Established 1912

The d'Arenberg Trophy Dam is Not So Dry

The d’Arenberg trophy dam is not so dry, with another trophy received at the Royal Adelaide Wine Show earlier this month. Since first released seven years ago, The Dry Dam Riesling 2008 has been awarded an impressive number of six trophies and 15 gold medals at various Australian and international wine shows, including trophies for the Best Australian Museum Class at the 2012 Canberra International Riesling Challenge and Runner Up to the Best Wine of Competition at the 2015 Sydney International Wine Competition.

Fourth generation family member and current Chief Winemaker, Chester Osborn, is thrilled to see McLaren Vale Riesling gain the recognition he feels it deserves. “People often underestimate the quality of a Riesling that is grown in McLaren Vale,” he said.

“It can have the perception of being broad and coarse, however when handled with care in the vineyard and the winery, you can produce a wine that rivals anything from the more famous Riesling producing regions, full of refinement, elegance and ageability. It’s all about creating the perfect triangular balance between sugar, acid and alcohol.”

In 2007 d’Arenberg identified Riesling producing vineyards in McLaren Vale with an average vine age of 50 years or more, pruning them back to under one tonne per acre with the intention of producing lower yields of higher quality fruit, and grapes bunches with similar sugar levels. In the 2008 vintage, Chester walked the vineyard rows and tasted the grapes, determining the ideal picking time for each individual Riesling vineyard. “Previously we had picked between 9.5 and 10.7 baumé, I took a risk and picked this fruit at lower sugar levels than we had ever done before. A few days before picking, the grapes were high in hard acid, yet only a few days later the grapes were fruitier with lower acid and a lovely Germanic sherbet character. Hand pruning ensured each bunch of grapes was picked at exactly the right time.”

We have released a limited amount of The Dry Dam Riesling 2008, “before we run out of room to put all the bling,” jokes Chester.

The wine is available to purchase online at a RRP of $30, with the current 2015 vintage retailing at $18.


In 1992 our neighbours built a dam that remained empty, as it was a dry winter. The next year it rained but the dam was jinxed and didn’t hold water. A dry dam is bad news for our neighbouring farmers, but promises good results for our old, dry-grown, low yielding vines.


2008 was a fabulous vintage for whites such as Riesling due to the intensity of flavour ripeness at such low levels of pH and high levels of natural acidity. It was an early start to vintage and one of the most exciting due to the extremely cool weather experienced through February. Healthy rains ensured the soil reached filled capacity in winter, setting the vines up perfectly. Spring was normal with some rains and canopy growth strong due to adequate rainfall which kept everything stress free through veraison to harvesting, resulting in superb vintage conditions.


Small batches of grapes are gently crushed, chilled, and then basket pressed. The fermentation was long and cool, and was stopped before reaching total dryness to ensure that residual sugar remained to balance the high mineral acidity. None of the white wines at d’Arenberg are subject to malolactic fermentation as we aim for the retention of fresh, natural acidity, which is integral to the balance and longevity of the wine.


Time has stamped its mark on this wine but with a very gentle touch. Almost 8 years on and the nose is still full of lemon, lime and floral notes. The citrus has started giving way to a lemon butter aroma and the once frangipani and jasmine are now evolving into honey suckle and beeswax with an overwhelming sense of freshness. The balance between primary and developed characters feels very harmonious. Toastiness and mildly kerosene-like notes can be perceived but they are more building complexity in the background as opposed to being a dominating feature. The wine initially bursts onto your palate with a fruit sweetness that is instantly reeled back into line by the ever youthful and flinty acid that still conjures memories of strawberry sherbet. The palate remains sculpted by this acid backbone and as the initially sweet fruit cedes we are left with fine flavours of honeycomb and green apple. This wine is delivering now and will continue to do so for many years to come.