Lot 100: a thriving epicurean delight

In the middle of a cow paddock and beside an apple orchard in the Adelaide Hills, two very large, very modern sheds represent an exciting new development in how outstanding local epicurean fare is made and presented.

Lot 100 brings together a host of the brightest beverage and food talent in this state as co-habitants in a versatile production space and a huge, open plan tasting pavilion, located within the Ceravolo family’s 84ha property in the quiet Hay Valley, just outside of Nairne.

It’s the $4.5 million shared home of The Hills Cider Company, Ashton Valley Fresh juices, Adelaide Hills Distillery (producers of 78 Degrees gin), Mismatch beer and the storage facility for Vinteloper wines.

The size and scale of this smart collaborative venture has made an instant impression on hordes of visitors since Lot 100 opened in December 2018. However, most don’t realise this has been five patient years in the making – and that Lot 100 is determined to keep growing.

Lot 100 during the Adelaide Hills Crush Festival in January, 2019.

The latest step is to open a mezzanine bar in the production shed, built by carpenter Sam Weckert, above the amassed beverage production equipment. At spacious tables and benches, visitors will be able to participate in masterclasses, tastings and blend-your-own workshops presented by the various producers.

“These hands-on activities will be great fun, very educative and also give the participants a very clear idea of just how much production activity is happening inside this vast insulated shed,” says Lot 100 co-partner Toby Kline.

Participants will be exposed to a variety of new taste sensations, especially when presented with Adelaide Hills Distillery’s experimental Native Grain Project, which is working through trials of making spirits from such native ingredients as wattleseed, kangaroo grass and saltbush seed.

The epicenter of the production shed is Mismatch’s 35 hectolitre Premier Stainless brewhouse, which brewers Ewan Brewerton and Leigh Morgan installed and began operating a year ago, while the remainder of the facility was still being completed.

While the space is now humming with activity, there is still ample room for the producers to expand their operations. For instance, Vinteloper winemaker David Bowley continues to make his wines elsewhere in the Adelaide Hills, due to his preference for wild yeasts during fermentation posing a threat to the brewery’s production requirements – but he will store his wine barrels at Lot 100.

The open plan tasting pavilion.

A facility of this size needs significant resources to keep it operating, and its designers have addressed sustainability and efficiency issues at every step of its construction and operation.

The most expensive shed on the property is also the smallest – a $750,000 water treatment facility that extracts water from two bores, removes its salts and minerals via reverse osmosis, then feeds it into the shed for use by each beverage producer. Wastewater is fed back into the system, treated and then used to irrigate crops, grass and trees, including the Ceravolo family’s adjacent orchard, which produces fruit for Hills Cider and Ashton Valley Fresh Juices.

Spent grain from the distillation process is recycled as feed for local livestock and used in the Lot 100 kitchen to bake bread. Electricity used on the site is provided by 1700 square metres of solar panels, creating a sizeable a solar farm on the production shed roof.

While the visiting public doesn’t see this, they do get to sample a huge array of drinks in the company of food within the adjacent tasting pavilion. A bar with 40 taps is designed to swiftly serve big numbers of visitors, with 30 pouring Mismatch beers, six for Hills Cider and four for Adelaide Distillery spritz.

Pizzas are on the menu at Lot 100, as are smaller roasted dishes, local produce plates and pastas.

Adelaide design company Frame (which creates product labels for Mismatch and Adelaide Hills Distillery) has dressed the cellar door interior with raw timber slats rising to the high ceiling and polished-concrete floors. This room opens to broad timber decks and rolling lawns that accommodate many more diners and drinkers under the shade of towering gum trees.

A sustainability message follows through to food served in the cellar door dining area, prepared by chefs Shannon Fleming (formerly of Adelaide’s esteemed Restaurant Orana) and Tom Bubner (of Pizza e Mozzarella and Chicken & Pig). The menu is built around a relaxed Italian style of eating – from pizza to pasta and roasted treats from a wood-fired oven, but the intention is to place locally sourced ingredients on a pedestal.

More plans for Lot 100 are already in motion. Hop plants are growing, so their flowers can eventually be used in Mismatch beers, while a kitchen garden will provide a range of vegetables and herbs for the restaurant, to keep reducing the distance from paddock to plate. An eventual aim is for the cellar door to include produce sales as well as beverages – “a one-stop shop for everything delicious,” as Toby Klein explains.

The makers of 78 Degrees Gin, Adelaide Hills Distillery, operates at Lot 100.

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SA wine labels pour in heart of city

Internationally renowned brands and smaller boutique labels from 17 South Australian wine regions will gather in the heart of the city this weekend.

The Adelaide Convention Centre will host the annual Cellar Door Fest from March 15-17, giving visitors the opportunity to learn not only about the state’s winemaking talents, but also the hottest craft breweries, distilleries and premium produce on offer in SA.

“Cellar Door Fest is all about celebrating the best of SA and showcasing our state’s vibrant food and drink scene,” says Adelaide Convention Centre general manager Simon Burgess.

“We’re delighted to be celebrating the festival’s ninth year and the fact that the event has established itself as a permanent fixture on our state’s festival calendar.

“With so many of our state’s principal wineries in attendance, Cellar Door Fest continues to be a terrific illustration of SA’s global reputation as a Great Wine Capital of the World in addition to highlighting our state’s emerging craft beer and distillery producers.”

Thousands of wine lovers are expected to descend upon the Adelaide Convention Centre over three days for the 2019 Cellar Door Fest.

Festival highlights include two long table dining events, the Jacob’s Creek Long Table Dinner on March 15 and the NOLA New Orleans-inspired Long Table Lunch on March 16.

