- Ryan Pike for The Wall Street Journal
- Torbreck Vintners
- Ryan Pike
Australia’s most expensive wine — a recently released Shiraz with a perfect score from an influential wine publication — costs a hefty 700 Australian dollars to 800 Australian dollars (US$700 to US$800) a bottle. But nobody seems deterred by it.
All 400 cases of the wine, called the Laird, have sold.
The 2005 vintage of the Laird is made byTorbreck, a boutique winery in the Barossa Valley region of South Australia, Australia’s most famous wine district. Since its release in September, it has won rave reviews from around the world, including a perfect score of 100 from the U.S. publication ”Wine Advocate.”
Torbreck owner and winemaker David Powell says a third of the wine went to Asia, a third to the United Kingdom and a third was taken by Australian buyers.
“Many went to high-end collectors,” Mr. Powell says, highlighting China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and the Philippines as final destinations. U.S. collectors missed out, he says, because by the time the Laird’s reviews were published, there was none left to buy.
The Laird surpasses in price Australia’s most famous high-end wine, Penfolds Grange, whose 2005 release sells for more than A$550 a bottle.
Mr. Powell says the wine’s expensive price tag was the result of a combination of factors – the premium grapes it comes from, its fermentation in the best barrels money can buy and the limited number of bottles produced.
“At the same time it was something I wanted people to pay attention to,” he says. “It’s a world-class wine, not just an Australian wine.”
Hong Kong wine importer and merchant Patricio de la Fuente Saez of Links Concept says he sold most of his supply of the 2005 Laird for around 6,000 Hong Kong dollars (US$770) a bottle before reviews came out.
You don’t really care about the price “if you’re a millionaire or a billionaire,” he says. “All the big collectors in Hong Kong, they’re not idiots, they know what they’re drinking, they know what they’re buying, and they love wine.”
Mr. de la Fuente Saez says he sent a bottle of the Laird about a month after its release to a group of collectors in Hong Kong to sample and received an excited phone call from them in the middle of the night. “They were good collectors and they were going crazy,” he said.
Buyers of the Laird were wealthy wine connoisseurs who were not out to impress because it was an expensive wine, Mr. de la Fuente Saez says.“Your regular Joe Bloggs who is rich and drinks Lafite to show off won’t understand or know Torbreck,” he said.
Mr. de la Fuente Saez describes the Laird as fresh, intense, with a perfect balance of sweetness and alcohol that can be compared with the best Syrah (known as Shiraz in Australia) from the Rhône region of France, such as a top vintage of La Chapelle from Jaboulet Hermitage.
The Laird is made from grapes grown in a Barossa Valley vineyard owned by Malcolm Seppelt, a descendent of the region’s Seppelt winemaking family. Mr. Seppelt says the hand-pruned vineyard, planted in 1958 using original Barossa Shiraz vine stock over 100 years old, is watered by natural rainfall and has dark brown loam soil over clay over limestone. But it has something else he describes as an “X-factor” that produces quality grapes.
When the grapes are picked and crushed, they are fermented in special, thicker than usual French oak barrels for three years, aged in bottles for two more years and then released for sale. Mr. Seppelt describes the resulting wine as “sensational.”
“I can’t really describe it. It’s full of all the goodies from dry grown shiraz.”