The Darkie 2003 Barossa Shiraz
The Darkie Old Vine Shiraz which is a wonderful example of a classic Barossa Shiraz, and is the jewel in the crown at Liebichwein even amongst the many fabulous table wines and fortified wines on offer. The Darkie is a single vineyard flagship wine dedicated to Ron’s uncle Clarence Walter Liebich (1920-1988) who himself loved a good Barossa shiraz and regularly encouraged Ron’s winemaking abilities. He also planted the old 40 acre block of Shiraz grapes back in 1969 from which we source all the fruit for winemaking.
But why the name? A Barossa Shiraz is red – so why is it called ‘The Darkie’? Well…
Clarence Walter ‘Darkie’ Liebich was the second of three sons to Benno Liebich, who founded Rovalley Wines in 1919 at Rowland Flat. Rovalley Wines, and then Liebichwein which came after it, were known for their range of table wines and fortified wine including many port style Tawnys. In 1941, oldest son Leslie Alwyn ‘Lofty’ Liebich took over winemaking duties, and was succeeded as chief winemaker in 1953 by Clarence, his brother. Clarence Walter Liebich (or ‘Darkie’, as he was locally known due to his full head of dark black hair) was always a big fan of local Barossa Shiraz and other rich, hearty reds, and enjoyed sharing his passions in winemaking with nephew Ron. When Ron established his own boutique winery, it was only natural to create a big bold Shiraz in honour of Uncle Darkie who had inspired him along the way – and so in 1996, the Darkie Shiraz was born.
Vineyard: A lot goes in to making a high quality Barossa Shiraz. Initially the vines receive minimal attention and we allow nature to do the work. Dead arm affliction reduces yield but enhances flavour as does the use of hand-pruning and minimal irrigation. The vines grow on heavy black biscay soil at Rowland Flat on the eastern foothills of the Barossa. Vintages are very consistent in terms of quality and low yield averaging 2 tonne per acre, producing concentrated table wines and vintage fortified wine too.
Winemaking: Traditional techniques of hand plunging, basket-pressing with no fining or filtration were employed for fuller flavour. The Darkie is a unique Barossa shiraz that has been maturing for over five years in various aged American and French hogshead barrels, producing a multi-layered wine that showcases an enticingly rich nose, balanced intense flavours and subtle oak characters.
Taste Notes: The Darkie Shiraz nose typically exhibits black cherries, vanilla, chocolate with hints of sweet anise. A showcase of everything that makes Barossa shiraz so enjoyable, The Darkie Shiraz boasts amazingly complex concentrated flavours that fill the whole mouth, lingering long after the first sip. All this is perfectly balanced with the subtle oak maturation and super silky tannins. We recommend drinking at any age, but patiently cellaring for another 10-20 years will reward any wine connoisseur. Each vintage is unique and will have an initial impact that changes with each mouthful.
- Vintage 2009 – a refined elegant wine with aromatic perfume, ripe plums, cherries and hints of savoury note like black olive, soft and complex
- Vintage 2010 – exhibits more intense fruit characters balanced by the soft oak, dark brooding nose full of black cherries, chocolate mingled with sweet spiced vanilla
- Vintage 2012 – a classic fruit-driven wine displaying ripe cherries, vanilla, chocolate and sweet spice with a seductively smooth, lingering finish
Out of all of the table wines and fortified wine on offer at Liebichwein, The Darkie Old Vine Shiraz is in a category of excellence all of its’ own. Special museum stock is currently available from vintage 2009, 2010 and 2012 but in strictly limited quantities. Like any good Barossa shiraz, it sells out very soon after it becomes available – something Uncle Darkie would be glad to hear!
Every year Liebichwein put the call out for the best home barrel blend. All amateur wine blenders around Australia are invited to submit their personal fortified wines for the chance to be crowned ‘best fortified blend’ in a competition organised by Barossa winery Liebichwein. The winner receives an engraved wooden dipstick trophy they can use to measure how much is in their barrel.
Fortified wines have a long history in the Barossa Valley and winemaker Ron Liebich certainly knows a thing or two about them. Ron has completed over 50 vintages growing and producing a range of wines with a special focus on fortifieds which have a widespread fan base across Australia.
Liebichwein cellar door offers varied fortified styles and blends made from red and white varietals including Muscat, Semillon, Frontignac and Grenache. Many customers come in to get regular refills of bulk fortifieds for aging and blending in their home barrel.
