James Lindner (Langmeil) talks to Curious Wines

Everyone at Langmeil must be going around with big smiles on their faces this month. For the seventh consecutive year, the Barossa Valley winery has retained its Five Red Star rating from James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion 2012, placing it in the top 5% of premium Australian winemakers.

Finally I managed to nail down James Lindner, the Sales and Marketing manager at Langmeil, and one of Australia’s most passionate people! No really, Barossa is in his blood.

1. Congratulations on the recent Halliday scores. An astonishing 96 points for the Orphan Bank ’08 and 97 points for the Freedom ’08 are worth noting. Did you expect such scores and what was your highlight or surprise wine of the ’08 vintage?

It’s interesting with scores and reviews especially ones as positive as the recent James Halliday scores. We do rate James highly as he has 40 years experience with Australian wines and truly understands regionality and we feel that if there are ever scores to go on, this experience and understanding of regionality and regional style is a critical foundation for the experience required. As a winery we have always followed our belief of style based on generational knowledge which has inspired our representation or interpretation of the Barossa by sticking to these solid beliefs we feel our wines have what every wine needs – Soul, and if our actions and wines are noticed by our peers it’s a great bonus.

2. Obviously for the higher volume wines, you need to find fruit from elsewhere. For the Village series, where does the fruit come from and how do you ensure you’re getting the quality you need?

Our Village wines are produced to represent the villages of the Barossa and the diversity they bring, in fact there is something like 28 original villages and all based around the church. The idea is that these villages not only represent different communities but also the different climates, valleys and soils, which always bring different nuances to the wines.

Regarding volumes these wines are still small productions when comparing total productions to even some high end grand Cru and first growth wines, so this means we can ensure a quality level of our fruit that sets the class standards we offer in these wines.

To obtain such a diverse offering of fruit supply across 16 of these original villages we rely on the generational knowledge of family grape growers. The Barossa boasts some 750 families with half of them farming 10 hectares or less and this provides small family wineries like Langmeil to obtain a great cross section and with knowledgeable growers that have been on their land for generations offers experience in producing quality and varietal flavour profiles from each village area. The communication and liaising with these growers over the season is also critical and Paul Lindner, our winemaker, gets his hands dirty every year in all of our grower based vineyards which ensures we pick the grapes at their optimum for our style and flavour requirements.

3. Of some of the big names in the wine industry, you’ve met the hugely successful American wine retailer and social media guru, Gary Vaynerchuk. What was that like? Any other big personalities who you haven’t been able to forget?

Gary is an amazing guy, he has unbelievable energy and is a great advocate for talking to all wine lovers from any background and to anyone with a thirst for knowledge and a willingness to be educated, he is brilliant for our industry as are the many other people that wish to share and educate current and future wine lovers.

Big personalities, well in my mind, the people I have met are many having been fortunate to travel to the places that represent our wines. I suppose I don’t have to travel far though to mention some of the key influences of just my back yard, people like Robert O’Callaghan – Rockford Wines, Bob Mclean, The Lehmann family, actually the local list is endless, but one visitor a year that we look forward to seeing is Mark Taylor the Ex Australian Cricket Captain, he always brings a few mates and we have a great brunch, Local Shulz’s bacon, Rosie’s free range Eggs, and Linke’s sausages, drinking Langmeil Sparkling Shiraz, it makes for a great start to the day.

4. It must have taken great foresight when purchasing the Langmeil property and vineyards back in 1996. Have hopes and dreams been fulfilled since then? What does the future hold for Langmeil, anything new on the horizon?

Langmeil was conceived one night by three mates Chris Bitter, Carl and Richard Lindner and I believe it was Paul that first highlighted the old abandoned winery site. The site was not up for sale officially but these guys went and found the owners to see if they could broker a deal. The cost of purchasing the old site was a lot more than they had imagined and they didn’t have the money, so they suggested to the owners that they would be happy to lease the premises with an obligation to purchase the property at a set amount on a set date. If they could not raise the money by that set date they offered to walk away and give back the property with all the upgrades. Fortunately though they managed to purchase the property with two months to spare.

Since then our main goal was to make the best wine we could and this was where all the investment back into the winery first went and in under a decade James Halliday had placed Langmeil in the Top echelon of Australian fine wine producers by awarding us a 5 star rating.

So the words evolution not revolution sums up Langmeil, we will continue the journey of a fine wine producer, and do our best to make memorable moments in each wine with each vintage and trust in the 25 maybe 30 vintages left in this generation that future generations of the families involved will continue the legacy of these three mates.

5. Langmeil has been received really well by the Irish consumer, we’re delighted to have range. What do you see as the major selling point for the winery? How does Langmeil stand out from other producers in Barossa or the rest of the country?

I would like to say we are more about discovery than standing out from the crowd, this is what has made us, word of mouth between wine lovers, people that have tried our wines and then shared them with their friends they know love wine. We believe if you make a big noise lots of people listen but when people discover you they hear you and have more affinity with you.

We have a simple message and we always start with our good fortune of being born in the Barossa, so firstly the Barossa is one of the great wine regions of the world and people are still finding out what true Barossa is, so we preach the message of Barossa and back this up with our winemaking philosophies, which is something that we have inherited through being Barossan and being close to our winemaking mentors and privileged enough to have been in positions to hear their thoughts and shared wisdom, which they happily share. We have taken this knowledge to help form our own opinion and in the end that is what is in the bottle. Winemakers wines.

The slow road, but one that brings loyalty.

6. Finally, James, if you could no longer make wine in Australia, where would you go, and what would be your “desert island wine” if you had to pick one?

Interesting question, having visited a few countries through wine, it is a tough call but let’s open it up from just wine, as you really can emulate small winemaking through other beverages anywhere in the world. I have tried all sorts of fruit wines, beers, stouts, whiskeys, bourbons, tequila’s etc etc no matter what beverage there is someone doing it well somewhere and this means that anyone that really wants to can have a go making an alcoholic beverage of their choice. As an example, Paul was making his first reds in his back shed in the early 90’s.

So I would make whiskey in Ireland, oh and maybe some stout, ice wine in Canada, rum in the Caribbean, tequila in Mexico, I think you get the picture… but if I had a choice I would make one in the north of Italy for no other reason than this is where our Italian side of the family came from.

If I had only one bottle to drink before I died, I hope it was the best bottle we made at Langmeil over my life time here, so it can bring back fond memories of hopefully a rewarding life and trust it is a wine that could be the wine that other people could say would be their last.

He’s a very busy man, but a big thanks to James for giving up his time. Thanks also to Emma Shaw at Langmeil for her support to date. Click here to view the range, with 20% off those wines under €25 until the end of August.

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