ADRIAN Tobin’s picturesque vineyard has run at a loss from the day he bought it 14 years ago.
“It’s true, we haven’t turned a profit yet,’’ he said, shrugging philosophically.
“It cost us $3,000 a week last year to prop it up. Some tell me I’m bloody mad. “I’m just a wine tragic.’’Adrian Tobin, Tobin Wines Owner
Tobin, 72, runs his boutique Granite Belt winery at a loss because he refuses to compromise on quality for quantity. Imperfect fruit is ruthlessly cut from the vines and left to rot on the ground. This encourages a concentration of flavours in the remaining berries. The wine improves, but volumes are low. It means Tobin Wines, on Ricca Rd at Ballandean, invariably sells out. Sometimes he doesn’t bottle at all if the fruit isn’t good enough.
Tobin is an artist and retired chemist who funds his "hobby" via his international firm, Urban Art Projects, with offices in Brisbane, San Francisco and Shanghai. UAP provides public sculptures and works of art for government and corporations. The profitable business is now run by his two sons. Warwick-born Tobin (his father was a country schoolteacher so they moved a lot) was a chemist for 18 years.
"I became disenchanted when things came ready-made," he said. "I was reduced to a two-finger typist sticking labels on bottles. "Before then we made everything by hand to doctors’ instructions."
He purchased his 6ha vineyard from the Ricca family who grew table grapes. Although Tobin has "retired" he works 100 hours a week.
"It is an affliction. It has taken over my life," he says without a hint of irony.
Tobin makes exceptional wines but refuses to jump on the publicity hurdy-gurdy.
"I’m not on an ego trip like a lot of winemakers,’’ he says. “I don’t enter wine shows; couldn’t be bothered.”
As he speaks he swirls and sniffs at his handcrafted Tobin Wines 2007 Isabella Semillon, a perfumed beauty that would stand alongside many of the Hunter Valley’s finest. Semillon is an unpopular variety that can be shy when it is young. It ages brilliantly, however, and is transformed into a toasty mouthful of complex, honeyed lime flavours.
Tobin is proud of his achievements and rightly so. He believes he has the oldest Semillon and Shiraz vines in Queensland. They were planted by the Department of Primary Industries agronomists in the 60s.
Tobin also bottles Tempranillo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Verdelho and Sauvignon Blanc.
He’s happy to fly under the radar. Ironically, his neighbours include Golden Grove and Ballandean Estate, Queensland’s most decorated and commercially successful producers.
"It’s all about quality for me," he said. "I don’t sit comfortably in the wine industry. They say I am obsessive-compulsive or anally retentive.
"I don’t talk about making wine, I talk about growing it. Ninety-five per cent of winemaking happens in the vineyard. It’s all about the purity of grapes.
"I am a perfectionist which is madness in itself."
"I am an artisan and the wine is an art form."
He believes the Granite Belt has the potential to be the leading wine region in Australia.
"We have only scratched the surface," he said.
"We can make better cabernet than the Coonawarra. It’s only vine maturity that we are lacking.
"This precious little patch of the universe is about to shake the wine world. I might not be around to see it, but it will happen."
Courier Mail – Sat 08 Mar 2014