For those wanting to immerse themselves in the world of wine and gin blending, a series of masterclasses will unfold including a cheese and sparkling session (sold out), a gin blending session with Settlers Spirits, a pinor noir wine blending session with Tomich Wines, and a cheese and wine session with Sheree Sullivan of Udder Delights and wine educator Rhys Howlett.

The Great Wine Capitals (GWC) Discovery Space will explain how Adelaide, SA, is ranked alongside some of the world’s top wine regions in the Great Wine Capitals Global Network. GWC Best of Wine Tourism Award winners will be on hand for tastings and free masterclasses, including Chapel Hill Winery, Whistling Kite, Penfolds, d’Arenberg, Elderton, and Hentley Farm Wines.

Two long table dining events are among the festival highlights.

Wine lovers wanting to sample up-and-coming drops can head for the Emerging Winemakers Zone – introduced last year – to learn about a selection of labels that have been in the industry for three years or less. Emerging winemakers include Artis Wines, Auld Family Wines, Beklyn Wines, Blewitt Springs Wine Co, Dewey Station Wines, Eight at the Gate, Junnare Wines, Peter Teakle Wines, Peter Thompson Wines, Poppy the Frenchie, Saint & Scholar and The Hydropath Society.

Cellar Door Fest organisers say this year’s event is proud to highlight eco-friendly producers including those offering certified organic, biodynamic and vegan friendly products, as well as those who use sustainable packaging.

“We’re thrilled to be back and to once again provide a platform for SA producers to showcase their amazing wares and connect with consumers,” says Cellar Door Fest director Alex Bradford.

“Our team is proud to have assembled another fantastic program this year, including a great assortment of immersive experiences for guests to enjoy, from tastings to long table dining, masterclasses and live cooking demonstrations in Jessie’s Kitchen and the Wintulichs Beer Garden.”

Beer drinkers can visit the Wintulichs Beer Garden to taste a selection of local brews.

Jessie’s Kitchen will keep foodies satisfied with a series of free, live cooking demonstrations hosted by Adelaide food identity Jessie Spiby and other producers. Visitors inclined to sip on a fresh G&T will appreciate the popular Distillery District, showcasing many of the state’s emerging craft distilleries including Never Never Distilling Co, which took out the title for World’s Best Gin Classic at the World Gin Awards in London recently.

Beer drinkers can head for the Wintulichs Beer Garden to spot a showcase of top breweries and cidermakers. A new addition this year is the Dude Food stage, featuring a series of free lessons in grilling, smoking and searing meats. Burgers, tacos, hot dogs and sizzling steaks – we say no more.

To view the full Cellar Door Fest program and to purchase tickets visit the website.

What is a wine festival without a selection of local Brie cheeses to wash it all down.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Feisty RedHead settles into new Barossa abode

The opening this week of a new 500-tonne winery in the Barossa marks a big change in how RedHeads is preparing and exporting its small batch Australian wines to a thirsty global audience.

RedHeads, the Australian arm of London-based Direct Wines Production (which trades as Laithwaite’s Wine), emerged in a very different guise in 2002.

It initially served as a communal local production site for South Australian-based “flying winemakers” who had spent vintages working at the Laithwaite family’s facilities in Bordeaux, France.

Renting production spaces in McLaren Vale, then in the Barossa, the RedHeads Collective produced a diverse suite of interesting small-batch wines for Direct Wines Production to sell to its burgeoning lists of international customers.

RedHeads’ new winemaking shed opened this month (February).

Now, 17 years later, Direct Wines Production is the world’s largest direct-to-consumer wine business, handing a portfolio of more than 1500 wines, and within this big range it sells about 25,000 dozen RedHeads wines into the UK, US, Canadian and Australian markets.

To keep apace with growing demand, the company decided to invest more heavily in its Australian wine production, and purchased an 8ha shiraz vineyard near Angaston in January 2018.

It then commissioned Barossa construction company Ahrens Engineering to swiftly erect large winery sheds in time for vintage 2019, acknowledging that this investment gained SA Government support.

Winemaker and site manager Alex Trescowthick is set to crush the first chardonnay grapes at the new RedHeads Winery on Wednesday (February 20) as the opening salvo of an expected 350-tonne vintage – well within the limits of the 500-tonne winery’s capacity.

Guests explore the new winery at the opening event.

“Quite simply, we needed more wine. We have customers calling out for it, so we needed to be able to dramatically scale up our production,” says Direct Wines general manager for production Iain Muggoch, who was in Australia for the launch of the new facility, but is based at the company’s London headquarters.

“Choosing the Barossa as our location is all about us wanting to obtain increased access to Barossa fruit.”

It has been a big transition from fostering small-scale winemaking experimentation to nurturing global reach, and the RedHeads focus began to change direction in 2014.

The original winemakers who formed the RedHeads Collective had left the fold to start their own wine brands – Justin Lane (Freddy Nerks Wines), Phil Christianson (Longwood Wines) and Adam Hooper (La Curio) being the most highly recognised – and RedHeads became a singular winemaking team that worked with individual parcels of fruit from a wide network of independent grape growers.

“For us, RedHeads was a movement – an idea that encompassed what Direct Wines wanted to achieve by selling small batch Australian wines to a global market,” says Iain.

“By taking out the middle man, we gave our customers all over the world easy access to exciting Australian wines that otherwise would only have remained in Australia.

“Of course there have been a couple of RedHead studio wineries over the years, in McLaren Vale (initially at Foggo Road, then at Chalk Hill Road) and in the Barossa (at Lyndoch, Light Pass and Tanunda), but the guiding principles remain the same.

