The Beautiful Rebirth of Chateau Tanunda
How the birthplace of the Barossa, Château Tanunda, sustains its brilliance.
The origins of Château Tanunda, perhaps the most iconic of Barossan wineries for its singular place in the region’s history, go back to the decimation of Europe’s vineyards by the phylloxera plague of the mid-19th century. Part-funded by 200 Barossa Valley grape grower shareholders, the vision behind its creation was for it to stand as a winemaking centre the likes of which Australia had not seen.
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For a long time it fulfilled that vision, with names such as Bill Seppelt, Grant Burge and Geoff Merrill, among many others, having worked or studied within its bluestone walls. By the mid-1990s, however, abandoned by its then-owner, the property quickly fell into disrepair, a ghost of its once-glorious self.
Nonetheless, a South African gentleman by the name of John Geber spied it through the trees on a bike ride through the Barossa and immediately fell under its spell, buying the property despite knowing it would require great commitment and funds going forward. Custodianship would be granted in 1998, but the winery would not be ready to return to complete operation until 2005. John’s daughter, Michelle Geber, relates how the Château was “a shell of what it once was,” as the Geber family set about restoring the property.
“Both the vast estate and the business had withstood many years of neglect, so it was a huge undertaking,” says Geber. “It was a project that would rival the craziest episodes of Grand Designs.”
The Chateau Tandunda Cellar Door in the Barossa Valley.
Besides the building itself, the Château Tanunda brand needed refurbishing of its own. The region’s fortunes at the time were on the rise, becoming recognised for its distinct style and sense of innovation: the Geber family were determined that Château Tanunda would be part of that renaissance.
“The support and expertise of our long-term staff helped us greatly in building back the brand’s prestige,” says Geber. “We felt incredibly connected to the estate and grew a deep understanding of its importance in the history of Australian wine.” Their efforts paid off – today, for many wine lovers around the world, Château Tanunda is synonymous with the Barossa Valley.
In large part, this is because it embodies all the things that makes the region great: heritage, tradition, old vine vineyards, family and quality. For Geber, sustainable thinking is also a vital factor. “When we took up the mantle, we knew that for the business to be around 100 years from now, we would need one eye on sustainable practices at all times.”
Winemaker Jeremy Ottawa offers insight into some of those principles. “Winemaking sustainably means continuous improvement and re-thinking of processes to find the most efficient and effective means possible,” he says. “Every day we learn more about the microclimate we operate in and how we can work with it to improve soil and vine health – this leads to a natural uptick in quality and yields without unnecessary input.”
That quality is evident in every Château Tanunda release, and perhaps none more so than in its prestige Collection wines – combining traditional Old World styles with modern winemaking and the finest fruit. Such wines encapsulate the Barossa as a place of gentle evolution, the old informing the new, where the best of both worlds can be found in every bottle.
Chateau Tanunda Wine Dinner Event
Want to taste Chateau Tanunda wines for yourself? Don't miss our upcoming Old Vines & Evolution Dinner on the 9th May 2024 in Brisbane.