Grape Collective interviewed the funny, colorful Chester Osborn at the d’Arenberg winery. In the family since 1912, d’Arenberg produces over 60 wine labels with over thirty different varietals.
How did your family get into wine?
My great grandfather was a director of Hardy’s from 1884, and he was the treasurer. He knew the quality of these grapes and this vineyard and he bought the vineyard because he had been going there. He bought the vineyard in 1912 and built the winery in 1927. It has a very old traditional style. We still use all the old style fermentation, the submerged cap ferments, we still basket press everything. And I have just turned the vineyard back to the old fashioned style where we don’t use fertilizer at all, we don’t use irrigation most years, there is no cultivation, no tilling the soil, no herbicide, so it is very organic and I call it minimal input — in fact, it is almost no input. This is the way we get the flavor of the soil — really long, spicy, gritty, lovely vibrant mineral style wines that age for a long, long time.
My father is still at the company. He is 87 years old and still on the road, selling wine. He is a good raconteur.
How old were you when you first started to get involved in the family business?
I was seven years old. I got paid ten cents an hour although I don’t think I was worth that because I ate more grapes than I put in the bucket. I got a wage raise to thirty cents an hour when I was eight and I thought I actually had better work for that. I worked half of my holidays for all of my school life. I took a year off after finishing school, worked in a few wineries in the state. I went to Roseworthy College to get a degree in winemaking then went overseas and looked at wineries in Europe — four wineries a day — and then came home and became chief winemaker. That was thirty years ago…