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Peter Lehmann winemaker optimistic ahead of vintage in the Barossa

Written by Aksel Ritenis

Peter Lehmann winemaker optimistic ahead of vintage in the Barossa

Excitement building up ahead of vintage in the Barossa

It hasn’t exactly been an easy year in the Barossa,..winemakers and viticulturists have been working tirelessly to ensure  an abundant harvest season,..

Some producers in  Australia’s Barossa Valley were initially reporting up to 70% losses of grapes from the 2022 harvest following a major hail storm in the region on the 20th of october 2021 whilst the vines were flowering. 

“The Hail stones, some the size of golf balls, were reported right across western and central parts of the Barossa Valley. The storm is said to have hit both vines and property in the Tanunda area.

At the time an alarmed South Australian Wine Industry Association (SAWIA) president Nick Waterman said:

“ It’s devastating for growers who are already facing a challenging market. Areas around Tanunda and Seppeltsfield were hit quite hard  and some of those vineyards could lose as much as 70% of their product.”

Fortunately,initial reports may have been exaggerated,..as the hail damage does appear to have been quite localized,. and much of the early alarm has diminished during the growing season,..with a promising crop about to be picked!

 

Chief winemaker Nigel Westblade

Only 2 weeks out from Harvest however Peter Lehmann Wines vintage staff are increasingly optimistic about a bountiful harvest ,.the vines at Peter Lehmann are  looking very good ,..according to the chief winemaker Nigel Westblade, who said :

“The first grapes will come in next wednesday 9th february,..being Semillon and Chardonnay, Reds are  still a few weeks away ,..with the long term weather forecast looking good .It is estimated that  PLW will crush about 6 to 7 thousand tonnes of Barossa grapes this year and a total of about 28,000 tonnes of grapes in total.This compares to last year (2021) however when there was a total of 33,000 tonnes.”

The Barossa wine industry faced a challenging vintage in 2019, with yields at least 40% below the 10-year average,..due to a below-average rainfall winter and spring, temperamental spring weather including a frost – and a hot, dry December and early January whilst the 2020 year was in many respects similar with  frost during flowering ,..which reduced the yields severely and resulted in low yields but high quality wine.

The Barossa Valley is renowned for its world-class wineries and industry leading Tourism sector,.. 

As one of Australia’s best wine-producing regions the wine produced here are known for their  bold and intense flavours. Established over the past 160 years, the Barossa Valley has gained its fame from seven generations of local grape growers and winemakers.

Shiraz is one of the flagship brands of this terroir.  This wine is regarded as one of the great iconic wines,.. not only in Australia but is appreciated by connoisseurs across the world as well.

Amongst the leading wineries ,..Peter Lehmann is an Australia-based wine company in the Barossa Village. Lehmann started this company in 1979 after leaving his previous wine-making job of over two decades. He put his winemaking expertise to good use, when he started his company based on trust and a great relationship with the grape growers of the Barossa Village.

Legendary Barossa winemaker Peter Lehmann with wife Margaret (after whom the prize winning Semillon was named) and son Doug Lehmann

History of Peter Lehmann

Peter started this winery to support the grape growers of the Barossa Village and give them their rightful share of profits. Today, over 140 grape growers cultivate high-quality grapes in over 700 vineyards and sell it to Peter Lehmann Wines to make spectacular varieties of wines.

The late 1970s were difficult times for the Barossa wine grape growing community as the region was hit with a severe grape surplus. Companies refused to buy grapes and honour contracts, and Peter Lehmann knew this would destroy the livelihoods of the 140 family growers.

“I’ll take your grapes and turn them into wine,” he told the desperate growers, many of them conservative farmers of Silesian descent who regarded their old vines as part of their patrimony. But I’ll only be able to pay you when I sell the wine.”

They gratefully accepted!

In a courageous bid to support his community of growers, Peter took out a loan, assembled equipment and built a small winery to process their grapes.”Without this deal, it is widely thought that the Barossa would have lost a large swathe of its old vines. The crisis passed, in large part thanks to Peter’s energy and vision, and the Lehmann winery became one of the Barossa’s – and Australia’s – outstanding wineries.

It was for his role as saviour of the Barossa and as the creator of this winery, that Peter was named ‘Personality of the Year’ by the International Wine Challenge in 2009.

The foundations of the current Winery were laid when Peter Lehmann, along with a team of expert winemakers, set up its cellars at Weighbridge. The marble cellars look impressive and this is where the journey of a Peter Lehmann starts. Today, these cellars are considered to be one of the most technologically sophisticated in the Barossa Village.  Many types of wines such as red, white, sparkling and rose, are created in these cellars.

It was here that the legendary Peter Lehmann used to offer the Barossa growers a slice of German style Mettwurst sausage, crusty bread and a cold drink as they weighed in and then unloaded  their grapes after a hard days work in the extremely hot  summer harvest conditions of the Barossa.”

Today Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Merlot, Tempranillo, Red Blends and  Grenache are the most common varieties of grapes used for making red wines. Riesling, Semillon, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are the grape varietals used for making white wines.

Visitors come to the Peter Lehmann winery  to understand the history of the wines produced in the Barossa and to taste the premium wines produced in the region.  The 2013 Stonewell Shiraz (pictured above) is one of the flagship brands of the Barossa.

According to the authoritative Langtons Australian Wine Classification

“*Stonewell Shiraz is immensely concentrated, .. low-yielding, highest quality fruit and traditional winemaking techniques are the foundation of this classic Australian shiraz. Mostly old-vine material sourced from the western slopes of the Barossa Valley, with inclusion of fruit from Eden Valley vineyards for some vintages. Aged in new (50%) and one to four‑year-old French oak, this wine shows typical panforte, plum, and chocolate characters, structured tannins and well-seasoned oak.

*This wine enjoys the “Outstanding Designation” in the authoritative Langtons Classification of Top Australian wines 

So it was that Peter Lehmann left a lasting impression on his colleagues and clients in the global wine business.  UK importer  David Gleave MW of Liberty Wines in the UK, during his first trip to the Barossa in February 1992, when visiting  the Peter Lehmann winery was so struck by Peter, his growers and the wines that he became  convinced, on the spot, of the greatness of the Barossa. Their deep-rooted passion and attachment to the land was no different to that found in the great wines of Europe.

This passion still exists in the winery today, despite the fact that Peter passed away in 2013 and sold most of the business to Donald Hess a decade ago.

In 2014, his widow, Margaret, agreed with Hess to sell the company to Casella,as she was keen on the fact that John Casella ran a family company.”

The winemaking team has remained intact, now with Nigel Westblade (pictured above)and Tim Dolan at the helm. Keeping things in the Peter Lehmann family, Tim is the third generation of his family to make wine in the Barossa, and his grandfather was head winemaker for Saltram until 1959, when he employed a promising young winemaker called Peter Lehmann to take over his position.

 

Winery Information:

Peter Lehmann Wines
Para Road, Tanunda
SA 5352
Australia
https://www.peterlehmannwines.com
Phone: (08) 8565 9555

 

 

About the author

Aksel Ritenis

Publisher and Custodian of the Sydney Times

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