AUSTRALIA 2018 (2) | HEWITSON & TORBRECK - Barossa Valley
posted on 21/09/2018

Click here for part one


South Australia ~ Barossa Valley

On Wednesday, June 22nd I departed from Adelaide heading 50km northeast towards the Barossa Valley. I drove to the left side of the road for the first time, fortunately without any issue! One hour later I reached Barossa, the well-known hilly valley in a scenery full of vineyards and eucalyptus trees. Wine giants such as Penfolds and Peter Lehman are based here; however I preferred to visit the cellar doors of smaller wineries Hewitson and Torbreck.

The Barossa Valley enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate and is ideal to produce wines from varieties that love the warm and dry climates. Shiraz (the Australian name for Syrah originating from Southern Rhone) is the most widely planted variety in Australia. It is ideally expressed here, especially when it comes from old, non-irrigated, phylloxera-free vines, thanks to the strict quarantine that has been imposed. On top of this, Australians are preventing visitors from walking among the vines so they do not transmit any bacteria from their country of origin.



I drove to the left side of the road for the first time...


...fortunately without any issue!


The state of South Australia includes many well-known wine-growing areas around the city of Adelaide. I visited Barossa (purple on the map), the most famous wine region in the country (Source: Wine Folly)


In the meantime, I arrived at the first winery.


The Hewitson Family Winery cellar door is quite cozy, with a lit fireplace (Australia has winter in June in the Southern Hemisphere) and beautiful views to the vineyard. Here I tasted six amazing wines, with great character and personality that go far beyond the Barossa beaten track. I visited the winery without knowing anything about the owner Dean Hewitson, but his wines made me a real fan of his work right from the beginning!


The Hewitson Winery cellar door in the heart of the Barossa Valley

At the tasting room overlooking the vineyard

Dean got his oenological degree in 1986 from the Roseworthy Agricultural College of Adelaide. In the next 10 years he worked for top wineries in Australia and later on, throughout France: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Beaujolais, Rhone and Provence. He then got his Masters at UC Davis, California and worked in Santa Barbara, Napa Valley, Sonoma, Monterey, Oregon and Washington State.


Dean Hewitson, one of the most talented winemakers in the Barossa Valley (Source: Hewitson)

In 1998 he founded the Hewitson Winery in the heart of Barossa with his wife Lou, his children Ned, Henry and Harriet and six employees, producing 350 tons of wine annually. The winery uses grapes from very old, non-irrigated vineyards of the area, as well as single vineyard sites from the Eden Valley, McLaren Vale and the Adelaide Hills.

Here are my notes from a fantastic wine flight:

Hewitson Belle Ville Rose 2017 (Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre) – Epic rose wine, incredibly intriguing! Meaty on the nose, with umami character and animal notes that pushes rosé to new levels. Absolutely balanced on the palate: moderate acidity, moderate (-) alcohol 12.5% and creaminess in an easy drinking yet sophisticated style reminiscent of the wines of Provence. The grapes are exclusively grown for rosé vinification and are vinified without Saignée (no bleeding).

Approximate retail price: € 15,70 // Annual production of 30,000 bottles

Hewitson Private Cellar 2008 (100% Chardonnay) - A lovely 10-year-old Chardonnay, still very young on the nose. Aromas of pineapple, sweet & sour fruits, white pepper and minerality. Moderate acidity and fine texture on the palate, with tertiary notes (mushroom, earth) that add complexity and character.

Approximate Retail Price: € 25,00



Hewitson Belle Ville Rose 2017


Hewitson Private Cellar 2008... a unique Chardonnay produced 10 years ago


Hewitson Baby Bush 2015 (100% Mourvèdre) - Elegant nose with potpourri, cherries, soil and intriguing animal notes. High acidity, moderate (+) tannins and 14% alcohol. More floral and delicate mouth aromas.

