Ian Hongell joins Torbreck

Ian Hongell (Photo: Peter Lehmann Wines)

In a move that has surprised the Barossa Valley, Peter Lehmann Wines’ (tastings) long-serving chief winemaker Ian Hongell has left to join Torbreck Vintners (tastings) from the 2017 vintage as senior winemaker. Hongell had been a winemaker at Lehmann’s since 1998, coming up through the ranks and working as assistant to former chief winemaker Andrew Wigan in Wigan’s final years at PLW before taking over as chief winemaker himself. Peter Lehmann Wines was acquired by Casella Family Brands in 2014.

Lehmann’s’ loss is Torbreck’s gain, and the company, which has had a new lease on life since being acquired by American investor Pete Kight in 2013, has been in expansion mode. The company has also announced that Hongell will become chief winemaker after the upcoming vintage, replacing Craig Isbel. Coincidentally, Ian’s father John is a grape grower who supplies Torbreck with shiraz grapes.

Ian is Barossa-born and raised, graduated from Roseworthy Agricultural College in 1992, is a wine show judge and a former Len Evans scholar. He has also made wine in Germany, France and California.

Torbreck, which was founded by Dave Powell in 1994, had previously plundered Peter Lehmann Wines for its chief viticulturist, Nigel Blieschke, who joined Torbreck in late 2015. Torbreck has quickly built itself up into one of the Barossa’s most prestigious wineries, famous for very full-bodied reds, and with several wines over the $100 a bottle threshold. Its flagship The Laird shiraz is one of Australia’s most expensive wines at $750 a bottle and about a year ago Torbreck purchased the Marananga vineyard that is the source of the grapes, renaming it The Laird vineyard.

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