Seppeltsfield - The Rebirth Of A Classic
Imagine this: Joseph Ernst Seppelt had left his tobacco, snuff and liqueur factory in Silesia in Prussia in 1849 with his wife, children, factory workers and 13 other local families, moved to an almost unimaginable new home: Australia. Gladly quitting the political and economic turmoil of Europe, they reached the Barossa Valley in 1851. After attempts to cure tobacco failed, Seppelt planted vines near Greenock at the place he called Seppeltsfield, and thereafter, he was soon selling wine at nearby Gawler and sending it on paddle-steamers plying the River Murray. His insistence on exemplary standards produced good wine and led to the construction of a fine cellar at Seppeltsfield in 1867, which included the construction of the world’s largest gravity-flow fermentation facility.
Joseph Seppelt died suddenly in 1868. His son, Oscar Benno Pedro, married Sophie Schroeder in 1870 and with their children they developed the business. At the height of its activity in the 1890s, the wine company of B Seppelt & Sons was the largest in Australia. It had attained success because the Seppelt family had drive, energy and exemplary standards. This was true not only of the male heads of the family, father and son, Joseph and Benno, but also of Benno’s wife, Sophie, who contributed significantly to the running of the establishment. The family also maintained strong ties with their employees. These characteristics stood the company in good stead, enabling them to continue in eras when others were foundering.
By 1900, at a time when the disease phylloxera had devastated the wine industry in the eastern states of Australia, Seppeltsfield had become Australia’s largest winery, producing two million litres of wine annually and winning prizes in Sydney and overseas.
The Seppelt Company had grown because of the family’s business acumen, scientific methods and thorough professional training for its winemakers. The company enhanced South Australia’s position as the nation’s leading wine-making state.
Whatever the venerable foundations of Seppeltsfield, and however noble its history and lineage, there can be no doubt that its ‘second-life’ would not have been possible without the redoubtable Warren Randall.
Randall, a Seppelt-trained winemaker of mercurial temperament, formidable skill and canny, entrepreneurial repute, bought the winery a decade ago from a seemingly disinterest Treasury Wine Estate, and proceeded to invest millions into returning it to its former pomp and glory.
However, there was one caveat which was seriously occluding Randall’s vision, and effectively hampering his attempts to stoke-up a fire of resurrection - Treasury had retained ownership of the brand trademark, effectively limiting the distribution of any table wine to cellar door exposure only.
But serendipity struck last year, and while Randall was successfully negotiating acquisition of another TWE asset - the former Ryecroft winery in McLaren Vale - the prospective new owner made the inclusion of the Seppeltsfield trademark a prerequisite of the purchase. At a stroke, Seppeltsfield could now make ‘Seppeltsfield’ wines again, and 167 years of history could now be reclaimed.
Typically, the ebullient Randall puts it best:
‘For more than a century, and particularly personified through Benno Seppelt, this business has been based on courage, ambition and ingenuity, From the famous avenue of palms planted by the Seppeltsfield workers during the Great Depression, to the revolutionary design of the Gravity Cellar, to the inception of a 100 Year Old Tawny. Seppeltsfield goes further than being just about grape growing and winemaking - it encapsulates so much of the Australian spirit.
‘Beginning with our first tier of Barossa still wine releases, 2018 marks the commencement of a new phase for Seppeltsfield; to take this masterpiece brand back to its original place as Australia’s top wine producer. I want to bring this story to wine enthusiasts around the country so they can be part of it.’