The settlement of Dorrien in South Australia is somewhere special. For years it was the railway hub of the Barossa Valley, and the place where the finest wines of the region would begin their journey by train to all parts of the country – and beyond.
Fast forward to the present day, and a winery located in Dorrien is making its presence felt by creating award-winning bottles, including an IWSC wine trophy in 2020.
Dorrien Estate was established in 1988, and in that time, some of the most celebrated winemakers in Australia have worked there, including John Glaetzer, Nigel Dolan and Wayne Dutschke. It produces a host of wines across its Bin range, comprising reds, whites and fortifieds (fortified wine is a Barossa speciality), but it was the 2018 vintage of Mum’s Block Shiraz that really wowed the IWSC judges.
They commented: “Powerful yet restrained and elegant, the nose displays evidence of evolution from tomato chutney characters to classic ripe berry fruits. The oak influence is beautifully intertwined to create balance and harmony.”
Barossa Shiraz is one of the truly iconic wine styles of the world, and Mum’s Block is its prime example. Here’s Richard Quodling of Dorrien Estate Winery to tell us more about the secret of making Mum’s Block Shiraz.
The mum of brothers Kevin, Graham and Wayne Rohrlach would look out of the kitchen window and be rewarded with a view over her favourite block of vines, so the boys named that special section of the vineyard “Mum’s Block”. When it came time to first making a wine that honoured her, of course the fruit for that original wine could be sourced from only one area – Mum’s Block.
Every dynasty starts with a matriarch and Mum’s Block is a homage to that heritage. Inextricably linked to the famous Rorhlach family, Mum’s Block continues to uphold everything that the family stood for: top-quality Barossa grapes that overdeliver. Like any lineage, the descendants are free to explore and thrive in their own right, while still remaining true to the core principles that made that dynasty great. In Mum’s Block’s case, that is top-quality Barossa fruit.
Growing up on the fringes of the Barossa Valley, wine was always part of family life. After finishing school, I deferred university to work a vintage at Penfolds in Nuriootpa. This is where I first caught the winemaking bug. After working vintages at several different wineries in South Australia and travelling throughout Europe, I settled back in the Barossa Valley at Dorrien Estate, completing a winemaking degree via distance education at Charles Sturt University.
Source the best fruit available, and showcase that fruit in the finished wine. All winemaking interventions should be aiming to respect and complement the fruit resulting in wines of balance and poise. Every member of the team has an important role to play in making great wines.
Have a clear picture of the wine you are aiming to produce, and ensure all decisions in the winemaking process are taken with the end goal in mind. This mindset influences all decisions, including picking timing, ferment management, oak selection and timing and final blending.
I have been extremely lucky to have worked with many talented winemakers and have learned enormously from them all. I was assistant to Nick Badrice, chief winemaker at Dorrien Estate, for several years and his mantra was to do the one-percenters – that means explore every option to maintain and improve wine quality, and get the best wine possible into bottle.
All wine should be a celebration of good times, to be enjoyed with good food and the people who are closest to you.