Out of Beechworth, Victoria, Sorrenberg wines are bringing a more traditional flair to the natural wine scene. Jan and Barry, couple in wine and in life, established Sorrenberg in 1986, at a time when Beechworth was barely a wine region. And since their first vintage in 1989, Sorrenberg has been, according to wine critic Mike Bennie, “quietly excelling” at making delicious, lengthy wines perfect for ageing.
The Morey’s work off 2.5 hectares of vines and their winemaking tradition harks back half a millennial to methods fortified in Mosel, Germany. The name Sorrenberg comes from a small vineyard owned by the Barzen family near a town called Reil on the Mosel. Steeped in tradition, the Sorrenberg wines are gathering a cult following in Australia, and here’s why.
Firstly, their site. The Sorrenberg vineyard is located right next to the home of the Morey’s. It’s a quaint little affair with a garden, bursting with organic fruits and vegetables, situated on top of the cellar. The cellar was hand constructed by the couple themselves and is simple and true to function. Imagine this: a beautiful green vineyard with forest on either side, and a stony creek for its back border. The definition of idyllic, this cool climate winery is north facing which means full ripeness is achieved in their wines.
For the Morey’s, wine begins in the land. Granitic soils with a sandy loam set amongst undulating plains means great drainage to the Sorrenberg site. This tends towards ideal growing conditions leading to a purer expression of fruit. Sorrenberg is made up of two blocks: the house block and the Rhino block. The house block is granite and mudstone red soils with quartz shards throughout, bordered by eucalyptus trees. These soils retain water a bit more than the Rhino block and create wines with more body. The Rhino block, on the other hand, is named after Barry’s grandfather’s old vineyard. Set at an altitude of 595m and planted in 2003, this is a dryer block on granite rich soils. The chardonnay and the gamay grapes flourish here, and the resultant wines are youthful and zesty.
Then there’s their methodologies. The grapes are closely planted on a single fruiting wire, and then harvested by hand. In the cellar these guys are all about that old-school, hands-off approach to wine making. Working sustainably, their methods are all traditional – wild yeasts for fermentation, gentle oak maturation and basket pressing. Sorrenberg is also completely certified under the Demeter certification, and has been since 2008 (despite their biodynamic processes starting in the late 1990s).
The main varietals grown in the Sorrenberg vineyard are chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, gamay; with gamay and chardonnay lauded as the ‘must try’ specialities. The gamay is perhaps the most sought after of the two greats, a combination of Burgundian and Beaujolais vinification techniques. It’s delicate and aromatic compared to the fuller flavoured chardonnay. My favourite, however, is the sauvignon blanc, a grape that’s lost its sheen currently, but made supremely cool and drinkable again by Sorrenberg. Low acidity, all buttery length.
So go on and pick up a Sorrenberg next time you’re inching for a well-respected bottle. And when you’ve polished off that jus, the phone number for the vineyard is listed on the bottle so you can give the Morey’s a buzz to tell them how much you enjoyed it (would not recommend calling between midnight and the wee hours of the morning unless you want a very angry earful.)
Article by: Ceren Guler