Miranda sisters produce an ideal winery blend

An ideal blend of skills has placed three sisters at the helm of Lou Miranda Estate in the Barossa. Since 2005, Lisa and Victoria Miranda have steered business at the winery that carries their father’s name, but the recent arrival of their sibling Angela as winemaker, bringing more than a decade of international experience, makes the family business complete after a careful 14-year progression.

Angela, who was previously Pernod Ricard’s UK packaging operations manager, US packaging operations manager and technical operations manager in the Barossa, came back to her family’s winery at Rowland Flat in mid-February – after vintage had already started – and acted fast to ensure the family’s progression as a boutique wine brand continues.

“We’d always intended for Angela to join us, but she was reluctant to leave her previous position which saw her travelling most of the year to emerging wineries in China, India and New Zealand,” says Victoria. “Once she came back to work in the Barossa, the decision to join us just seemed like a natural fit.”

The Miranda sisters, Lisa, left, Miranda and Angela of Lou Miranda Estate in the Barossa Valley.

It’s the latest step in a long journey for Lou Miranda’s family, which moved to the Barossa from Griffith in 1991 so that the former Miranda wine brand (which was then among Australia’s larger family-owned wine companies) could access more high-quality fruit.

The big old winery building, erected in 1919, became a weekend playground for the young Miranda girls while their father and mother worked, and later became their own workplace, after they turned 18, as they each took turns serving at the cellar door.

It provided them with a useful skill set when big change came after McGuigan Wines bought the Miranda label in 2003, splitting the broader Miranda family’s wine connections.

For a while, Lou’s family continued to sell Miranda wines from the cellar door, but in 2005, they transformed the Barossa property into a separate identity as Lou Miranda Estate – and Lou’s daughters stepped to the forefront of the business, with Lisa drawing on her sales background and Victoria bringing graphic design skills.

“Dad wasn’t ready to retire, and he had no problem at all with his girls taking the reins,” says Lisa. “We had always been involved in everything along the way. We never thought of ourselves as girls facing any obstacles. We were simply this family’s next generation, moving the business forward.”

Lou Miranda handed the reigns of the boutique winery to his three daughters Lisa, Victoria and Angela.

It was daunting to start again – “We had zero customers, and now we are selling 25,000 cases per year” – but the daughters say they had Lou’s complete confidence to build the business on the back of his experience and their fresh ideas.

Their foundation was the winery at Rowland Flat – previously the Liebich family’s Rovalley winery, which had passed through several sets of hands, but still had the same infrastructure and – more importantly – large reserves of the fortified wines that Rovalley was famous for, stored in the original 7000-litre oak vats that the Liebichs had constructed in 1919.

Angela has revived her fortified winemaking skills, learned through such luminaries as David Morris (Morris of Rutherglen) and Philip Laffer (chief winemaker at Jacob’s Creek), because fortified wines still hold strong appeal for cellar door customers, and was the focus of fortified masterclasses held in the winery during the recent Barossa Vintage Festival.

Many more treasures have greeted Angela in the winery – including fruit from serious 90-plus-year-old shiraz vines (the best being reserved for the $150 Master Piero shiraz, named after Victoria’s first son), and recent plantings of pinot grigio and sagrantino grapes. “Lou was interested in adding Italian varieties but didn’t want to do the same as everyone else,” explains Lisa.

It’s a surprise for these wines to appear in the Barossa, especially a bright, crunchy pinot grigio built in the authentic Italian style around a firm acidic spine. Even more impressive is sagrantino made light and spicy with bright blueberry and liquorice flavours, rather than being heavy and overly tannic as many of these wines from Umbria in Italy are made.

Equally impressive is old vine grenache made in a lively style with juicy raspberry held in check by firm tannins; and a rich blend of old vine shiraz and mourvédre from the 110-year-old Angels vineyard at Lyndoch.

Many wine drinkers remain unaware of these changes, as the family’s popular Leone brand has primarily been noted for its value wines, and the elite Lou Miranda Estate wines are largely a mystery.

The challenge now is for the three sisters to promote these new wines through marketing initiatives that include in-home tasting parties, where a staff wine consultant presents the Lou Miranda Estate and Leone wine ranges for groups of up to eight guests in their homes.

“We have a lot to do,” says Angela, who adds that the full extent of the Miranda sisters’ work won’t be immediately evident, because the cruel 2019 vintage has produced scant volumes of fruit – including a paltry 300 litres (one barrel) of old vine shiraz. “Our best,” adds Angela with a grin, “is yet to come.”

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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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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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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.

