Dimchurch Vineyards cover 135 hectares, primarily shiraz, aged up to 130 years, as well as grenache and mataro.
We spoke with Adrian Hoffmann shortly after picking had finished for the 2018 vintage, which saw above average yields on their 80-year old shiraz and excellent quality with less ‘hens and chicks’ and better bunch set. Adrian employs around 40 pickers during harvesting.
Adrian, a fifth-generation vigneron, grew up helping on the family vineyards in Ebenezer. Today, Dimchurch supplies grapes to twenty-six wineries producing premium Barossa wines and around fifteen tonnes to produce Barossa Shiraz under the ‘Hoffmann Vineyards’ and ‘Dimchurch’ labels through a joint-venture with Chris Ringland.
The older shiraz grapes sell for up to $10,000 per tonne. Quality and provenance go hand-in-hand from sourcing of the barrel oak to the cooperage and the growing conditions for the vintage through to the finished wines. Over the last year, the grenache variety has found a new wave of interest having picked up top awards in the Barossa Regional Wine Awards and the Royal Adelaide Wine Show.
When it comes to risk, Adrian cites frost highest followed by water and disease. The climate and soils of the Barossa Valley vary markedly from north to south. The Ebenezer district has low rainfall and relative humidity which results in full, intensely coloured wines.
“Our vineyards are typically 2ºC cooler in winter and 2ºC hotter in summer compared to the higher areas of the Barossa, but the soil provides a unique complexity.”
In 2013, Dimchurch Vineyards suffered 40% loss due to frost followed by 70% loss in 2014 when the whole area was covered with spring frosts and growers who had never previously been affected were frosted. So, the decision was made to install six frost fans.
“Since then, one of the fans alone, protecting 100-year old shiraz, has paid for itself twelve times over in four years. It saved $250,000 worth of grapes in the first year alone,” says Adrian.
Today, Dimchurch has ten FrostBoss C49 (4-blades) and three FrostBoss C59 (5-blades) fans.
“You mitigate risk by controlling what you can … our customers rely on us for supply and to do what we can to protect hard-won shelf space for their wines. In fact, one of our customers, Glaetzer Wines, helped us buy two of the fans.
Frost fans have seen our average yield increase by 2 tonnes per hectare. We prefer fans over water irrigation, which can jeopardise quality if you’re watering for frost when the vines don’t need it,” explains Adrian.
Adrian’s knowledge and passion are impressive. It’s a great time to be in the industry and the Barossa is at the forefront. Throughout the 1990s the Hoffmann family vineyards became firmly established as the source of some of the most sought-after grapes in the Barossa and under Adrian’s custodianship that reputation lives on.