Having a home barrel to age your own fortified blend is one of life’s little luxuries. By running this competition, Liebichwein aim to reward the patience in taking on this challenge. Budding winemakers blenders are encouraged to enter one or more samples of their own blend for professional evaluation by Ron and an experienced judging panel.
During judging, an experienced panel taste all wine samples in a blind tasting. Tasting notes are written and quality scores given for overall flavour and balance. Judges look for wines that are in balance and provide a good drink no matter how old the wine is or what stage of development it is. All entrants receive feedback from the panel and blending advice from Ron which we know is greatly appreciated.
2020 Home Barrel Competition
The competition was held in August-September. Entrants submitted a 200mL wine sample. A wide range of barrel-aged fortified wines was on show of all varieties and ages. There were five gold medals awarded to three different people who all received a prize of rare fortified samples over 20 years old. The winners were announced at an event for entrants at Liebichwein in mid September.
The Top 3 wines were entered by:
Filippo Pizzino (back to back gold!)
Filling fortified wine straight from the barrel at Liebichwein, Barossa Valley
Fortified wines have a long history in the Barossa Valley which is one of the most historic wine producing regions in Australia. Here at Liebichwein we certainly have a soft spot for fortified styles and love the fact that so many customers have home barrels for that extra touch of luxury at home. We pride ourselves on our extensive range of bulk fortified wines suitable for drinking now or further ageing in your own barrel. There are very few Barossa Valley wineries that offer the range we do for fortified wine lovers to taste, buy or refill containers of fortified wines.
There are six fortified wine styles sold by the litre for customers to taste and choose from. Many fortified wine lovers return with their own container and we sell reusable plastic containers (2, 5, 10, 20 litre). The wine you choose will ultimately depend on your taste preference and whether it is used to season a new keg, as a base wine or for topping up a barrel.
Ron Liebich continually makes large batches of bulk blends to keep up with demand by masterfully blending fresher vintage fortified wines with old museum stocks stored in the depths of the barrel shed. All fortified wines are produced from estate grown grapes left to fully ripen naturally in the vineyard. Ron loves the flavours of different grapes growing on the Liebich property so he makes his blends using four different varieties to produce flavour profiles ranging from aromatic, floral and sweet to spicy and nutty. Grenache, Semillon, Muscat, and Red Frontignac are all perfectly suited to fortified wine styles.
Bulk Fortified Wines
- Ruby Grenache – youthful unwooded Tawny is a light fruity style that is recommended to freshen up old syrupy or over-oaked barrel blends. It’s also pretty tasty on its own, a bit like concentrated berry cordial for adults.
- Ron’s Blend – smooth youthful Tawny style 2-3 years old, ideal for topping up barrels or freshening over-oaked or excessively aged barrel ports.
- Barrel Blend – rich semi-aged tawny with a balance of fruit and hints of woody notes (2/3 Ron’s + 1/3 Ben’s Blend). Only available at cellar door.
- Ben’s Blend – mature style aged 5 years with woody notes and spiced dried fruit. Ideal for adding to a newly seasoned barrel or adding complexity to a youthful base blend where more developed characters are preferred.
- Semillon – luscious white fortified with raisin and toffee flavours. Light youthful style for drinking now or adding to a barrel blend for sweetness and depth.
- Muscat – luscious white fortified with floral and citrus flavours. Light youthful style for drinking now or adding to a barrel blend for sweetness and depth (Muscat Gordo grapes)
- Frontignac – luscious fruity wine with aromatic, tropical and musk flavours to add sweetness and depth to a barrel (Red Frontignac grapes).
We invite you to visit cellar door to taste these wines in addition to a wide range of premium bottled fortified wines ranging in age from one to thirty years old. You can sit down and enjoy a fortified tasting experience to compare flavours, impact of barrel ageing and even taste rare museum fortifieds straight from the barrel. These unctuous, syrupy wines are certainly memorable and a sweet treat indeed!
Ron Liebich is celebrating 52 years involved with Barossa vintages either as a vigneron, winemaker, cellar hand, champion grape treader and simply being a Barossa wine legend!
It was 1968 when he graduated from Roseworthy Agricultural College with his Oenology degree. Soon after he had the opportunity to take over from his Uncle “Darkie” Liebich in the winemaking duties and lab analyses at Rovalley Wines which was operated by the wider Liebich family. Since then he’s never looked back. Anyone who’s ever met Ron will know how passionate he is about wine and the local region.