“Initially, we provided assistance to winemakers working under corporate banners to produce their own interesting small batch wines. We’re still making limited batches, but now we’re working with a larger league of grape growers, giving them good contract options beyond what some of the giant corporations are offering.”

This results in a dizzy maze of brands produced under the RedHeads banner and sold by Direct Wines Production – up to 35 different labels, with 16 Studio wines, four in the Icon range, two “Nightmare” blends and a dozen Winemaker releases.

The majority of these have a production ceiling of between 1000 to 2000 dozen bottles (although some are as limited as 250 dozen), while about 5000 dozen bottles are produced of RedHeads’ most popular wine Coco Rotie (a playful pun on the French Rhone region that is home this style of shiraz/viognier blend, with a grinning chimp on the label).

The Coco Rotie.

“To achieve all this, we couldn’t still be squatting in other people’s sheds from year to year. We needed our own home base,” says Iain.

The new facility has been designed to allow further growth. The barrel hall can accommodate about 1000 tonnes of wine in barrel, a vast network of solar panels supplies the site’s own licensed 2mW power station, and the infrastructure footprint can be easily expanded to double the current processing to 1000 tonnes, when demand necessitates it.

The RedHeads Barossa site will undergo further transformation when it opens a cellar door tasting venue from November 1, but Iain warns that it will be different to standard wine tasting rooms.

“Nothing we do is ever going to be the same old thing,” he says, noting that private tastings can now be made by appointment.

“The modern winery visit has to provide an outstanding, engaging, truly memorable experience – and that’s what we’re in the process of creating.”

Top image: Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment David Ridgway, left, officially opens RedHeads alongside Tom Laithwaite.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Shiraz stamps the identity of gin from the Barossa

Australian craft gin producers have made their mark by embracing locally sourced botanicals as their defining flavours. For Seppeltsfield Road Distillers to create its own point of difference, this has meant taking a different route by embracing signature grape varieties of the neighbouring Barossa Valley wine industry.

When the boutique distilling company opened its doors to customers in late September 2018, its small range of gins included an unusual shiraz gin.

The husband and wife ownership team of distiller Nicole Durdin and general manager Jon Durdin considered that shiraz was a true Barossa flavour signature, so they went to revered boutique winemaker Dave Lehmann, proprietor of David Franz Wines, to forge a collaboration.

The Barossa Shiraz Gin.

Dave sourced about 400kg of handpicked shiraz from the Stonewell Cottages vineyard, macerating whole bunches of grapes in gin, which combined the rich plum and blackberry flavours of shiraz with subtle hints of juniper, orange and cinnamon.

It’s an idea borrowed from UK sloe gin production, but does not require any added sugar due to the intense, complete flavour profile of ripe Barossa shiraz.

Jon says Seppeltsfield Road Distillers initially considered this a small batch experiment, but its immediate popularity (900 bottles from the 2018 vintage sold out within eight weeks) set the Durdins to think this union of wine flavours and distillation was a winning concept that could be expanded.

Now, as grapes for the 2019 vintage are starting to be harvested, Seppeltsfield Road Distillers is not only planning a second batch of shiraz gin, but has also made available a second wine-accented gin, using semillon grapes – arguably the Barossa Valley’s signature white wine variety.

The Seppeltsfield Road Distillers team, Bec Henderson, left, Nicole Durdin, Jon Durdin and Scott McCarthy. Photo by John Krüger.

Sourced from Hamish Seabrook’s boutique Seabrook Winery at Vine Vale, outside Tanunda, the grapes were probably going to be left to rot on the vine, until the Durdins used them in a daring experiment, leaving the liquor to macerate on grape skins for eight weeks to extract maximum colour and flavour.

“It has such lovely, unique colour for a gin – like a beautiful barrel-aged fortified wine,” explains Jon. “And because of its sweetness from the lush semillon fruit, this gin is the most amazing cocktail ingredient.”

Interested tasters will need to make a hasty beeline for the distillery’s cellar door on Seppeltsfield Road, as only 700 bottles were produced and are selling briskly. Customer waiting lists are already being compiled for the 2019 shiraz and semillon gins, which are likely to be available from late June.

Barossa signatures attached to Seppeltsfield Road Distillery gins continue through the distinctive product labels and company logo, featuring the striking mandala artwork of Barossa artist Janelle Amos.

Seppeltsfield Road Distillers’ three house gins. Photo by John Krüger.

Having been smitten by her original works that involve arranging intricate circular patterns from various plants, fruits and food ingredients, the Durdins commissioned Janelle to create a mandala featuring the various ingredients of their signature gin.

This design has become the basis of all their gin labels, while the original photographic print of the fruit and botanicals mandala made by Janelle now hangs proudly behind the tasting bar at Seppeltsfield Road Distillers.

The appeal of these limited release gins is drawing huge numbers of people to the tasting room on Seppeltsfield Road, with an estimated 20,000 visitors in the business’s initial five months.

The business headquarters has embraced a striking architectural concept, using repurposed shipping containers clad in rich timbers to house the tasting rooms that flank a large glass-encased tower dominated by a tall German-built still.

It’s affectionately called Christine, in honour of Nicole’s forthright grandmother, taking on the mantle as the “hardest-working German lady in the Barossa” says Nicole.

The still and production process can be viewed through the glass frontage.

