Just growling out the word is sort of a charge, like it could be the name of some Somali warlord hijacking vessels off the Horn of Africa, or a military operation to liberate fertile swaths of Uzbekistan so that our children can have enough Cream of Wheat to last through the middle of the twenty-third century, or the nom de guerre of a stogie-chomping contrarrevolucionario looking to become a new Banana Republic dictator.
On the other hand, it could be a valley where they make wine.
Less romantic? Unfortunately, this is a wine column, not a pirate column.
But then again, strike that: I’m glad this is a wine column, because I like pinots more than pirates, and Barossa Valley is very romantic, thank you very much—with neither warlords or contras mucking up a pretty Australian afternoon.
Which brings us to the Holy Trinity
Barossa is in South Australia—specifically, it’s a valley formed by the North Para river, about a 1-wood’s drive from Adelaide—but the term ‘holy trinity’ originates in another wine region half a world away.
The vintners of Southern Rhône have long relied on grenache, syrah and mourvedre—the Holy Trinity—to produce heady, high-alcohol wines like Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which is probably a lousy example since Châteauneuf may legally contain up to ten other varietals, though in ways, the rest are also-rans.
The climate in Southern Rhône is somewhat consistent with Barossa’s, though an overall assessment of either is risky due to elevation variations, sea breezes and numerous transverse valleys that produce a multitude of macro and microclimates. As tenderfeet we’ll just say it tends to be hot and let the terroirologists sling their corrections as they will.
One thing’s for sure—dry, hot days are required for Holy Trinity grapes to fully ripen, with spells of nighttime coolness to keep the acidity from degrading.
Another thing’s for sure: these are not conditions you would expect Germanic winemakers to sink their tap-roots into, yet virtually every internet summation of Barossa mentions its unique Silesian pedigree—then, to prevent you from wandering off to Google ‘Silesian’, adds a parenthetical definition of Silesian: (German).
Sure enough, the earliest Barossan settlers were Germans fleeing persecution in Prussia, and when they got here, they tried planting riesling on the flat, hot, dry valley floor, which requires another parenthetical:
Grant Burge Knows All This, By the Way
A fifth-generation vigneron and winemaker, Burge is a walking Wikipedia on all things Barossa, so when he suggests that Holy Trinity represents a high-water mark among his wines, you understand that he means—but is too classy to say—that it’s likely one of the paramount selections in the whole Valley.
It’s hardly luck, though—this is a product a century in the making. The youngest vines harvested for Holy Trinity are fifty years old; the oldest, over one hundred, some of the oldest shiraz* plantings on the planet; Grant, who is considerably younger, has seen many harvests nonetheless, and raves about the 2006 vintage.
A mouthful, with its sumptuous textures, heady perfumes, glorious fruit and uncommon longevity (for a New World wine), is some indication of what he’s talking about.
Grant Burge Wines
133 years after his great-something grandfather immigrated from Wiltshire, England, Grant formed his winery along with his wife Helen. They’ve recently brought their eldest son into the business as vineyard manager, making Toby the sixth generation of winemaking Burge.
With Holy Trinity now being helmed by father and son, there should soon be a job posting for the Holy Ghost.
THE HOLY TRINITY, GSM, Barossa, 2006, about $42: Magenta red, licorice-infused and oozing with personality, this brooding beauty shows a broad and expansive palate, plenty of black fruit, dried herb and an almost kirsch-like potency through the mid-palate. Concentrated but harmonized tannins throughout lead to a saturated finish; like the Vatican, you may find that this wine is a pretty masculine undertaking. It’s nice now, but should you latch on to a bottle and decide to cellar it, it should last longer than the Pope.
* It is distinctly possible that in 165 years of winemaking, not one Barossan has ever called shiraz ‘syrah’, mataro ‘mourvedre’, Silesians ‘Germans’ or called New Zealanders anything at all–unless they called first.