Read more about the Liebich family timeline.
While the first Liebichwein sparkling wine project began as simply producing a wine for the family, it is now available as a limited release. We are over the moon with this Lovely Sparkling wine!
You may be asking, why have we made a sparkling and why has it taken us so long?
It’s no secret that Janet’s favourite wine style is fizz and our whole family enjoy sharing bubbles with friends and family.Ron has been experimenting with growing a variety of Pinot Noir clones and making the odd dry red which he’s been pretty happy with, but he was up for a new challenge. A trip to the Champagne region in 2014 was the inspiration needed for Ron to explore the realm of Traditional Method sparkling.
We knew we needed help with this project so we enlisted the support of Sean and Sue Delaney of Sinclair’s Gully and Simon Greenleaf who make fine wines in the Adelaide Hills. They all encouraged us to have a go and were willing to share their tips and provide access to their equipment. Excitedly, we embarked on the collaboration.
The Lovely Sparkling story started early in vintage 2014 when we handpicked our own Pinot Noir destined to be the sparkling base wine. This was then blended with fresher Pinot base wine from vintage 2016 to build complexity. In late 2017, we arranged a few rounds of dedicated tasting trials to get the balance of body and sweetness just right. The wine is hand-disgorged, dosaged, capped and labelled to order. We decided to use our own Ruby Fortified Grenache for dosage to add sweetness and a pink hue.
The next steps were to think of a suitable name and package. We chose the name ‘Lovely’ for a number of reasons. Our family name Liebich is very close to the German word ‘lieblich’ which means ‘lovely’, the Barossa Valley maintains strong German heritage, and of course the wine is pretty lovely to look at, sip and savour.
Inspired by love and heritage, this blushing beauty offers tantalising strawberry and toasted brioche aromas leading to a lively palate that finishes dry to semi-dry. Simply lovely!
Quantities and strictly limited as each bottle is disgorged and labelled by hand.
FAQ’s Home Barrel Seasoning, Blending & Ageing
What is Tawny style Port wine?
Tawny style wine actually starts out like a Ruby or unwooded fortified, but then spends an extended period in oak barrels to soften and round out its character. As wooden staves allow oxygen to enter, this allows some of the wine to evaporate which concentrates flavours in the remaining wine. The slight gap of air at the top of the barrel increases the surface area exposed so the wine is basically slowly oxidising inside the barrel. The wine deepens in colour changing slowly from red-purple eventually to a dark amber or reddish-brown. The longer time in wood, the more complex the wine flavour profile and the smoother the wine becomes.
What do I fill a new barrel with?
Firstly, you need to know if the new keg is made from older red wine barrels or old fortified wood. Both keg types need initial warm to hot water treatment to lessen wood tannin impact on the new wine. The red wine oak barrel should have younger wine such as Ruby Grenache or Ron’s Blend to start with to help soak up the greater wood tannins, known as ‘seasoning’. An oak barrel previously used for fortified wine is best started with Ron’s Blend,as the barrel usually retains some wood tannins which will complement the fruit-foward wine.If wine remains a little woody, keep topping up with youthful Tawny, until the wine seems balanced with fruit and wood characters.
How often should I top up my barrel?
Top barrel according to usage; for infrequent use, it’s best to top with younger wine and if wine is poured frequently, a more mature Tawny such as Keg Blend is recommended. The barrel should not be emptied below 1/3 total volume. ?Note that a new barrel will absorb quite a bit of wine in the beginning.
How often should I taste my barrel wine?
Taste often, especially when using a new barrel as oak flavour can build up quickly in a wine. This will of course vary according to barrel size and cellar conditions (temperature and humidity) and whether the barrel wood was used for red wine or fortified wine. A smaller barrel will need more frequent tasting than a large barrel.
What is the typical lifespan of a barrel?
Well it depends on the purpose of the barrel. If you are looking to impart both flavours from the wood and structure in the form of tannins, a new oak barrel will continue to enhance wine for 4-5 years. After this the barrel becomes neutral and its main purpose becomes a storage vessel. The wine quality can still develop and improve as flavours will concentrate due to evaporation of some water content of the wine and also through exposure to oxygen. Generally, any barrel can last a lifetime and even generations if it never runs dry of good quality wine and is kept away from extreme heat, high humidity and sunlight.