Having the gleaming still and production process in clear sight – even to motorists driving past the site – has proved an instant attraction, and has certainly enticed visitors to sit for a tutored tasting of the three house gin styles: Barossa Dry, which is a classic juniper style gin with pink peppercorns, lavender, and cornflowers; House Gin, which is a sweet and bright citrusy concoction that has been very appealing to self-confessed “non-gin fans”; and Savoury Allsorts, which uses star anise, licorice root and fresh thyme for a highly fragrant gin.

Seppeltsfield Road Distiller’s success has been underlined by a suite of international and national gin awards, but it has been a long road for the Durdins to reach this point.

Seventh-generation Barossan Nicole was previously a musician, playing the French horn in the SA Police Band, and later for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, travelling the world for performances, while Jon was a financial analyst who ended up in the UK steering a corporate acquisition by a UK defence company.

Their return to the Barossa – to specifically make gin in a high-profile location that would attract tourism attention – was always designed to make maximum impact, and their wine-influenced gins is a potent focal point of that attention.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Tomich Wines takes a different path to export markets

Exporting Australian wine is a meandering, often maddening route, especially for small brands that make up the bulk of this nation’s 2400 wine producers.

Boutique Adelaide Hills brand Tomich Wines has forged its own unconventional path to global customers by exploring and entering different types of trade partnerships, to ensure enduring export sales.

“As a reasonably new wine brand, we need to find new opportunities to enter the market, which means we have to look at things quite differently,” says Tomich Wines director and winemaker Randal Tomich.

The Tomich family established big vineyards in Adelaide Hills from 2000, comprising 27 blocks across 130ha, and initially sold all the grapes to Penfolds.

By 2003, small volumes of fruit were being retained to start the Tomich wine label, and by 2009, when the contracts with Penfolds ended, their emphasis changed.

Tomich Wines’ city cellar door on King William Road, Unley, Adelaide.

“We got serious about selling wine,” explains Randal, noting the steady rise of Tomich Wines to now produce about 60,000 dozen wines annually.

This change saw export strategies become an important part of the business plan, but as a new wine label, Randal felt he needed to explore different opportunities rather than follow the same crowded trade routes to US and UK customers that were already filled with scores of Australian wine brands. Instead, from 2009, Randal looked to Hong Kong and China.

“I see these as great areas of opportunity, places where we can establish our own clear identity,” he says.

Selling strong and consistent amounts of wine into China has not been an easy progression, but Randal has persevered, while shifting strategies and learning to embrace different cultural and business practices.

Randal’s current Chinese business partners have suggested to him that Australian wineries need to be more creative about how to market their wines in China; for example, obtaining an endorsement from an esteemed entrepreneur such as Jack Ma of Alibaba fame or a Chinese media celebrity would be much more influential than promoting high scores from respected Australian wine critics.

Tomich Wines has three cellar door tasting rooms and sales outlets throughout China.

While Tomich Wines has not pursued the endorsement path, it has opened its own elegant cellar door tasting rooms and sales outlets in Shanghai, Chengdu and Chongqing (located in the foyer of a five-star hotel) and employing professional Chinese wine staff to represent the company, where other Australian exporters have employed language students for similar sales roles, with mixed success.

Establishing a strong physical presence in major Chinese cities has been crucial for Tomich Wines to establish necessary sales networks. It now has 17 distributors working in different parts of China, in a complex and surprisingly fragmented system.

“You can’t think of China as one country, because there are many, many small networks built around individuals rather than a highly complex and evolved distribution system,” says Randal.

Still, having established a string of functioning networks throughout China, Randal is also considering other strategies, including starting new wine businesses with Chinese partners, in which he would be prepared to take a minority shareholding.

“It would show that I’m not trying to take advantage of any Chinese partners, and ensure that I would not be a barrier to growth. It’s not the way business partnerships work in Australia, but China demands a significantly different approach and mindset if you are going to make headway.

“I’m an entrepreneur and I can see great opportunity there,” he adds. “I believe the future of wine is in China, and that the time to invest in China is now.”

China is only a part of Tomich’s export strategy. The company’s presence in the US is also unconventional, built on the back of Randal’s successful vineyard excavation business Soilworks, which uses advanced soil ripping techniques that help prevent soil erosion, maximise water retention efficiency and accelerate successful establishment of new vines.

Soilworks started winning vineyard-ripping contracts in 2008, and by 2011 the Tomich family had become partner in a 70ha vineyard in Pasa Robels, California.

The resulting T&C wine range comprises small volumes of elite cabernets and zinfandel which carry prestige in US retail outlets, and has provided an opportunity for Tomich Wines to piggy-back into the same markets – which Randal says are notoriously difficult for high-value Australian brands to break into.

“Everything gets categorised in the US, and Australian wine is categorised as sitting with (lowest-priced) Yellowtail wines,” he says. “It’s a perception that can’t be shaken, so for our higher-end wines, we had to find a different way in.”

While exports currently account for up to 40% of Tomich Wines’ production, Randal says he wants to realign the business focus to increase sales in the Australian market.

“Export is a key but we still get the highest value from our sales in Australia,” he says, although he remains committed to pursuing unconventional pathways, outside traditional distribution networks.

“Forget the old models,” Randal suggests to emerging wine entrepreneurs. “There are new and different opportunities, but you have to go and hunt for them.”

Header image features Randal Thomich, left, and Patrick Zhu.

Industry in focus: Trade and Investment

Throughout the months of January and February, the state’s trade and investment industry will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

South Australia is in a prime position for trade and investment opportunities as we have a 24-hour connection to international markets and a prime reputation for our premium products and services.  Read more trade and investment stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Local knowledge informs clever new Barossa tasting room

With its sophisticated wine and food presentation echoing chic European style, Vino Lokal in Tanunda offers a completely different vibe that visitors to the Barossa may not expect – and this is exactly the reaction that its proprietors, the Artisans of Barossa winemakers collective, want to achieve with its innovative new cellar door offering.

