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Barossa ‘icons’ offered en primeur

Hot on the heels of Penfolds, a clutch of young Barossa winemakers are offering their latest vintage en primeur.

Standish Wine Company, Tin Shed, Massena, Spinifex, Hobbs, Teusner and half a dozen others will be in London in November offering barrel samples of their wines as futures.

New World wineries making en primeur – futures – offerings is a recent trend. In May this year Penfolds announced that its 2004 Block 60A Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon-Barossa Valley Shiraz, and Block 42 Kalimna Cabernet Sauvignon would be sold as futures.

Gary Boom, chairman of London fine wine merchants Bordeaux Index which will broker the offering along with partners The Cellar Door, said making this sort of offer was a sign that Australian wine had come of age.

‘It’s a way of saying Barossa has arrived and can play with the big boys,’ he said, adding, ‘These are the iconic wines of the future. This is a very exciting offer and the prices do not reflect that.’

Most of the wines are powerful reds produced by young winemakers in minute quantities – around 200 cases, from ancient vines – in some cases more than 140 years old.

Almost all the producers have been noticed by Robert Parker, and some, like Standish (made by Torbreck’s assistant winemaker Dan Standish), Teusner (Kym Teusner works with Rolf Binder) and Spinifex, are particular favourites of the American critic.

Bordeaux Index expect allocations of 25-50% of production, and will be offering the wines at around 15% less than list price. Some, like the Teusner, will be going for as little as £12-£15 per bottle.

As to whether the wine should be bought for investment or drinking, one expert said, ‘Great wines, but no investment value.’

‘Barossa 2004 is a cracking vintage and they are worth buying because they’re impossible to find. But there are very few wines worth investing in for the UK market,’ Damian Tillson at Sothebys said.

There is a healthier secondary (auction) market for Australian wines in Australia, Tillson added, and in seven or eight years the UK might pick up, ‘but not in the near future.’

Andrew Caillard of Australian auction house Langtons said they had been speaking to a number of Barossa producers about a similar idea for a few years.

With the caveat that the labels have ‘no real track record at auction’ he said ‘the wines are good and if sold at reasonable value may have an appeal.’

Other industry observers are more sanguine. One pointed out that early vintages from the previous generation of ‘hot’ Barossa winemakers – Chris Ringland’s Three Rivers and the Run Rig from Torbreck for example – are now fetching up to ten times their release price.

‘If there’s no investment market in the UK for Australian wines then Christie’s and Sotheby’s have to look at why it isn’t working here,’ he said.

The launch takes place on 10 November at Australia House in London. Email victoria.thomas@bordeauxindex.com for a full list of wines offered

Written by Adam Lechmere

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