A true grandee of the Barossa Valley; Thorn-Clarke’s ancestors settled in the region in the 1870s and for six generations have been involved in the wine industry. The family prides itself on the environmental sustainability of their operations and have set the bar high to ensure their continued status as a premium wine producer par excellence. Four vineyards, all site selected to ensure ideal growing conditions for each varietal, together with great care and attention to detail in their winery at Milton Park, helps to ensure that Thorn-Clarke’s portfolio over-delivers in quality and character, while offering a value for money which is hard to beat.
Thorn-Clarke have recently been awarded a 5* producer rating from James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion for the 10th consecutive year. They have also had 11 wines rated at or above 90 points including two wines rated at 97 points. Ben Chapman, CEO, told us, “This is our most successful ‘range review’ in James Halliday’s Wine Companion since we released our first wine in 1998. It is nice recognition of our efforts to ensure that the wines keep improving each year…”
As part of our monthly producer focus for 2018, we are asking the winemakers a few questions to learn a little bit more about them and their love of wine. Peter Kelly rejoined Thorn-Clarke as senior winemaker in 2016, having been with them as assistant winemaker until 2010:
What first made you interested in winemaking?
I was actually completing a Bachelor of Anthropology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane when I discovered wine. I guess I was a typical Queenslander, more of a beer and spirit drinker, but I met my now wife and she first introduced me to wine. From there my love for the whole industry blossomed and 5 years later I moved to Adelaide to complete a winemaking degree.
Who, within the trade, has been your biggest influence and why?
I think my 6 years of making wine at Peter Lehmann’s was my biggest influence. Working with chief winemakers Andrew Wigan and Ian Hongell, alongside long time Lehmann’s winemaker Peter Scholz taught me so much! The importance of care and detail needed to make some of the great wines of the world was impressed upon me early and will remain with me forever.
What was the most memorable bottle you’ve drunk? Where and when did you drink it?
I’ve been fortunate to be able to drink some very memorable bottles in my time. When I first started at Peter Lehmann’s we opened a bottle of 1993 Lehmann’s Reserve Riesling. At the time (2010) it had won over 30 international trophies and looked stunning! Vibrant and youthful with enough structure to hold together for another 17 years at least! This bottle truly showed me how great Eden Valley Riesling could be.
What will be new/different at Thorn-Clarke in 2018?
Every year is different for vineyards and wineries; that is part of the beauty of winemaking. This year I am looking forward to perfect ripening conditions and an evenly-spaced, high quality harvest! Fingers crossed for that!
If you could choose another wine region in the world to open a winery, where would it be and why?
The Barossa is one of the great wine regions of the world with so much quality and diversity so it would be hard to leave. If I had to though, I would go to the Douro in Portugal to continue to learn and develop the fortified winemaking that I have been involved with in the Barossa. Then again the temptation to make Riesling in Germany or Alsace or Shiraz in the Rhône would be very tempting also.