Creating the new tasting room in Tanunda’s main street is a bold step for the Artisans, which comprises five boutique Barossa wine brands that formed a collaborative marketing group a decade ago and have shared a communal cellar door tasting room overlooking vineyards at Vine Vale, just outside Tanunda, since 2011.

The winemaker owners of John Duval Wines, Schwarz Wine Co, Sons of Eden, Spinifex and Hobbs of Barossa Ranges recognise that small wine brands in Australia are under enormous pressure to connect with customers – especially when visitors travel to a wine region and are on the hunt for a unique and memorable wine tasting experience.

Their innovative shared tasting room set a new high benchmark for an informative cellar door tasting experience, yet now they have radically changed a successful operation by opening Vino Lokal.

A wine tasting flight at Vino Lokal in Tanunda, Barossa Valley. Photo by John Krüger.

“Since 2005, Artisans of Barossa has pioneered the clustering of small wine brands through effective marketing and succeeded beyond our wildest dreams, but we still feel a need to stay ahead of the curve,” says Howard Duncan, Artisans of Barossa’s chief operating officer. “This will be a new positioning statement for both the Artisans and the Barossa.”

Vino Lokal, connecting the Spanish word for wine with the German term for local, re-imagines the winery tasting ritual by introducing a shift from just sampling wine, to sharing wine with food – and from standing up, to sitting down and slowing down.

The restored stone cottage in Tanunda’s main street has 50 seats across two rooms, offering twin experiences by taking bookings for tables in the Wine Room, but welcoming walk-ins for the more informal Wine Bar.

It illustrates the modern Barossa personality, underlining that a new generation of winemakers are looking to Mediterranean wine cultures for inspiration, while also respecting the Barossa’s deep German heritage and historic vineyards.

“A new history is emerging, and Artisans are very much a part of it,” says Howard. “This is not just reflected in the style of wines being made, but how we enjoy them in the company of good food and conversation.”

Good food, good  wine and good conversation is what Vino Lokal is all about. Photo by John Krüger.

Artisans of Barossa’s shift to its new location has been swift – only 100 days from realising the site was available to opening its doors for customers – but they are delighted to have created a one-stop wine enjoyment shop, familiar to global wine travellers but not yet seen in Australia.

“This is the next phase of where culinary tourism is headed in this country’s wine regions, with a more complete integration of wine and food tasting,” says Howard. “It’s the facility that will create a broader conversation about how we enjoy wine and food together.”

The Wine Room’s selection of over 50 Barossa wines from the Artisan group’s winemakers tells the changing story of Barossa wine through different categories – of dry savoury rosé, of grenache and of blends, introducing mataro and cinsault into the conversation.

Importantly, underlining a Mediterranean accent promoted by the venue name, there is a category titled Not Your Usual Barossa Suspects, showcasing locally-produced tempranillo, aglianico, sagratino and pinot noir. Even the familiar shiraz category has been fragmented into different styles of expression – savoury and textural; soft supple and elegant; rich and flavoursome; bold and extravagant.

Photo by John Krüger.

“All this is designed to take wine tasters further down the Barossa rabbit hole, and it’s an eye-opening experience to find so much variety in one winemaking region,” says Howard.

“It’s a different way of guiding people through a tasting. Rather than present a sliding scale of good/better/best, we encourage vertical tastings across artisan styles, to make comparisons and appreciate the points of difference.”

Visitors can book for Wine Skool tutored tastings, or purchase wines in flights of four, six or eight tasting pours, which can be accompanied by four bite-sized selections from a menu that also offers snacks, charcuterie, cheeses and Chef’s Plates created by Ryan Edwards, former executive chef at Appellation restaurant.

While Vino Lokal is now open for daily business, Artisans of Barossa wine tastings will continue at its original Vine Vale site until Sunday February 3, when the space will become the new tasting room for Calabria Family Wines, supported by food from Harvest Kitchen.

Artisans of Barossa will also commence building another new home from April, at Kroemer’s Crossing outside Tanunda, with plans to open in January 2020.

“We want to expand so that we can also present a great vineyard-based experience, where people can enjoy a longer, slower exploration of wine,” says Howard, explaining that Vino Lokal will also stay open, to offer two different Barossa wine, food and hospitality options.

“We’re confident the two Artisans experiences will happily co-exist. It’s an exciting time for us to keep our eyes on the horizon.”

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Harbour Bottling enters new export markets as love for SA wine grows

A growing taste for South Australian wine overseas has led to a boost in business and new export markets for an Osborne bottling plant.

Wine export business Harbour Bottling, located near Adelaide’s major shipping container port, began exporting wine to India, the UK and Canada last year, on top of its usual trade to China.

Previously, all its products were exported to China – a market that Harbour Bottling director Wayne Chao says is also continuing its love for SA wine.

“Because of the nature of our clients, 100% of our products went to China, but since last year we started our first export to India and since late last year we are going to the UK and Canada,” he says. “So we are now opening more doors for exporting to different countries.”

AWTE Enterprise is the company behind Harbour Bottling, which provides contract wine bottling, packaging, warehousing and exporting services to the wine industry.

Harbour Bottling processes about 4000 wine bottles an hour.

The bottling plant, the only of its kind in Australia located so close to an export hub, produces about 4000 bottles an hour, equating to an average of 40,000 bottles a day.

