An Epic Fantasy Novel - from the Writer of Red Wine Please!

SUBSCRIBE!

If you would like to be notified of new posts please enter your email address

FBFPowered by ®Google Feedburner

Travel Spots

Previous Posts

A Chat with John Geber from Chateau Tanunda – Great Wine from the Barossa Valley in Australia

sunkengarden afterVery recently I had the chance to meet John Geber, proprietor of Chateau Tanunda, on his Grand Barossa yacht tied up in Newport, RI.   I had been referred by a friend, and the more I meet and talk with people in the wine making industry the more it strikes me how genuinely passionate and gracious they all are.  John was very busy, the boat was getting ready to leave the next morning, yet he still found an hour to spend discussing his wine vision and philosophy and how they manifest themselves at Chateau Tanunda.

Chateau Tanunda is the oldest chateau in Australia, established in 1890, with vineyard history dating

The Chateau before renovation

The Chateau before renovation

back into the mid 1800′s.  It was once the largest wine producing facility in the southern hemisphere.  Grand in scale the buildings and grounds are impressive, currently due to the dedication of John, his family and their collective team, as the property had been abandoned for five years and was in serious disrepair.  The story is that John was out for a bike ride one morning and rode past Chateau Tanunda, which led to his buying it the next day.  That was in 1998, and the intervening 16 years has seen the chateau renewed, the vineyards expanded and the brand Chateau Tanunda built into a worldwide recognition for quality and value.  We’ll get to the wines later, first a little background.

As I mentioned, the vineyard history of this part of Australia in the Barossa Valley

Old vines!

Old vines!

dates back into the1840s, and Chateau Tanunda still boasts vines well over one hundred years old, with some of their Semillon vines at the 165 year mark.  Using these vines they make a range of wines called the Proud Centenarians.  The point is that wine making here is not new.  When the phylloxera scourge spread across Europe, part of the ensuing proliferation of European wine making methods and experience came to Australia as well.  This region became important in making and shipping wine back to the old world while Europe struggled to find a solution to the louse, and implement it.  Tanunda was in the middle of all of that.

When John found it the Chateau had been abandoned for five years, at least the buildings had.  Fortunately the vineyards were well kept during this time.  Still the task has been arduous, and clearly a labor of love.  When talking about his Chateau you can hear the pride of ownership in his voice.  We talked about Chateau Tanunda’s place in the world wine community, as well as in Australia’s and

Awards and accolades

Awards and accolades

Barossa’s.  Their goals of quality are clearly being attained, as they boast an incredible run of awards over the past few years.  For many decades Penfolds has stood as the hallmark of quality wine from that region.  Their iconic Grange demands very high prices.  John believes Chateau Tanunda is the next Penfolds, at least the Penfolds of a while back before they expanded to become truly gigantic.  Currently Chateau Tanunda produces just under 150,000 cases per year, and they have no desire to go above 200,000.  So maybe some room for expansion there, but they won’t be doubling or tripling in size anytime soon.

Along with years in the wine industry prior to buying Chateau Tanunda, John spent five years at Tetley Tea, working new products and building market share dramatically.  During this time he also blended teas.  When he explained the parallels it made sense: of course the tannins, but also the milk is similar to fining wine with milk solids, and the sugars of course.  It’s not a direct match, but a lot of it applies.  What he tried to do in tea he brings to wine, and it’s about balance and persistence.  He is the blender and the final approver of the wines.  Also very involved in the vineyards, the only aspect he stays more or less out of is the vinification of the individual lots.  Most of their wines are blended, so these really are his wines.

Grand Barossa at the dock

Grand Barossa at the dock

I mentioned the yacht, the Grand Barossa, which was absolutely beautiful.  She does hard duty serving as a floating ambassador for Chateau Tanunda, and while you think of luxury yachts as all fun and sun this one does not sit idle very often.  John talked about their recent stretch of 19 ports and 79 wine events and tastings

Aboard the Grand Barossa

Aboard the Grand Barossa

in 64 days.  More than 1100 people signed into their logbook, and many are retailers, distributors, retauranteurs and wine media people.  Getting the word out takes effort, and they push it pretty hard.  Of course there has to be some down time in there, but I didn’t get the impression this is very relaxing.  I was pretty relaxed, but he squeezed our conversation in between the crew turning over the boat and provisioning.  When we finished our discussion he was off into Newport again for something.

So let’s talk about the wine.  We tasted three wines from his Grand Barossa range, fitting since we were sitting on the top deck of the Grand Barossa at the time.  As I mentioned, John is about balance and persistence.  His wines are meant to be smooth, to maintain themselves throughout the experience, and to be above all delicious and enjoyable.  These wines were that.  They are also affordable, as they are all available in the low to high teens depending on the wine and the store.  This is a sweet spot for quality wine, and these fit in beautifully.  Here they are:

2012 Grand Barossa Chardonnay – this sees oak, but the oak here manifests itself in a very nice and

Chardonnay

Chardonnay

unusual way.  Most oaked Chardonnays see a dulling of the fruit, not necessarily dramatic but it just seems to take the edge off.  I’m not talking the heavily oaked, buttery chards, but something lighter.  Think Chablis.  This wine brings startling minerality and bright tropical fruit.  The oak is there, and sort of throws a comforting cloak around the whole thing without detracting from any of the individual pieces.  It is delicious.  Will run you about $13-$15.

2012 Grand Barossa Dry Riesling – it is dry, as the name suggests, and there is a nice ridge of acid that runs through it.  The color is very light.  You get a very small hint of the petroleum marker which classic riesling carries.  Serve this chilled and just drink it or throw some oysters on the half shell at it.  It’s beautiful, clean and crisp.  Very

Dry Riesling

Dry Riesling

nice, and a clear value list wine as well at about $12-$14.

2011 Grand Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon – this wine is a beautiful, brilliant deep red, and the nose absolutely screams Cabernet.  It spends 18 months in French oak, light toast at most as the oak is refined and subtle.  Currant and

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon

vanilla come though cleanly and there are some earthy notes as well.  The wine delivers throughout the tasting experience, and the fruit carries though the mid palate into the long finish.  This is smooth, smooth, smooth and pure enjoyment.  It’s also an example of where the blending magic comes in, as there is 7% Cabernet Franc in the wine which softens it a bit as well as 2% Shiraz, which really comes in at the back end and provides some richness.  Another value list wine here, and it will run somewhere around $16-$19.

Great wines at excellent price points is about all you can ask.  In this case the story of the chateau and its owner just add to the overall impression.  I’d say John is making wines true to his philosophy.  They are balanced and persistent.

When you take on something like this project you have to be totally dedicated to the task, and it’s clear

John Geber

John Geber

John is all in.  A man of many accomplishments and talents, right now John Geber is Chateau Tanunda.  When I asked him if his flagship wines, the Everest range, were his Grange he replied with a nod, and then very seriously said “They’re better than Grange”.  He meant it, he believes it, he owns this.

It’s tough to stop a man with conviction.

Try some Chateau Tanunda wines, you might just rediscover Australia.  You can visit their website and learn more about them here.

A votre sante!

2 comments to A Chat with John Geber from Chateau Tanunda – Great Wine from the Barossa Valley in Australia

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>