“Ask her why d’Arenberg has such wacky names for their wines!” I asked a friend, seated with me at a dinner celebrating d’Arenberg’s 100th year anniversary.
The reason I had to ask the friend was because I had laryngitis and could not speak over a whisper.
“I can’t ask her that!” he said, reluctant to say something he perceived as negative. Yet the d’Arenberg names are wacky (“creative” I later phrased it to the representative from Wines of Australia sitting at our table). And of course, that is part of the charm.
With names like ‘the Stump Jump’ and the ‘Dry Dam riesling’ and ‘the Noble Prankster’ the names present the wines as being fun and vivacious instead of stuffy.
The evening was very well orchestrated, with Chester Osborn with wild long blond locks – acting the role of a mesmerizing showman as he told his family’s story.The winery started in 1912 when racehorse owner Joseph Osborn purchased a vineyard in McLaren Vale …
Joseph’s son Francis Ernest (‘Frank’) Osborn left medical school, choosing to forsake the scalpel for pruning shears. He soon increased the size of the vineyard to 78 hectares. Fruit was sold to local wineries until the construction of his own cellars was completed in 1928. Dry red table and fortified wines were produced in ever increasing quantities to supply the expanding markets of Europe.
In 1943 Frank’s son Francis d’Arenberg Osborn, universally known as “d’Arry”, returned from school, age 16, to help his ill father run the business, eventually assuming full management in 1957. In 1959 d’Arry decided to launch his own label d’Arenberg, named in honour of his mother, Frances Helena d’Arenberg.
It was a small and humble start but the wines gained immediate cult status amongst imbibers and judges. The 1968 Cabernet Sauvignon won the Jimmy Watson Trophy at the 1969 Royal Melbourne Wine Show and the 1967 Red Burgundy (Grenache based) was awarded 7 trophies and 29 gold medals in Australian capital city wine shows. By the 1970’s d’Arenberg wines had become very fashionable, having gained a significant national and international profile in less than 20 years.
Enter the fourth generation, d’Arry’s son Chester d’Arenberg Osborn. From a very early age Chester was focused on continuing his family’s winemaking tradition. While growing up on the family property he helped his father d’Arry in both the vineyards and the cellar floor during school semester breaks and Christmas holidays.
After graduating from Roseworthy College and touring other Australian and European wine regions, Chester took over the reins as Chief Winemaker in 1984. He immediately set about returning the family’s vineyards to their traditional grape growing practices of minimal inputs and no fertilization, cultivation and irrigation wherever possible, therefore achieving natural soil flavors with very low yields.