Langmeil’s old vine treasures
Langmeil is one of the original settlements by the Lutherans who migrated to the Barossa Valley from Silesia. The site was chosen for a trading settlement because it was a convenient fording-place to cross the Para River. Miners on their way north to the copper mines of Burra were among the travellers passing through.
The trading settlement included a butchery, bakery, blacksmith and other buildings, some of which still survive. These old, mud-walled buildings came within a horseshoe throw of being inundated when the Para flooded recently.
The site is now the Langmeil winery, owned by the Lindner family, who established it in 1996 when they bought the former Bernkastel winery. Brothers Paul and James, sixth-generation members of the Lindner family, are chief winemaker and sales and marketing manager respectively.
The floodwater came up the lawn, flooded the swimming pool, and did serious damage to the vines in the low-lying area near the river. Some of the old Orphan Bank vines, which had been transplanted from a nearby site, were lost.
The good news is that their oldest vineyard, The Freedom vineyard, planted in 1843, just a little higher above the river, was OK. This vineyard, which has seen 173 vintages, is still going strong and provides the fruit for the flagship Langmeil wine, The Freedom 1843 Shiraz, which is $125 a bottle at the cellar door.
The brothers believe this vineyard, planted by Christian Auricht, the founder of the village of Langmeil, is the world’s oldest surviving shiraz vineyard. It covers 3.5 acres. A book detailing the Auricht family history, Persecution to Freedom, gave the Lindner family the idea for the vineyard’s name.
The Freedom 1843 Shiraz was first made as a separate wine in 1997, vinified in a neighbour’s winery because the Lindners had yet to establish their own.
I was fortunate to taste every vintage of The Freedom 1843 Shiraz recently, right up to 2016, although the last two vintages were still in barrels and so the reviews do not appear on the huonhooke.com app. All the others do, including the 2011, which was never actually released for sale. A lesser wine, it came from one of the wettest seasons ever known since the Barossa was settled.
The wines are big, rich, concentrated Barossa shirazes, typical of the region’s ancient dry-grown vineyards. Some are a little unsubtle, some perhaps lack a little finesse, but they almost all deliver generous flavour, power and structure, and have lasting ability to age. The recent vintages 2010 and 2012 through 2014, are all outstanding wines, with a level of density, concentration, ripe fruit, fleshiness and power which should see them live for 30 years. The 2015 and ’16 will also be outstanding if the samples I tasted are a guide. Other stand-out vintages were 2006, 2004, 2002, and 1998. There were only a handful of disappointing wines, 2000, 2007, arguably 2008, and 2011 – although the last, as I’ve said, was never released.
These are wines of great historical significance, not to mention quality, and should occupy a lofty place in the pantheon of Australian wine.