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1912 (by Joseph Osborn)
Chester Osborn (fourth generation)
450 acres
Mediterranean, substantial meso-climate variation between sites
Key Varietals
Shiraz, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier

South Australia, McLaren Vale, Australia


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"Nothing, they say, succeeds like success. Few operations in Australia fit this dictum better than d'Arenberg, which has kept its 100-year-old heritage while moving into the 21st century with flair and elan."

James Halliday, Australia's Top 100 Wineries 2018


d’Arenberg is one of the undisputed masters of Australian Shiraz and other Rhone varieties that have historically defined the region. A century on, their vineyards have grown to some 450 acres in McLaren Vale, including Shiraz dating back to d’Arenberg’s first plantings, and nearly one-third of McLaren Vale’s old bush-vine Grenache. Fourth generation winemaker, Chester Osborn, recently converted all of the family’s vineyards to organics and biodynamics and moved to solar energy in the winery. All the while, in terms of winemaking, not much has changed–all the wines are basket-pressed, the reds foot-trodden during fermentation; everything is done in small batches, leading to an impressive array of bottlings every year, each showing a different facet of McLaren Vale terroir. Having been inducted into Wine & Spirits magazine’s Hall of Fame for earning a place on its Top 100 Wineries ten times, this accolade is a reflection of d’Arenberg’s revered reputation worldwide.

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The d’Arenberg cellars were constructed in 1928 by Chester’s grandfather, Frank. Over time the winery has undergone major restoration and expansion, with a nod toward reducing carbon emissions; for example, installation of a solar PV generator provides 30% of the electricity used in the manufacturing process. As well, traditional techniques such as foot treading and basket pressing are mainstays at d’Arenberg.

Grapes are gently crushed in rubber toothed crushers, with fermentation in stainless steel tanks, barriques or, for the reds, open fermenters with heading down boards providing gentle extraction of color and tannin. Basket presses are used for both red and white musts. Maturation or aging in American and French oak barriques ensures that small batches are vinified separately. These techniques ensure the winemaker is in touch with the individual textures and flavors of each parcel of wine, bringing balance and complexity to the final blends.

winemaking operations with the cellar master
Chester and d’Arry Osborn in the cellar

100% Basket Pressing – For Red and White Wines

d’Arenberg is unique in that it is one of a few wineries in Australia to still use the age-old basket press method for white wines as well as reds.

At d’Arenberg, all fruit is pressed in wooden baskets using the very gentle, traditional ‘Coq’ and ‘Bromley & Tregoning’ presses. The presses are both old soldiers, dating from approximately 1860. d’Arenberg liked the gentle action of the original ‘Coq’ press so much that they had it replicated in 1940.

The main job of the winepress is to get juice, or fermented wine, from the grape skins and pulp. For white wines, this happens before fermentation (so the more delicate whites do not pick up any color or phenolics from the skins) and for the reds, after fermentation, so that the action of the ferment and the alcohol has extracted the good bits out of the skins.

Basket pressing all of the wines makes for a very labor-intensive exercise, but the quality of results justifies the effort. The pressing action is very controlled and is extremely gentle. The d’Arenberg winemaking team uses their collective imaginations in coming up with a way to make basket pressing oxygen free, thereby preventing oxidation in the whites. This is achieved by using a big plastic bag and some dry ice, which encases the whole basket.

Chester believes that one of the advantages of basket pressing is cleaner juice, as it is partially filtered through the mass of pulp it drains through in the basket. This saves time in settling and clearing the juice, and brings the procedure much closer to how d’Arenberg like things – minimal interference which enables them to preserve quality.

Red Wines

After gentle crushing through the Demoisy open mouthed, rubber toothed crusher (which came originally from Burgundy in France) the juice and skins are transferred via the gentle peristaltic action of the must pump to the open fermenters.

The cap of fermenting juice and grape skins is kept submerged by fixed ‘heading down’ boards which ensure the maximum extraction of flavor, color and tannins. Each batch is kept separate and the whole process is very intricate and labor intensive.

White Wines

The majority of d’Arenberg’s white wines are fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks which protect their delicate varietal characters. Others are either partially or fully fermented in new and used oak barriques (mainly French) for example, some Chardonnay and Viognier – for added complexity of flavor and structure.


Each and every barrel is sampled at the blending stage. This is a detailed, critical affair and a laborious blending process. It’s a gentle, harmonious approach that ensures d’Arenberg wines, particularly the young reds, are patiently and individually nurtured.

Estate Bottled Wines

To ensure all of their hard work and commitment in the vineyard and cellars is delivered to each bottle, all wines are bottled on the property using the most advanced technology available. Wines are rarely fined or filtered to ensure maximum flavor. d’Arenberg is rare in undertaking all of these three functions – growing, winemaking and bottling and packaging, at the estate.