The facility has a capacity to fill 600 shipping containers a year, a limit Wayne says is expected to be reached within the next two years, prompting plans for a second production line and a possible relocation of the business in the area.

“Last calendar year we produced more than five million bottles, that’s about 400 containers a year,” he says.

“Our bottling line capacity is about 600 containers (a year) so with the increasing trend of orders, we are about to reach our limit in maybe the next 12–24 months.”

According to Wine Australia’s export statistics from 12 months to September 2018, SA exported 408 million litres of wine, a 7% increase on the previous year.

SA’s wine export value was also up by 15% on the previous year at $1.67 billion. SA’s top export market by value and volume was China, followed by the UK.

Wayne says he believes the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) entered in 2015 has made “quite a bit of difference” to the wine trading market.

“In the past three years our business has been growing by about 30–40% every year. For us that’s a big increase and I think it’s definitely a benefit of the ChAFTA,” he says.

In January this year import tariffs on Australian bottled wines to China were abolished, meaning more wine is expected to make its way to the east Asian country.

Habour Bottling was established in 2017 by four Chinese entrepreneurs to help cater for Chinese demand for Aussie wine. Directors Jason Zhao, Jonathon Li, Simon Hou and Wayne Chao had each pursued different study and career pathways, including winemaking, computer science, media, medical science, real estate, civil engineering and wine exporting, before launching their business venture.

AWTE Enterprise and Harbour Bottling director Wayne Chao.

Together they saw a gap in the market for a “one-stop wine exporting logistics solution”. They were fond of Adelaide’s lifestyle offerings and the state’s world-class wine regions.

“We saw the opportunity in wine exporting. SA has many world-class wine regions that produce a lot of wine,” Wayne says.  “Australian wine has been a growing market in China, especially in the last couple of years. It’s a booming business.”

Harbour Bottling’s major client is Orchid Wine Estate – owned by Jonathon Li and Jason Zhao – which exports about 200 containers a year. Harbour Bottling works with local producers and wine brands from various leading wine regions across SA.

One of Harbour Bottling’s four directors Simon Hou recently stepped away from the business after being elected as an Adelaide City Councillor and taking on an extra workload.

Industry in focus: Trade and Investment

Throughout the months of January and February, the state’s trade and investment industry will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

South Australia is in a prime position for trade and investment opportunities as we have a 24-hour connection to international markets and a prime reputation for our premium products and services.  Read more trade and investment stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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McLaren Vale centre of organic, biodynamic winemaking

McLaren Vale – one of South Australia’s most renowned wine regions – is often noted for being home to some of the world’s oldest grape vines.

But did you know that McLaren Vale is also home to a high concentration of sustainable grapegrowers and winemakers?

A local industry program, Sustainable Australia Winegrowing (SAW) is an initiative of the McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism Association (MVGWTA) and says the region is the nation’s centre of sustainable winegrowing.

The program captures data from 130 local vineyards and wineries who can identify as sustainable through a set of environmental, economic and social considerations.

MVGWTA general manager Jennifer Lynch says grapegrowers who are part of SAW account for more than 70% of McLaren Vale’s entire crush.

Grapevines at Paxton Wines, McLaren Vale.

“The evidence-based farming practices are collected through more than 130 different data points across seven different subjects of sustainability … it’s a very holistic approach,” she says.

“The environmental indicators are quite obvious (soil health, fertiliser management, pest and disease management, water and waste management) but you have to also consider economic and social indicators, such as their worker and social relations, community relations, and overall profitability of the business.

“We are ecstatic the SAW program accounts for more than 70% of McLaren Vale’s entire crush, and for a voluntary program it’s an exceptional membership rate. It shows the industry is conscious of sustainable production.”

Jennifer says 10% of SAW McLaren Vale members are certified organic or biodynamic wineries and vineyards, while a further near 10% are practicing (but not certified) organic or biodynamic producers. The remaining percentage use low input conventional management practices to control pests and diseases.

Organic farming uses no synthetic pesticides or additives, while biodynamic farming involves a more holistic approach, identifying the property as entire ecosystem and also taking into consideration the lunar cycle and astrological influences.

Members of SAW account for 70% of McLaren Vale’s entire crush. This includes fruit from Gemtree Wines, pictured.

But a wine business can still be sustainable without adhering to organic or biodynamic practices.

“The important point to note is that sustainability does not favour one particular farming method over another,” Jennifer says.

“Sustainability covers conventional, certified and practising organic and biodynamic, and low input management with integrated pest management practice. There are various farming methods that sustainability can encompass – it is a continuum.”

Some of the wineries at the centre of McLaren Vale’s sustainable winemaking operations include the organic and biodynamic certified d’Arenberg, Paxton Wines, Gemtree Wines, and Wirra Wirra.

Melissa and Mike Brown at Gemtree Wines went certified organic and biodynamic in 2011, building upon Gemtree’s history which dates back to the 1980s.

They say biodynamic farming practices make a “huge difference” to the health of the soil and vines.

Melissa and Mike Brown of Gemtree Wines.

“As soon as we removed the chemicals, the herbicides and the pesticides we noticed that activity was back in the soil, the vines seemed to become a bit more resilient and were able to deal with extremes a bit more,” Mike says.

“We’re not saying we’re under a beautiful cloud and we’re not affected by the weather, but the vines seemed to be able to bounce back and have much a much more even, balanced structure.”

One of the bases of biodynamic winemaking is the use of horn manure (500) to build up fertility of the soil. Fresh cow manure is put into cow horns and buried in the ground for six months prior to the winter solstice.

