The Origin of the Poonawatta 1880 Shiraz
When Ferdinand Vorwerk decided to plant a small Shiraz vineyard sometime in the late 1870s, site selection would have been as important as it is today. Back then the site was about survival of the vineyard, so vines were planted in deep soils near rivers and creeks, requiring less distance to cart water to ensure the vines survived their first summers.
In the winter of 1880, Ferdinand with the support of some local labour including Augusta Wegner, planted 24 rows of Shiraz cuttings next to a small creek on the eastern side of Eden Valley’s Flaxman Valley.
We understand that this was the very first vineyard to be planted in the Eden Valley area. During their early years these vines would have been generous croppers, which suited the demand of the day in growing grapes for fortified wines.
Purchase of Poonawatta
With an Eden Valley heritage going back four generations, Sue and John Holt purchased the Poonawatta property in 1966, and the vineyard block in 1971. The vines then in their 90s had fallen into a state of neglect, having not been pruned for several years, with collapsed trellises and cattle roaming freely through the vineyard.
Moving the cattle out was easy; the re-trellising somewhat more time consuming and it took a number of years of care and attention to bring the vineyard back into viable production.
1880 Planting Date Confirmed
It was Augusta Wegner’s grandson – Doug, who confirmed that the vineyard was planted in 1880.
In 1998, Doug came to collect some cuttings from the old vines (which were subsequently planted east of us and became the origin of Phil Lehmann’s ‘Max & Me’ Shiraz block).
Doug told us his grandfather had badgered him for years about getting cuttings from the ‘oldest vineyard in Eden Valley’ – (In those days, Eden Valley was not defined be a Geographical Indicator (GI) as it is today, so a property / vineyard was defined by the township it was closest to.)
Doug said his grandfather had always maintained that it was the winter of 1880 when he had helped plant the vineyard.
So how was he sure it was 1880? Evidently, that was the year that Augusta married Doug’s grandmother!
140 years later
140 years on and this is a small vineyard by any standards. The surviving vines are, to the best of our knowledge, the 7th oldest Shiraz vineyard in Australia. The gnarled and contorted vines reflect their years, with twisted and split trunks delivering their precious harvest each vintage.
The weathered vines are carefully hand pruned and picked, to ensure maximum fruit quality and best care of the vines – affectionately known as the “old girls”.
Now, wearied by age with extensive root systems tapping deep to sustain them across the seasons, the 1880 vines produce small crops of impeccably balanced and wonderfully flavoured berries.
For many years the fruit was sold to a number of Barossa wineries, and in 1991 we took a small portion for ourselves and made the first trial wines. In 2002, we produced the first Poonawatta 1880 Shiraz, and this wine is now firmly entrenched as the cornerstone of the Poonawatta brand, and the flagship wine of the portfolio.
Poonawatta The 1880 Shiraz proudly holds a Barossa Trust Mark and is recognised and appreciated as a wine with genuine heritage and true single vineyard provenance.