Top stuff. 95

d'Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz 2006 ($60)
Has opened up a bit since October 08 but still needs more time. It showed a surprisingly freshly fruited and musky (if closed somewhat still) expression of its old vine fruit, with more than a polite nod of nutty vanilla/cedar oak and perhaps even some mint?. It's medium-full bodied, silky and savoury, with very firm tannins. It's also rather elegant and balanced, but it's rather obvious this Dead Arm's screaming for time in the cellar. 93

d'Arenberg The Vintage Fortified Shiraz Chambourcin 2005 ($30-750ml)
Very complex, almost alive aroma. It's kinda nutty, plummy and meaty, with a rich dark chocolate note. The palate shows wonderfully luscious sour edged dark plum flavours with chocolate pudding. It's long, smooth and seamless, finishing with a nicely controlled use of spirit. (full review soon) 92


  1. As the McLaren Vale man on the ground, how have you found the 06's compared to the 07 reds? It seems like 07 might be a good Grenache year, but by early tastes a very tough one for everything else. The judges yesterday at the Sydney Show were decrying how generally poor the 07 South Australian reds were, particularly Cabernet.


  2. I'm still keeping my nose and mouth out and open on the 07s AG, I didn't quite get what I was after at d'Arenberg unfortunately.

    With McLaren Vale I'd have to say I've so far found grenache, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon to be generally inferior in 2007 as opposed to 2006 (which produced some memorable expressions of each). I agree, some of the 07 grenache looks pretty handy and I've even seem some ok shiraz (but generally inferior to 06), but alas I too have found 07 to not be much of a cabernet vintage. Joseph's Moda is the exception I've discovered here but it's just such an extra-terrestrial wine compared to your 'standard' cabernet really.

    I wouldn't be at all surprised if d'Arenberg isn't the only winery in the region to hold back their premier 07s, as yields were down that season compared to 04, 05 and 06 (and I'm sure some would like to sell off that stock first if possible!).

    Cheers Andrew and best of luck in what sounds like an exciting year ahead for you!

  3. HI Chris, Luke Tyler - Communications Manager for d'Arenberg. Thanks for the write up of the cellar door and your insights into the wines. As for the 07's we will be rolling over the icon vintages in about June and some of the other wines before that. AS you have said 07 was a small vintage and drought conditions and a warm December meant that the wines are very tannic and more bottle age won't hurt. Look out for the 07 Custodian which is a very smart wine. The vintages on our webstite reflect what we are pouring at cellar door.


  4. Thanks for the info Luke. I'll make sure I'm back around winter to see Tania (hope that's spelt right!) and the team at the cellar door. Looking forward to those 07 icons for sure!

    Cheers for the Custodian tip as well. I've already read one reviewer who rates it very highly.

    Chris P