Grampians Winemakers Barrique Auction: Celebrating three decades of a unique tradition
Who makes the very best Shiraz in the Grampians region? What if we told you it was everyone?
With the 30th Grampians Grape Escape Festival comes another incredible Barrique – a Shiraz so special it sings the harmonious song of history, collaboration, talent and taste. This is a wine so unique to our region that it simply cannot be replicated, and therefore creates fierce competition when it goes to auction each year.
Since 1993, local wineries have been asked to donate a limited volume of their best Shiraz from that vintage. They are perfectly blended together to create a Shiraz that ages gracefully and always drinks superbly.
One of the founding members of the Grampians Grape Escape, Rick Heinrich, was incredibly passionate about showcasing our region’s winemakers, and a trip to Europe a few years before had always stuck in his mind.
“I’d been in France in 1984 and learnt about the famous Hospices de Beaune auction they had in Burgundy, where instead of selling the wine by the bottle it was sold by the barrique!,” he remembers.
Winemakers Trevor Mast and Viv Thomson blended the first ever Barrique, the word ‘Barrique’ referring to a specific size and shape of oak barrel. It sold for $4400, with the winning bid from a Stawell syndicate.
“The whole idea was to put together something that was totally unique and that in itself was great,” Rick says.
“But the great thing about it was we created a really strong competition between a lot of wine and food clubs and private food and wine buyers who wanted to buy this particular barrel.
Locals soon faced off against stiff competition from Melbourne and interstate and bidding for the barrel reaching tens of thousands of dollars. It is now auctioned in smaller lots of bottles and magnums and is valued by collectors for its complexity and longevity. In 2018, the culmination of winning bids came to $17,350, in 2019 it was $22,705 and 2022 had the spectacular result of $27,988. Wine and Food Society Ararat President Robert John has been part of the hot contest of buying the Barrique for certain vintages over the years, with the society bidding many times.
“It was always an exceptionally good wine,” he says.
“The Barrique has been the focus of the festival for many years and brings a lot of people and interest to the festival and it’s our Wine and Food Society’s hope it can continue to be part of the festival for years to come.”
Trevor Mast would oversee the blending of the Barrique for fourteen straight years, before handing over to Simon Clayfield in 2007. Trevor, lauded as a true legend of the winemaking industry, passed in 2012. His legacy includes his reputation for an expert palate, and the winemaker was among the first to plant Italian varieties and to resurrect Shiraz in the region. The Grampians is of course famous for its Shiraz and if you visit the Mount Langi Ghiran stall at GGE, you may get to sample the Mast Shiraz, named after the cool climate pioneer.
The blending of the Barrique has been passed down to other incredible local winemakers, with this year’s blended by Mount Langi Ghiran’s Chief Winemaker, Adam Louder.
Owner of Grampians Estate Tom Guthrie will be contributing to the Barrique once again this year. He has been a part of the Grampians Grape Escape since 1996 and is a life member of the festival.
“Nearly all of our Grampians wineries are represented in the Barrique,” he says.
“And we know the track record of the quality, they’ve been made for 30 years.”
Tom says as well as being a contributor to the incredible mix, he is also a personal fan.
“They age into very magnificent wines,” he explains.
“Last year I tasted a bottle from the very first vintage, and it was just amazing, just terrific.”
Rick reflects on how the Barrique has only grown in popularity, interest and buy-in from the region’s winemakers.
“I first approached about eight winemakers to contribute some wine, now I couldn’t count them all,” he says.
This year’s Barrique blend is sure to be another truly special one-off regional shiraz.
This year’s Barrique Shiraz will be auctioned off at 2:15pm on Saturday the 6th of May from the demonstrations marquee.