Winemaker, historian, father, Grant Burge traces the journey his family’s Barossa Valley wines have made from vineyard to table for five generations. Possessing a winemaking style he describes as “instinctive” after 37 vintages combined with 150 years of family history (and the perspective that both afford him), Burge is a source to be reckoned with.
While the success of his wine empire is well known internationally, it’s only recently that Burge has set his sights on marketing his comprehensive portfolio in the US. Burge wines have been available in the U.S. since the mid-nineties but his recent partnership with Wilson Daniels, Ltd. has put his entry-level and signature labels in both finer wine shops and on-premise accounts. For buyers and sommeliers seeking products with provenance - wines with a good story to tell - the anecdotes are charming and Burge’s range of price points offers tremendous appeal.
As the largest landowner in the Barossa Valley, the Grant Burge Winery’s holdings are considerable at more than 1,000 acres and they encompass 18 vineyards in every major sub-region (from Lyndoch in the south to the Eden Valley in the east). With every major soil type and every micro-climate represented, this winemaker has access to some of the finest fruit in the Barossa.
Burge’s vineyard portfolio is composed of 50% old vines (in excess of 20 years) and given the fact that the Barossa Valley has escaped phylloxera, his signature “old vine” wines are what put him at the top of his game. The Shiraz vines from his Filsell Vineyard are approaching 100 years old and are the source of one of his most acclaimed and long-lived wines – Meshach Shiraz. Bottle-aged for two years prior to release, this Shiraz typifies the history and grand character of Barossa’s signature varietal.
Of his most sought after wines, The Holy Trinity is styled as a Rhone blend (39% Grenache, 35 % Shiraz and 26% Mourvedre) showcasing fruit from dry-farmed bush vines the youngest of which are 50 and the oldest exceeding 110 years of age. The 2001 release shows both freshness of fruit and complex tannins married by spice; a bigger wine attributed to the aged vines that will continue to develop complexity and bottle bouquet as it matures for another ten years.
The story behind the wine’s name and label design speak directly to the Burge family’s long association with the Holy Trinity Church. While looking for inspiration in the records of the church library, Burge was pleased when the Pastor himself suggested naming the wine after the church. As part of his due diligence in securing the namesake, Burge received written approval for the label and only with that is the wine allowed to enter the US. His wife Helen designed the label that bears the original Renaissance motif found on the church alter cloth. All in all, a fitting tribute to the family’s second-generation winemaker, Meshach Burge, a community leader who helped build the Lyndoch Holy Trinity Church and served on the Barossa District Council.
At the more youthful end of the spectrum, a tasting of the Barossa Vines series revealed wines with a definite sense of place and unencumbered style. The 2004 Barossa Vines Chardonnay showed classic varietal expression of peach, melon and a racy minerality that is untouched by oak but enhanced by 20 percent malo lactic fermentation and lees aging. Entry-level wines of this caliber only emerge from the hands of a winemaker whose skill and style can reveal the most character from his crop.
In looking to the short-term future of the Barossa, Burge cautions caveat emptor or “let the buyer beware” of the “virtual labels” that spring up over night and disappear just as quickly. This word of advice accompanies a prediction that he anticipates a shortage of ‘bulk wine’ by 2008. Only time will tell but then, time has served the Burge family well.
Photos courtesy of Grant Burge Winery
Photo 1: Grant and Coopers:Winemaker Grant Burge insuring his barrels achieve the right degree of toast.
Grant with 20 Y.O. Tawny: Fortified wines crafted from Barossa's traditional tawny varieties - grenache, mataro and shiraz - are a big part Burge’s domestic business. His solera produces several award-winning tawny ports. Here he’s pictured with a 20 year-old tawny.