Peter Lehmann casts a big shadow over the Barossa, and the latest releases from the eponymous winery prove that quality ages well.
There are few names more synonymous with South Australia’s Barossa valley than legendary winemaker Peter Lehmann.
PL, as he was universally known, was a tireless supporter of the region.
And although it’s a few years since he died, his presence is still felt throughout the Barossa.
When Lehmann established the winery that bore his name in 1979 it was his part of his personal revolution against what he saw as big company exploitation of small growers.
His answer was to engage and support the growers he knew in the Barossa, through good times and bad.
Stories of Lehmann holding court on the weighbridge of his winery – with considerable support of cheese and Barossa meats – as the growers delivered their loads has become the stuff of Barossa folklore.
Sadly, the winery that bore his name went through a period of ownership change and subsequent struggle, until it was bought by Casella Family Brands in 2014, when as John Casella said, “It was pretty much in survival mode”.
And while Lehmann was the image of the brand and the winery, it was the considerable winemaking skills of his able lieutenant, Andrew Wigan, that brought it to life.
I recently tasted a bunch of new Lehmann releases, which are part of the Masters series: a range that pays homage to the people and events that have been woven into the Lehmann history.
Indeed, one of the finest wines in the Lehmann stable is the Wigan riesling, a wine sourced from the Eden Valley above the Barossa; when released as a mature wine, it displays why this region is such a great one for riesling.
Wigan also had his thumbprint on other wines within the portfolio, including the distinctive Margaret semillon, a tribute to PL’s wife, Margaret, and the Stonewell shiraz, a classic wine that defines the Barossa.
The Mentor is another wine in the portfolio that says much about Lehmann’s legacy.
During his 50-year career, Lehmann became a mentor to many young winemakers.
When he held court, young winemakers fortunate to be in his presence hung on every word, taking in his immense knowledge, which was always communicated with passion and humour.
Since the acquisition, Casella has put its considerable financial support behind the company and re-established it as a considerable force producing distinctive wines that reflect its Barossa heritage.
Peter Lehmann Wigan riesling 2016 ($45)
In the pantheon of great Aussie riesling, this one can sometimes slip through the net, yet it is consistently a marvellous example of the variety. It’s always released with a little bottle age, so you start to get the emergence of those beautiful buttered toasty characters on the nose then into the palate. It takes its name from Lehmann’s long-time winemaker Andrew Wigan. The natural bright acidity of Eden Valley is a key to the style. Just beautiful.
Cellar: 12 years
Peter Lehmann Mentor cabernet sauvignon 2019 ($45)
Peter Lehmann was one of the great characters of the Barossa who liked a drink, a smoke and a chat. And he was a mentor to many young winemakers during his time, so this is a fitting tribute to the man. It once again shows that, when handled appropriately, Barossa cabernet can work so well. Has the cedary blackcurrant and slight bay leaf black olive varietal influence with a deeper chocolate and interesting blue fruit character. It retains its vibrant juicy fruit within its neatly crated frame. Super wine this.
Cellar: 12 years
Peter Lehmann Stonewell shiraz 2017 ($100)
The fruit for this famous wine comes from the tough soils of the west and north Barossa. It is a classic Barossa shiraz that I reckon has been subtly refined over the years in line with many of the reds of the Barossa. But it loses nothing of its essential character. Bright pristine, almost crystalline fruit displaying those spicy blue fruit and plum characters. The tannins are firm but fine and well-integrated. It’s a wine that will benefit with extended ageing.
Cellar: 20 years
- Ray Jordan is one of Australia’s most experienced and respected wine journalists, contributing to newspapers and magazines over more than 40 years. In 2017 he co-authored The Way it Was: The History of the early years of the Margaret River Wine Region