d’Arenberg is undoubtedly one of the most significant wineries in Australia’s McLaren Vale today. It was started in 1912 by Joseph Osborn, a teetotaller, who purchased 25 hectares of land and began selling fruit to local wineries. In 1928, the property’s own cellars were completed and red and fortified wines were made here in increasing quantities to supply the expanding European markets.
The name d’Arenberg came to prominence in 1959 when Joseph’s grandson Francis d’Arenberg Osborn, universally known as ‘d’Arry’, took over the running of the business and christened it in honour of his mother’s family name. The wines themselves started gaining cult status amongst judges and amateurs alike. By the 1970s the d’Arenberg range had gained a significant national and international profile and its wines had become extremely fashionable.
In 1984, d’Arry’s charismatic son Chester d’Arenberg Osborn, having graduated and spent time exploring European estates, took over the reins as chief winemaker and viticulturalist. Passionate about the family business from his youth, the inimitable Chester soon set about reintroducing traditional practices to capture the small-batch character of his wines. The old-fashioned basket press, for example, allows oxygen into the vinfication process, softening and rounding out flavours and contributing much of the innate character that sets the wines apart. At the same time, Chester has moved the brand into the 21st century and now presides over an expanding range of evocatively marketed wines yet ensures that intrinsic quality in the bottle remains uniformly high.
There is no doubt that the portfolio revolves around its richly robust reds with shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and grenache the cornerstones. Great vintages of the ‘icon’ wines - The Dead Arm Shiraz, The Coppermine Road and The Ironstone Pressings - have immense capacity for longevity but the majority of d’Arenberg’s red wines are suitable for drinking fairly young. The whites demonstrate the sheer breadth of the range and what an astute winemaker Chester Osborne is, often achieving great perfume and poise through careful blending of fruit from different sites.
In 2009 d’Arenberg joined Australia’s First Families of Wine, a trade alliance of 12 family-owned companies. The high profile in the UK and the US in particular, which far larger companies would love to have, looks set to continue to rise even further.
Read our 15-minute interview with Chester Osborn >