Approximate retail price: € 17,60 // Annual production of 24,000 bottles

Hewitson Old Garden Vineyard 2013 (100% Mourvèdre) - From an extremely old Mourvèdre vineyard planted in 1853. The Old Garden vineyard has survived floods, fires and phylloxera and now celebrates its 165th birthday. Planted in sandy soils above limestone with a 10 meters deep root system. Aromas of red fruits, dried flowers, smoke, earth, dried eucalyptus leaves and wet forest. Multi-layered and complicated. Very fine palette with high acidity, moderate tannins, 14% alcohol and a long lasting finish. The history of Barossa in a glass!

Approximate retail price: € 55,50 // Annual production of 5,400 bottles


Mourvèdre from new (left) and old vines (right)

Hewitson Ned & Henry's 2017 (100% Shiraz) - Black cherries, black berries, pepper, tobacco, roasted dry nuts, leather. The dense fruit digests the wine’s high acidity as well as tannins and alcohol (14%) and makes a very 'drinkable' wine overall.

Approximate retail price: € 19,00 // Annual production of 36,000 bottles

Hewitson Falkenberg Vineyard 2014 (100% Shiraz) - A single vineyard wine with dense black fruits, berries, sour cherries, spices, mineral and animal notes (matured meat). High acidity, high tannins, alcohol at 14% and finesse altogether.

Approximate retail price: € 55,50 // Annual production of 5,400 bottles



Tasting the Hewitson family wines was a unique experience


Back to the parking lot

That was great for warm up! Immediate departure to the Torbreck winery, just four miles from here.



Two hundred hectares of privately-owned vineyards and some contracted growers in the Barossa produce grapes that end up in one of the 720,000 Torbrack bottles. Key points are firstly the 400 meter-altitude of vineyards as well as the great diurnal temperature variation during harvest (max 40 degrees at day and min 18-20 degrees at night, i.e. 20°C temperature difference). Since 1994, the winery has been producing wines mainly based on the Rhône varieties of France (Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvédre etc), which are well suited to Barossa’s Mediterranean climate. Some very old vines that were planted in the 1840's are still productive and are vinified with minimal interventions (no finning or filtering and moderate use of barrels), resulting in wines with structure, duration and finesse.


Arrival at the tasting room of the Torbreck winery in Marananga, Barossa


... established by David Powell in 1994

I tasted fifteen wines and below are my notes:


Woodcutter's Semillon 2017 (100% Semillon) - Nice nose with peach, tropical fruits and minerality. High acidity, moderate (+) alcohol, creamy palate. Still young, it needs further ageing between 3-5 years.

Approximate retail price: € 11,50 // Annual production of 12,000 bottles

Woodcutter's RVM 2017 (42% Roussanne, 38% Viognier, 20% Marsanne) – Beautifully floral nose due to Viognier with evening primrose, chamomile and almond paste. Moderate (+) acidity, full body, creamy mouth.

Approximate retail price: € 13,50 // Annual production of 6,000 bottles

Steading Blanc 2017 (65% Roussanne, 24% Marsanne, 11% Viognier) - Grapes from vines planted in 1994. Stone fruits, dry nuts, mineral and vanilla notes. Very nice palate; the high acidity balances it’s volume. Long finish. Ideal wine to accompany large and meaty sea fish.

Approximate retail price: € 23,50 // Annual production of 3,000 bottles

Roussanne 2017 (100% Roussanne) - Chamomile, flowers, apricot, nectarine. Moderate (+) acidity, full body, creaminess with a long finish. Ideal for white meats.

Retail price approximate: € 30,50

Woodcutter's Rosé 2017 (100% Mataró = Mourvèdre) - Rustic rose wine, it reminded me of rose zinfandel. Sweets, candies, red fruits and a warm mouthfeel in general.

Approximate retail price: € 11,50 // Annual production of 6,000 bottles


The whites and rosés of the tasting flight


Cuvée Juveniles 2016 (75% Grenache, 18% Mataro (Mourvèdre), 17% Shiraz) - Very nice and complex stainless-steel fermented GSM blend from 40-150 year old vines. Red fruits, light animal notes, leather, tobacco, potpourri. A bit more smoked (smoked ham) and long-lasting on the palate.