How do I restore an old barrel?
A barrel that has been dry for some time and is loose is best taken to a Cooper to “knock up”, otherwise a handy person can use a hammer and blunt metal object to tighten the rings Then do a water treatment. A?second hand barrel with unknown history, it is wise to empty the barrel and start over again. Rinse out the barrel with hot water (1/10 volume of the barrel) at least twice so the top and bottom interior surfaces are covered and soaked for at least 30 minutes. Then fill with cold water and allow swelling for up to 3 days to check for any slow leaks. If barrel still leaks after 3 days then drain and refill. If any off-odours are present (e.g. vinegar, medicinal) the barrel can be rejuvenated by fermenting sugar and water in it, followed by a hot water rinse before filling with fortified wine. Check with a cooper or keg supplier if in doubt.
I’m moving house. How do I transport my barrel?
A barrel that will be empty for more than a few days needs some preparation to be stored correctly. Empty the wine into well-sealed containers (glass or plastic is fine). A little wine can remain in the bottom to keep the barrel from drying out. Wine barrels can be left empty for a week or so, even in warm temperatures, before drying out completely. To transport, the bung should be securely taped on.
How do I store an empty barrel for long periods?
Empty the wine into well-sealed containers (glass or plastic is fine). Rinse the barrel with hot water then drain it, and allow it to dry completely. To prevent any contamination, a dose of sulfur dioxide (SO2) is needed to protect the barrel. Firstly fill the barrel 2/3 with cold water. A storage solution can be made by adding 1 gram of citric acid and 2 grams of SO2 for very litre of barrel volume. Mix this solution in a separate container with a small quantity of hot water so that everything becomes completely dissolved into the liquid. Add the solution to the barrel, roll the barrel to mix, and top it up the rest of the way and insert the bung. You will need to top up the barrel with more of the holding solution every 4 – 6 weeks, but the barrel can be stored like this indefinitely.
An important safety consideration is that SO2 is fairly safe to handle but you should wear gloves and work in a well-ventilated area to avoid breathing its fumes when handling it. Note that SO2 can be purchased from any brew shop as Sodium or Potassium Metabisulphite.
My wine has a medicinal off-flavour. How can I fix it?
Commonly medicinal flavour can occur as a combination of wood character and fruit flavours from the wine. It can be blended out by keeping the barrel topped with younger fault-free wine and having a little patience.
My wine has a vinegar-like off-flavour. How can I fix it?
The wine is probably infected with acetobacter (vinegar bacteria) or wild yeasts. The vinegary off-flavours can be blended out by keeping the barrel topped with younger fault-free wine and having a little patience.
My wine has a mouldy/musty off-flavour. How can I fix it?
If a barrel or its contents has or develops a mouldy, mushroom-like taste or odour, then this is quite difficult to fix. It’s best to empty the barrel, sterilize and start again with fresh wine refill. A fermentation of sugar water is a good solution to rejuvenate a barrel with off-flavours.
My wine is thick and syrupy. How can I make it more drinkable?
If wine is thick, viscous and syrupy it is a sign of old age. It will need topping up with fresh young wine such as Ruby Grenache or Ron’s Blend to dilute aged oak flavours. There is no need to wait as adding younger wine will make it more drinkable straight away.
What does turn barrel mean?
This is done when treating a new barrel to season it. By using a few litres of wine you can season more surface area of the barrel. Every few days, turn the barrel a little on its cradle. This can be done over a period of two weeks. Check how the port tastes before deciding to empty the initial wine or keeping it with some woody flavours and topping up with fresh wine. Now for a little patience before having a nip.
Can you blend sweet/dry sherry in a port keg?
Yes, you would add dry sherry to make a drier wine blend. By adding a sweet sherry style (Apera), Semillon,Frontignac or Muscat you would end up with a sweeter blend. Blend according to your preferred taste.
Can you blend fortified wines of different ages in a port keg?
Yes, in fact we recommend it to build complexity of the wine. To help give a keg a dramatic lead on the road to complexity we sell very old wines we call ‘rancio’ premium aged fortifieds. Sold in 100mL wax-sealed bottles in four different varieties; Muscat, Frontignac, Semillon and Tawny (Grenache).
To order bulk or rare old fortified wines, head to our wine shop.