The World’s Oldest Shiraz – Langmeil’s The Freedom 1843

Langmeil's old vine Shiraz, Barossa Valley

Australia is the wine industry’s favorite whipping boy when preaching the pitfalls of quantity over quality, the cheapening of a national image, and the dangers of wine being produced at an industrial scale. However, for every Yellow Tail or Hardy’s, there are a multitude of stories to be told about premium Australian labels that have upheld traditional winemaking ideals with the goal of delivering boutique, terroir-driven wines. Wine Australia has endeavoured to shift the discussion to focus on the unique regions and people within their industry. We think they’re on the right track.

Exhibit A is Langmeil Winery, located in the Barossa Valley of South Australia, possessing Shiraz vines that were planted in 1843. That’s 168 years old! The ravages of Phylloxera in the 1870′s destroyed most of the Old World’s vines leaving Langmeil’s vines as the oldest Shiraz on earth. (What’s so “New World” about that?)

Langmeil's The Freedom 1843

During the 2011 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, we had the pleasure of attending a very unique event showcasing a 10-year vertical of Langmeil’s flagship Shiraz, called “The Freedom 1843“. This wine comes from 3.5 acres of dry-grown vines, with root penetration of up to 50 feet into the soil. The yield is extremely low at 1.5 to 2 tonnes per acre. With such small yields, barely any of this wine gets bottled. They average about 500 cases a year, but in a low yielding vintage (such as 2007), the volume can drop down to 300 cases.

The event was introduced by David Scholefield of Trialto (the wine agency for Langmeil in BC), who asked us to consider the momentous significance of the wine we were about to taste. He stated that in 1843, there was no province of British Columbia, the Hudson Bay Company had just established Fort Victoria, and the first wagon trains had left for Oregon from Missouri. To add to Mr. Scholefield’s musings, consider that these Shiraz vines pre-date the existence of Canada as a nation!

Leading us through the tasting was James Lindner, part of the second-generation working at the family-run Langmeil Winery. For them, it is a story of revival and rebirth. The previous owners had suffered throughout the 1980′s when exports accounted for only 20% of production, and the doors of the former winery officially closed in 1988. There was great pressure for the Barossa to diversify (to cabbage farming) and during the 80′s a vine pull scheme led to a 50% reduction in vines, including old growth Shiraz and Grenache. What a shame. Luckily, a new hope for the winery emerged in 1996 when the Lindner and Bitter families purchased and restored the winery.

The rebirth is evident in the attitude and reverence that Langmeil has for the vines they’ve inherited and the approach to winemaking. There is a Burgundian affinity for minimalist handling: the grapes are hand picked, basket pressed, undergo an open ferment, and then bottled unfined with minimal filtration. Lindner stated that Langmeil are focused on being good stewards, and leaving the land in better condition for the next generation than they found it.

A decade of The Freedom 1843

But really, all this minimalist winemaking and being “at one with the vines & earth” matters nothing if the wine is bad. We’re happy to report that this is easily the best Australian Shiraz we’ve ever tasted.

From the 1998 to the 2008 vintage, there was a clear, common thread of pure black fruit, spicy pepper, floral notes, and a level of elegance, acidity and minerality so often lost in the region’s bigger interpretations of Shiraz. Yes, there was tannin and alcohol, but it was so well-balanced that it never stood out or felt awkward. We absolutely loved the 02, 04 & 06 vintages.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime tasting for us, and the first time a 10-year vertical of The Freedom 1843 has been done outside of Australia. Our advice is to hunt down a bottle or two and start saving up for your own mini-vertical. The story of the vines is amazing, and the wine is even better.

 

Special thanks to the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival and Heth PR for allowing us media access to this event. Langmeil’s The Freedom 1843 Shiraz is available locally at Everything Wine.

7 comments to The World’s Oldest Shiraz – Langmeil’s The Freedom 1843

  • Derrick Cousins via Facebook

    So tasty, tried a few back vintages at Playhouse. Stunning.

  • Interesting, I will buy a couple of these.

  • Got the 2008. Any lead on whether older vintages are available in BC?

    • WCVR

      As far as we know, Everything Wine has the only inventory in Vancouver. Will have to try the US/Alberta for non-current vintages. Shame, really.

      • Pretty ridiculous considering they held this event in VANCOUVER. I wish there was consistency between the wine fest and what people can actually buy.

        • WCVR

          It’s true that we get a lot of wines at tastings that are still being processed or already spec and have low availability in BC. I think in the case of this wine though, it’s hard to expect much. With a production of 300-500 cases, most of it goes to the local Aus market. Considering this is the first 10-year vertical done outside of Australia, it’s be hard to fault many stores for not having more back vintages.

  • ali aghajuni

    I`m iranian and i`m living in shiraz,Shiraz wine is my pride
    But this wine is forbidden for we ourselves in iran

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