Approximate retail price: € 15,50 // Annual production of 48,000 bottles

The Steading 2016 (55% Grenache, 28% Mataro (Mourvèdre), 17% Shiraz) - Same blend, matured in oak barrels. Relatively closed nose with red fruits and spices. Much more expressive on the palate: sour cherries, red cherries, forest berries. Long finish.

Approximate retail price: € 23,50 // Annual production of 48,000 bottles

Woodcutter's Shiraz 2016 (100% Shiraz) - Very good entry level wine with dense red and black fruits, pepper, spices, high tannins and a full body.

Approximate retail price: € 15,50 // Annual production of 300,000 bottles


In the comfortable tasting room overlooking the vineyards

The Struie 2016 (100% Shiraz) – Blend of Shiraz grapes from Barossa and the coldest Eden, in a more floral and light result; 40-60 years old vines. Concentrated black fruits (sour cherries, cherries, plums, berries), flowers, spices, leather, wood, high acidity, exemplary tannins and a lovely mouthfeel.

Approximate retail price: € 30,50 // Annual production of 60,000 bottles

The Gask 2016 (100% Shiraz) – Made from 60 year-old vines from the Eden Valley (purchased from the Henschke family). Even more fine and stylish. Red and black fruits, potpourri, leather, some flowers. High acidity, cherries and violets on the palate, in a more feminine version of the variety.

Approximate retail price: € 47,50 // Annual production of 6,000 bottles

Hillside Vineyard Grenache 2016 (100% Grenache) - From 70-year-old vines. Nice and complex nose with red fruits, granite, flint and potpourri. Much more fruity mouth, juicy with sour cherries, black cherries, forest fruits, high acidity and mature tannins.

Approximate Retail Price: € 47,50

Grower's Cut 2016 (100% Shiraz) - Lush, classic Barossa Shiraz with dense black fruit, black pepper, leather and wood notes. Very exuberant and complex palate with alcohol at 15%. Only to be paired with T-bone steaks, otherwise it needs ageing.

Approximate retail price: € 47,50 // Annual production of 1,200 bottles


Part of the vineyard, just before pruning

The next three wines can be gracefully aged for at least 20 years, according to the host of the tasting

The Factor 2015 (100% Shiraz) - Very complex and intriguing without being tiring: dense black fruits, spices, pepper, vegetal notes (eucalyptus leaves) and minerality. 15% alcohol is not a problem due to fruit concentration. Lovely acidity, high but juicy tannins, balance, density and finesse. From 80 year old vines.

Approximate retail price: € 79,00 // Annual production of 6,000 bottles

Descendant 2015 (92% Shiraz, 8% Viognier) – Co-fermentation with white Viognier. Nice and more acidic black fruits (forest fruits, berries), flowers and sweet spices. Soaring acidity, tannins and body, long finish. From 100 year old vines.

Approximate retail price: € 79,00 // Annual production of 6,000 bottles

RunRig 2014 (98.5% Shiraz, 1.5% Viognier) – A premium wine from 100-170 year-old vines and a great review by Robert Parker, 97/100. Black and red fruits, intense minerality, potpourri, matured meat, bay leaves, wet forest. High acidity in the mouth, high alcohol (15.5% abv), but with courtesy and balance. Many wine lovers claim it is positioned in the same league with legendary wines such as Grange and Hill of Grace.

Approximate retail price: € 160,00 // Annual production of 9,600 bottles


The legendary RunRig, one of Australia's great wines


The reds of the tasting



Leaving the winery ...


...until next time!


-To be continued-


* Originally published in Grape wine magazine (issue #11, pages 10-21)


~ Story in 5 parts: Intro (here) / Barossa Valley (this)

To be published: Eden Valley / Mornington Peninsula / Yarra Valley ~


Gregory Kontos, DipWSET

Wine writer and taster, sommelier graduate and WSET Diploma holder, with an appreciation for food, traveling, music, friends and bon vivant things in general. Founder of Aegean Wine Selections, a Company focused in Greek wine exports. He is married to Stavroula Mariamou and they have a son. 



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