Last year Gemtree separated itself from the usual biodynamic producers when they aged a single-vineyard shiraz in a wax-coated French oak barrel buried for eight months underneath the vines from which the winegrapes were grown. The wine was completely chemical free, with no sulphur added. Another barrel was buried for 18 months.

Mike says the result was an “absolute reflection of the place it comes from”, and he describes the drop as “broody, earthy and textual”.

A 15 minute drive away is fellow certified organic and biodynamic producer Paxton Wines, a family owned and run wine business that, like Gemtree Wines, farms without the use of synthetic fertilisers and fungicides.

Paxton Wines chief winemaker Richard Freebairn.

Operations manager Ben Paxton is son of highly respected viticulturist David Paxton and says his father was inspired to experiment with organic and biodynamic grapegrowing after attending a conference on the movement in 2004.

By 2005 the entire vineyard was converted to organic and biodynamic practices, before full certifications were achieved in 2011.

“We had a desire to increase grape quality, we wanted the vines to thrive naturally, have better balances of acidity, sugar and flavour,” Ben says. “The disease resistance increased dramatically, and the cell walls are thicker and stronger.”

The Browns and the Paxtons both believe consumers are increasingly wanting to know where their produce comes from and how it was made, and Jennifer Lynch of SAW agrees.

“If we look at who the core wine consumers are and our future consumers as well, it’s the millennials,” Jennifer says.

“The ethical and sustainable consciousness of these consumers continues to increase.”

Paxton Wines’ cellar door.

Industry in focus: Craft industries

Throughout the months of November and December, the state’s craft industries will be celebrated as part of I Choose SA.

South Australian craftspeople make up some of our most creative thinkers and makers of sustainable and innovative goods. Read more craft stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Old wine dogs show off some new tricks

How do reputable established wineries remain modern, and appear fresh to a new generation of wine drinkers?

The answer, for a growing number of canny South Australian wine producers, has been to create second labels that show off an entirely different side to their winemaking.

Tim Adams has benefitted greatly from starting a second label in Clare after he bought the former Leasingham winery in 2010, saving it from demolition, and recreating it as Mr Mick Wines.

He says this has presented him an opportunity to release a whole suite of new wines – embracing the new era of Mediterranean grape varieties that fascinate him, and employing techniques to provide sprightly, juicy wines without confusing his Tim Adams Wines customers who want sturdy classic wines from the Clare Valley.

Tim Adams Wines, Clare Valley. Photo by John Krüger.

“I was feeling incredibly frustrated to not be doing all the things I wanted to in making wine – and then it became clear that I needed this other wine brand to make it all possible,” says Tim.

“It wasn’t mapped out by design, but the Mr Mick story about being innovative and having fun with wine is truly authentic, and has worked.”

Tim has encouraged the creativity of young winemakers within his company, such as Brett Schutz, to employ fresh ideas. It has resulted in Mr Mick being embraced by a new generation of drinkers, taking out top honours in the Adelaide Review Hot 100 Wines in December 2016 with Novo Sangiovese.

This delicious fresh take on the savoury Italian grape, made in a drink-now style, underpins Tim’s philosophy of Mr Mick Wines being affordable wines for everyone to enjoy.

“We want people to try these new wines, to experiment, without having to pay a lot for them,” says Tim. “We want the exciting new drinking they find in Mr Mick Wines to represent fantastic value.”

Toby Barlow of St Hallett Wines in the Barossa Valley took a fresh approach and launched a new brand, Blockhead, under the St Hallett range.

St Hallett Wines is one of the Barossa’s champions of serious old vine shiraz, but Toby Barlow, director of the winery’s premium winemaking operations, knows there’s more than one way to make shiraz, which is the reason behind its new Blockhead by St Hallett range.

“I think we were in danger of being pigeon-holed as a wine brand confined to one style and one audience,” explains Toby. “We had to ask ourselves ‘How do we introduce ourselves to different customers?’ We took a completely fresh approach; a new brand name and look to the label, a deliberately modern wine style, at a more modest price.”

The result has been an immediate retail acceptance, convincing Toby there is room for more wines in the Blockhead range, possibly with blends involving grenache and touriga grapes.

In the Adelaide Hills, The Other Wine Co has emerged as a companion brand to Shaw + Smith Wines, presenting grape varieties and fruit from regions that fall outside of Shaw + Smith’s carefully curated brand.

Several strong minds and wills are central to this wine business. Owners Michael Hill Smith and Martin Shaw have a particular vision of what belongs within the limited range of Shaw + Smith wines.

However, senior winemaker Adam Wadewitz has ideas for unique wines that stretch far beyond what Shaw + Smith represents. So, rather than ignore or suppress these ideas, The Other Wine Co was born to present small batches of unique wines – old bush vine grenache from McLaren Vale, textural pinot gris from an elevated altitude
plot in Adelaide hills, and, still in barrel, is petit verdot from Kangaroo Island.

“We have the facility to look at so many interesting individual parcels of fruit, and we can react to them under the Other Wine Co label,” says Adam. “It’s very exciting for a winemaker, and it makes clear sense as a wine producer.”

McLaren Vale winemaker Ben Riggs says releasing a very different suite of wines without confusing the solid identity of his longstanding Mr Riggs label led to the recent launch of his companion label, Mr Bright Side.

The 2018 Mr Bright Side 2018 Preservative Free Shiraz.

Capturing bright, juicy fruit flavours within a distinctly fresh, modern style, the lively quartet of Mr Bright Side wines stand as a marked contrast to Mr Riggs’ more muscular and forceful wines.

