china daily wine column #41

Bethany Wines is one of the oldest traditional vineyards in Australia. The Schrapel family first planted grapes in 1852 and these vines have burrowed deep into the soil to produce wines of intense flavour and concentrated fruit characteristics.

The town of Bethany was the Barossa Valley’s first settlement. The fifth and sixth generations of the same Schrapel family run Bethany Wines in South Australia. The vines’ life cycle continues in much the same way as it always has, with minimal human intervention and a desire to produce the best possible grapes.

It is the sense of longevity that makes Bethany Wines the success it has become. Geoff Schrapel is a fifth-generation winemaker: “Our aim in life is to live well, provide for our children, care for the land and hand our winery and vineyards on to our next generation in a better than when we started.” These are beautiful sentiments and they produce beautiful wines.

Johann Gottleib Schrapel and his family arrived in South Australia from Silesia in 1844. He planted his first vineyard in 1852 but the family concentrated on other forms of farming until 1981 when the winery was built.

The vineyard is located roughly half way between the Barossa and Eden valleys in South Australia and it is a true reflection of what the French call terroir, or the nature of the place where the wine is made.

The family still hand prunes the vines and then hand picks the fruit. Said Geoff Schrapel: “The winery’s philosophy is to produce individual vineyard wines with rich, ripe fruit characteristics which are enhanced by quality oak and bottle maturation.” The aim, he said, was to produce wines that were the “most natural reflection” of the unique micro-climate in the region.

The 2009 Bethany chardonnay uses fruit from properties in both the Barossa and Eden valleys in a proportion of one third to two thirds, respectively. The blend produces a wine that is complex and yet fresh. Flavours of honey and lemon present themselves in a delightful combination, and those flavours linger a long time like a new lover’s farewell kiss.

The 2008 Barossa grenache is light and delightful. It is often called “Barossa pinot” – an homage to the depth of the fruit flavours.

But it’s the reserve series shiraz wines that deserve special mention. They are named GR after Geoff Schrapel and his brother Robert. Thus the 2004 GR9 is the ninth edition of this fine wine. Only the best shiraz grapes are used and the wine is only made in special years. The winemaker’s dedication shows through magnificently. This is a wondrous drink, worthy of the gods of wine.

Fine and elegant tannins mix with ripe fruit to present a distinguished wine that still seems young, yet available now. The wine has the voluptuous body of a Barossa shiraz – like a nude painted by Titian, with full breasts and a curvaceous body.

It smells of ripe plums and mulberries, with a touch of dark chocolate, and a toasty note on the palate from the high quality oak used. Schrapel said the wine was “built to last”. It needs appropriate food, like good beef.

* “A burst of fruit that is enhanced by quality oak” in China Daily, 23 July 2011, page 12. Find a link to the article here.

Categories: Not home, wine

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