Wine | d'Arenberg's unique attraction | John Lewis

OPTICAL ILLUSION: Chief winemaker Chester Osborn and d’Arry Osborn in front of the newly opened Cube on d’Arenberg's McLaren Vale estate in South Australia.
OPTICAL ILLUSION: Chief winemaker Chester Osborn and d’Arry Osborn in front of the newly opened Cube on d’Arenberg's McLaren Vale estate in South Australia.

IT’S been dubbed “a blight on the landscape” and “Willy Wonka’s wine factory”, but the $14 million five-storey d’Arenberg Rubik’s Cube-inspired tower suggests that nothing succeeds like excess.

Since it was officially opened on December 9 by South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill, the glass-encased steel and concrete Cube has been attracting 1000-plus visitors a day.

On the Osborn family’s d’Arenberg estate, the building gives the optical illusion of floating in a vineyard and each level has panoramic views of McLaren Vale’s Willunga area. 

It’s the brainstorm of d’Arenberg chief winemaker Chester Osborn, renowned as a joker, a lover of art and habitual wearer of colourful shirts. He also has a penchant for bizarre wine names like Anthropocene Epoch, Stephanie the Gnome, Vociferate Dipsomaniac, Wild Pixie and Cenosilicaphobic Cat.

Chester, 54, first had his audacious Cube idea 13 years ago, seeing it as a symbol of the complexities and puzzles of winemaking. The dream began to materialise when the SA government contributed $2 million regional development funding. Even with that, the investment by the 104-year-old family wine venture made both his father, managing director d’Arry Osborn, and the company board nervous.

Those fears were no doubt assuaged when Premier Weatherill opened the Cube by cutting a red ribband like the one shown on each d’Arenberg label. Eighteen days before his 91st birthday, d’Arry was on hand to see the new spectacular chapter in the family history. 

The Cube houses a cellar door, tasting rooms, restaurant, art installations and a smartphone Alternate Realities Museum. There’s a $10 entry fee, which includes a cellar door “standard tasting experience” and visitors can upgrade to a premium tasting option or book a degustation lunch.

The Osborn wine saga began in 1912 when d’Arry’s grandfather Joseph Rowe Osborn and father Francis Ernest Osborn bought Bundarra vineyard at McLaren Vale and sold their grapes and bulk wine to big wineries. After Joseph’s death Frank Osborn took control, but by 1943 was in ill health and his 16-year-old son Francis d’Arenberg Osborn, universally known as d’Arry, was taken out of school to help and eventually take control after his father died in 1957. d’Arry set the company on course for its current national and international fame when in 1959 he produced the first of d’Arenberg’s diagonal red stripe label wines, calling the brand d’Arenberg because it was the maiden name of his mother Helen, who died after giving birth to him in 1926.

WINE REVIEWS

PEACHY LUCKY LIZARD

AVAILABLE with today’s other wines at the Cube cellar door, darenberg.com.au and bottle shops, the d’Arenberg 2016 The Lucky Lizard Chardonnay is brassy in the glass and has crushed almonds aromas and ripe golden peach front-palate flavour. Mango, citrus and cashew oak integrate on the middle palate and the finish features gunmetal acid. PRICE: $25. DRINK WITH: calamari. AGEING: four years.

RATING: 4 stars

REVIVED VINES REPAY

THIS d’Arenberg 2013 The Derelict Vineyard Grenache has 14.2% alcohol, is garnet-hued and has berry pastille scents and plush mulberry front-palate flavour. The middle palate has rhubarb, black pepper, licorice and spicy oak and ferric tannins at the finish. It comes from a neglected bush vine vineyard Chester Osborn bought and restored. PRICE: $29. DRINK WITH: moussaka. AGEING: six years.

RATING: 4.5 stars

LUCKY ROUSSANNE

THE d’Arenberg 2017 The Money Spider Roussanne relates to money spiders that in 2000 massed on the first roussanne crop but, deemed lucky, left unharmed by pickers. The wine is green-tinted straw and has quince scents and front-palate apricot flavour. Cumquat, melon and cream elements show on the middle palate, flinty acid on the finish. PRICE: $20. DRINK WITH: tapas. AGEING: four years.

RATING: 4.5 stars