It’s an important new market positioning statement for Ben, who was crowned a McLaren Vale Bushing King for his super-concentrated shiraz.

Mr Bright Side shows a very different portfolio, comprising a pale grenache rose, Adelaide Hills pinot gris, a preservative-free shiraz, and a lively red blend called Eurotrash, combining tempranillo, lagrein, grenache and petit verdot.

It answers critics who have intimated that Ben Riggs only makes one blockbuster style of wine. “I love making all styles of wines, and a lot of people forget that as a contract winemaker, I already make many wines in these styles for other people,” explains Ben.

Introducing another wine brand has allowed him to define and focus on specific strengths in his winemaking.

“It reinforced in my mind exactly what each of my wine brands should be, without compromising either. And while Mr Bright Side may seem like fun, smashable wines, it takes no less energy to make them. It only means I have to craft beautiful wines in a different way.”

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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From little labels, big wines grow in the Adelaide Hills

The time to focus maximum attention on the Adelaide Hills wine region is right now.

An outstanding suite of wines presented as trophy winners at the recent Adelaide Hills Wine Show underlines that this region rides at the forefront of modern Australian winemaking – and continues to keep offering new sensations, illustrated by the show’s supreme winner being a winemaker most people would not yet have heard of.

Charlotte Hardy makes her small batch wines in the tiny hills sub-region of Basket Range, and releases them under the brand name of Charlotte Dalton.

The New Zealand-born winemaker first came to the district 13 years ago and was soon besotted, realising it produced the type of superior cool climate fruit that would allow her to make lean, sensuous wines of distinctive appeal.

As a result, the 2017 vintage of Charlotte Dalton Wines Love Me Love You Shiraz won three big trophies at the 2018 Adelaide Hills Wine Show – Best Shiraz, Best Single Vineyard Wine and Best Wine of the Show.

Charlotte Hardy of Charlotte Dalton Wines in Basket Range.

Named sentimentally in tribute to a lullaby that her mother sang to Charlotte in her childhood, this slender, spicy and nimble shiraz – more akin to pinot noir in structure, but with a more plush fruit palate – represents an exciting new benchmark for cool climate shiraz.

“I firmly believe that a wine must be made with a happy heart and a content soul,” says Charlotte. “And that is, simply, why I make the Charlotte Dalton Wines – to bring me joy, happiness and contentedness, and to share those feelings through the wines.”

Shiraz in the Adelaide Hills has come of age, and is now respected as one of the four vinous pillars of strength in the region, along with sparkling wines, chardonnay and pinot noir.

The wine show judges awarded seven gold medals for shiraz wines this year compared to three last year – with the great improvers being small, artisan producers.

Out of 592 entries in this year’s Adelaide Hills Wine Show, a vast majority come from small and family producers, and 315 were awarded medals – with a startling 56 being gold medals, signalling a new high water mark of quality.

Michael Downer of Murdoch Hill.

“Right now, this is the most exciting wine region in Australia,” said chairman of the wine show judges Nick Stock, addressing a capacity audience at the wine show awards lunch held at Bird In Hand winery on November 30.

Much of Nick’s excitement is directed towards innovative winemaking. Michael Downer of Murdoch Hill wines, awarded best Adelaide Hills producer making less than 100 tonnes of wine, also won best avant garde wine with the 2018 Murdoch Hill Happy Pinot Gris, an experimental orange wine produced from extended grape skin contact and longer oak maturation.

It has proved such a success from its small batch trial that Michael has confirmed he will make the same style again.

“Experiments can lead to popular styles,” says Michael. “If we don’t push the boundaries and break with convention at times, we don’t fully understand what’s possible in making great wine.”

Recognising boutique excellence extends through to sparkling wine production, illustrated by Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard being awarded best sparkling wine of show for its 2015 Pinot Noir, Chardonnay – one of the exciting categories identifying a raft of small producers throughout the Adelaide Hills region producing fine wines of exceptional quality.

Sharon Pearson and Garry Sweeney of Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard.

“The next step ahead for the producers of this region is focus hard on ultra-specialisation, in both the quality of the grapes we grow and the wines we make,” says Garry Sweeney, co-proprietor of Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard with partner Sharon Pearson.

“We make 16 different wines from only five grape varieties, because we are intent on finding the best individual parcels of fruit and making the very best wines we can from them. Absolute attention to detail is what will continue putting the Adelaide Hills wine region on the map.”

Wine judge Nick Stock agrees. “The Hills winemakers are wonderfully capable of making great sparkling wine. Smaller producers are very committed and realise that the best thing for them is to go the extra step to give their wines that extra quality which will bring them notice and make them successful.”

The region is also abreast of fast-moving wine trends, especially the transformation in style of the booming rosé class, with the best examples becoming more pale, dry and nuanced.

Howard Vineyard winemaker Tom Northcott with a group of cellar door visitors.

This year saw Howard Vineyard 2018 Clover Rosé come out on top, earning the trophy in consecutive years with a refined, elegant and delightfully aromatic wine made from cabernet franc grapes.

Importantly, Howard Vineyard also won the trophy for best Adelaide Hills Cellar Door experience, marking the success of recent improvements to the Nairne winery’s visitor centre that have been introduced by owners Ian and Sharon Northcott with their winemaker son Tom.

“Making sure that visitors to the Adelaide Hills wine region have a fantastic experience is of primary concern to us all,” says Tom Northcott. “That’s how people remember our great wines – by tasting them in a great setting.”

All the results of the 2018 Adelaide Hills Wine Show can be found online here.

Header image: Michael Downer of Murdoch Hill.