They say it's the quiet ones you need to look out for...
Well, visionary Barossan winemaker Peter Schell, certainly fits the bill.
Pete is a man of few words and plenty of ideas. His brand Spinifex burst onto the Barossan wine scene back in the mid-2000s when James Halliday famously wrote, "So far as I am concerned Spinifex out-Torbrecks Torbreck."
It was the quote that put Spinifex on the map. There was something that set Pete and his partner Magali's wines apart. It was the curious combination of thumping Barossan power and an 'Old-World' savouriness and architecture in each wine that drew droves of new admirers to their door.
For the last 15+ years, Spinifex has remained in a constant state of flow and evolution. In 2019, Pete was named as a finalist for the 2019 Gourmet Traveller WINE Winemaker of the Year Awards. It was long overdue recognition for this champion of the much talked about "New Barossa".
“Peter Schell is a progressive and imaginative winemaker with a strong feeling of place. This translates to spectacular wines with outstanding identity and authenticity.”
- Andrew Caillard MW
The Spinifex range is one of the most eclectic and wide-ranging in the region. Schell covers the regional staples - old-vine Shiraz, Grenache, and Mataro - as well as anyone of his generation. He proves that with these varieties that density and richness need not sacrifice moreishness. Ageability can walk hand-in-hand with drinkability. A sense of authenticity, purity and controlled power rings clear in each of the small parcels he plays with.
His recent trio of reds from the near-perfect 2018 vintage: the value-packed Syrah, deftly-composed Esprit Grenache-blend, and the cult-followed Bete Noir Shiraz are the best releases to date under these labels. There's no better Barossan buying at the moment, pound-for-pound, than these three cuveés.
Spinifex Red Masterclass Pack
The perfect way to sample the stunning red wines from the near-perfect 2018 vintage, by Peter Schell at Spinifex.
Ever the iconoclast, Schell has never been content to sit within the regional traditions. Over recent times, a suite of edgier, more boundary-pushing wines have emerged from his shed.
See his spine-tingling skin-contact Vermentino, or the texturally beguiling Lola white blend to see how the Barossa can produce truly great white wines. His Provence-inspired Rosé has remained arguably the Australian benchmark for over a decade. And his recent tinkerings with alternative red varieties such as Aglianico or Tempranillo are proving the efficacy of a world beyond just Rhone varieties for our most famous wine region.
Finally, for those looking for the weird and wonderful, he's got that covered too.
The Solana NV is a mind-bending solera-styled white/orange wine that would make old-school King-Gee-wearing Barossan conservatives reel. It's a multi-vintage, multi-varietal white wine aged under flor in old barrels for a minimum of four years before release. Brave. Ballsy. And it's one of the most fascinating and delicious white/orange/amber things we've ever tasted from the region.
If you've never tried Spinifex, now is the time. He hasn't made a lot of fanfare, but quietly, in his way, Peter Schell has been redefining and revolutionising Barossan wine. Get a glassful of his stuff. It may change the way you think about the Barossa Valley forever.