While standing out like a 'sore thumb' amidst classic, elegant labels of some 3,200 other vinous delights on offer at one of Europe's largest wine cellars in Monaco, something about this particular eye-catching name and label made us guests take a second glance and implore to delve into the magic world of this fine Kaesler wine.
They say the book does not make a cover, well the same applies to wines. Old Bastard is indeed actually very highly ranked in the wine connoisseur's world despite its perhaps ambiguous name. Not to mention the artwork whose history is equally impressive and perhaps not as well known by amateurs of drawings and the golden era of cartoonists.
A little anecdote before delving back into the wine... Kaesler commissioned the wonderful Ralph Steadman to design the Old Bastard label, in late 2001. The first vintage to have his label was the 2002 Old Bastard Shiraz. Reid owns the Kaesler winery with a business partner called Ed Peter. It was Ed’s idea to approach Ralph Steadman in fact.
Still a little unclear as to the how and why, I was told that it is believed that it was because Ed was a big fan of the TV show “Yes, Minister” and had always admired the title card illustrations, with distorted and over-exaggerated caricature sketches of the main characters. Thinking them to be by Ralph Steadman (they were actually by Steadman’s contemporary, the cartoonist and illustrator Gerald Scarfe!), Ed had the idea to have a similarly distorted and grotesque caricature of an old bastard on the ‘Old Bastard’ label!
Cue to the extraordinary feat that the gnarly vines lovingly caressed by the stark sun of Australia and the old men's hands that year in year out, painstakingly plucked at to maintain a tradition so steeped that the lush swirl in my wine glass emanated while the heritage was humorously explained to the group by wine connoisseur extraordinaire and very own Kaesler guru, Sacha Timaeus.
BEHIND A NAME
Now that we had been well and truly briefed while the dregs of the first tasting lingered lovingly on our palate, we immersed into the extraordinary history.
The Kaesler vineyards were owned and run by the Kaesler family from 1893 to 1986, and who came from Silesia. I was thrilled to learn this as my husband is from Silesia (a nether region of Poland) and little do people know or understand about its coloured history marked by its borders and national affiliation that changed so very many times over the centuries.
Back to the roots - the Kaesler family were pioneers who settled in the Barossa Valley in the 1840s. In 1891 they bought a parcel of land and in 1893 planted their first vines. Today, Kaesler Wines are made from these ancient, dry grown vineyards by the third owners of this magnificent property. Barossa Valley Winery and Cellar Door is actually today home of The Old Bastard, Alte Reben Shiraz, The Bogan and other estate grown premium wines.
In 1999, winemaker Reid Bosward seized the opportunity to become the head of the new Kaesler family when he and his partners bought Kaesler, becoming the third owners of this property. At this time, the Kaesler vineyards consisted of over 70% red wine vines, all 40 years of age or more.
Now having access to premium old vine material, Reid set out to produce bold estate wines representative of the Barossa Valley. The intensity of the old vine Shiraz inspired Reid to produce a special premium batch, the “Old Bastard.” Classified as “Outstanding” by Langtons with its rich and intense fruit style, the Old Bastard Shiraz paved the way for Kaesler. A string of highly celebrated wines followed suit, the generous Stonehorse range and premium Old Vine Shiraz, “The Bogan” and Alte Reben wines to name a few.
A 5 star James Halliday rated winery, Reid and winemaker Stephen Dew, with their distinct style and modest winemaking techniques, consistently produce wines rated over 90 points by industry peers and publications.
Adding to their growing family, Reid and his partners acquired vineyards in the prominent wine regions of the Clare Valley and McLaren Vale, establishing the Clare Wine Co. and Nashwauk brands. Applying the same winemaking techniques and philosophies as their Barossa Valley wines, they created a signature style that emanates across the all their regional brands.
Well if this wasn't a history lesson, then I don't know what could top it off! When humour marries fine heritage and an encyclopaedia of terminology and geography, you get a pretty nice swish of ingredients to sample on in a tall Baccarat glass - fantastic!