Four generations of learning have provided Chester with an intimate knowledge of his vineyards and a healthy respect for each site’s unique terroir. All d’Arenberg estate and leased vineyards are NASAA Certified for organic and biodynamic processes. This natural and environmentally friendly philosophy encourages strong root systems that penetrate the soil, resulting in lively tannin structures, soil characters and fine minerality. These practices also ensure that yields are kept low with concentrated flavors and excellent natural acidity. Many of the oldest Grenache vineyards house traditional dry-grown bush vines yielding small berries of intense flavor; the remaining vines are stressed in the pursuit of naturally low yields. Chester’s predecessors, his father d’Arry and grandfather Frank, established McLaren Vale as a champion of the red Rhone blend, and today d’Arenberg remains an industry innovator, with plantings of the white Rhone varieties as well as Tempranillo and Souzao. Diversification into the cool-climate Adelaide Hills has provided material for the production of crisp, focused Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Vineyards Over 100 Years Old

The Osborn vineyards were first planted in the 1890’s and now total approximately 270 acres of actual vines.

The Osborn vineyards are planted to shiraz, grenache, mourvedre, cabernet sauvignon, chambourcin, chardonnay, viognier, marsanne and sauvignon blanc, in varying proportions. The first planted three red varieties, grenache, shiraz and mourvedre are among some of the oldest vines at d’Arenberg, indeed McLaren Vale and South Australia.

Chardonnay was first planted in the 1970s, with further plantings continuing in the 1980s and 1990s. d’Arenberg was one of the very first to plant chardonnay in McLaren Vale, and later was the first to plant viognier, roussanne and marsanne.

Pedler’s Divide was purchased by d’Arenberg in 1997 and planting began in that same year. The trellis system for most of the vines here is a two-wire divided vertical (or ‘one up one down’), consisting of one cordon wire at 800mm and a second cordon wire at 1400mm.

d’Arenberg also sources grapes from friends’ and neighbors’ vineyards in McLaren Vale. Many of these vineyards have vines that are as old and gnarly as the original Osborn family vineyards, and many yield tonnages just as low. These parcels, as with all of the grapes brought into the cellars, are vinified and matured separately until the final blending process.

Sauvignon blanc and riesling (as well as chardonnay and pinot noir) are also sourced from the Adelaide Hills region, as well as from vineyards further south in the Fleurieu Peninsula. This  excellent cool climate material is a fantastic blending component.

Diversity of Soils

Soils on the Osborn vineyards vary quite widely, and can be grouped as follows:

  • loose bleached sand over marly limestone clay
  • sand impregnated with ironstone
  • quartz over marly limestone clay
  • shallow loam over limestone clay and Terra Rossa (friable red earth over limestone)

The majority of vines are trellised using one or two cordon wires, though the oldest grenache and mourvedre vines in the Twentyeight Road vineyard on the Osborn property are still trained as very traditional bush vines (approximately 14 acres) which means all picking and pruning is done by hand, a laborious task but one that yields excellent quality grapes.

Soils on Pedler’s vineyards vary widely, ranging from very deep sand on a hill to classic gray cracking clay and loam over limestone clay.


d’Arenberg employs both hand and machine pruning in the vineyard to control vigor and crop levels. Pruning is carried out in the winter months, and involves cutting off the dominant shoots from the vine. Summer trimming helps keep the grapes exposed to the light to increase grape quality.

d’Arenberg employs a minimal organic spray program to protect against major crop losses, and the vineyards are constantly monitored for pests and disease.

Legume cover crops are planted in the vineyards annually, generally in alternate rows, as well as clover and grasses, which are planted in some blocks. Sheep agistment assists in control.

The purposes of these various processes are threefold:

  • to add nitrogen to the soil and also to serve as a natural and organic way to help prevent the growth of any weeds
  • cover crops also act as a natural mulch, which helps to add organic material to the soil, promoting worm and microbe activity and in the summer helping moisture retention
  • gypsum and fowl manure is applied every third year to the majority of the vineyard, though by regular standards, very little fertilizer is applied at all. All of d’Arenberg vines are planted on their own rootstock.

an old vineyard vine

Sustainable, Organic and Biodynamic Certifications

Selected d’Arenberg estate and leased vineyards are NASAA Certified for organic and biodynamic processes. This natural and environmentally friendly philosophy encourages strong root systems that penetrate the soil, resulting in lively tannin structures, soil characters and fine minerality. These practices also ensure that yields are kept low with concentrated flavors and excellent natural acidity. d’Arenberg is Certified Sustainable by Sustainable Wine Australia against the Freshcare Standard.


Harvest or vintage at d’Arenberg usually begins late February or early March, and ends very late in April/early May, with botrytis-affected fruit for the renowned Noble Riesling coming in during June.

A combination of hand and mechanical harvesting is utilized. Mechanical harvesting helps ensure, especially for the white varieties, that the grapes arrive into the cellars cool, so their more delicate flavors are protected and indeed enhanced, while the risk of oxidation is minimized.