Multi-regional blend shines in push for more women in wine

The annual Australian Women in Wine Awards – announced on November 16, with South Australian winners including Sarah Marquis (Mollydooker Wines), Kate Goodman (Penley Estate) and Nicole Pitman (Kingston Estate) – don’t just celebrate achievement.

The organisation hopes it can provide a beacon of inspiration for more women to join the wine industry and achieve outstanding results.

This has become a significant issue; women comprise less than 10% of the Australian wine industry, with numbers dipping further in viticulture. Representation of women in leadership and senior roles is even smaller.

To help rectify this imbalance, Australian Women In Wine Awards aims to start a scholarship that supports young women undergoing tertiary wine education – and a unique style of SA shiraz is being created as this endeavour’s major fundraising platform.

The Wine Creators’ Project recently came together in a rustic vineyard shed at Irvine Wines in the Barossa’s picturesque Eden Valley.

Three revered female winemakers from different regions – Sue Hodder from Wynns Coonawarra Estate, Corrina Wright of Oliver’s Taranga in McLaren Vale and Rebekah Richardson of Irvine Wines – sat around a wine blending bench, mulling over the possibilities for their historic project that involves only females. This included winemaker Emma Norbiato of the Barossa’s Calabria Family Wines supplying one quarter of the wine to be blended, right through to graphic designers Denomination that created the wine label.

Corrina Wright of Oliver’s Taranga, left, Sue Hodder of Wynns Coonawarra Estate, and Rebekah Richardson of Irvine Wines.

Each winemaker donated an elite barrel of 2018 shiraz to the project and they were determined to create a bold and unique wine from the resulting blend.

“We didn’t just want to make a typically pretty wine; that would be such a boring, cliché statement about female winemaking,” says Sue Hodder.

“We’re happy to step far beyond what we’d usually do in our own wineries to celebrate a true collaboration of ideas.”

Indeed, the challenge of producing a multi-regional blend from the one grape variety represented a first for each of the winemakers.

They agreed on a very elegant and excitingly modern blend, with enticing aromas of violets and bright plum but also striking mid-palate plushness and generosity. In addition to its attractive juiciness, the shiraz has great flavour length thanks to ripe tannins and crisp acidity.

“A great multi-region blend is a proven Australian tradition, yet it’s not something that any of us have had the opportunity to do before,” says Rebekah Richardson. “This really has been an exciting exercise.”

The wine will be aged in the Barossa Valley, in older oak barrels so the fruit quality speaks rather than winemaking artifice. The limited release of 500 dozen bottles will be launched in April 2019 – coinciding with the 125th anniversary of Australian women gaining the right to vote.

With SA being the first state to give women the vote in 1894, the winemakers think it entirely appropriate that a forthright modern women’s organisation should produce a distinctive SA shiraz to embrace the spirit of the occasion.

The blending session in Eden Valley.

The Wine Creators’ Project provides a lightning rod for positive change in the Australian wine industry. “We want to promote the development of career opportunities for women in the wine industry, to show what is possible and what can be achieved,” says Corrina Wright.

“The wine industry is – and it certainly needs to be – in a state of transition, but we’re still not seeing the numbers of women coming out of wine and viticulture courses at university.

“Anecdotally, we know that large amounts of women drop out of the wine industry because they try to juggle too much, especially when they start families, because the path to advancement seems out of reach. This organisation wants to show them there is a better way.”

Sue Hodder adds that larger community concerns fit into this picture. “Beyond the wine industry, we’re worried about the future of rural Australia generally,” she says.

“Where is our next generation of rural workers going to come from? I reckon the Australian Women in Wine offer a pretty good solution. Get a whole lot of young women out there taking up opportunities in regional vineyards and wineries, and a whole lot of interested young men will surely follow.”

Outstanding women winemakers are also being promoted in leading Adelaide venues, with Level One at Electra House continuing its series of Women in Wine dinners by featuring the Wrattonbully region on Thursday November 22 – with Jane Richards of Eight at the Gate, Susie Harris of Land of Tomorrow, and Sue Bell of Bellwether Wines – and the McLaren Vale region on Wednesday December 12, with Corrina Wright from Oliver’s Taranga, Vanessa Altman from Switch Wines, and Gill Gordon-Smith of Fall from Grace.

At these dinners, each winemaker matches one of their wines to a course from Level One’s modern Asian menu, followed by a discussion with the winemakers about their work. More details and tickets are available via Eventbrite.

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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Henschke moves ahead by taking heed of history

History is of great importance to Stephen Henschke. As the Henschke family celebrates 150 years of winemaking in South Australia through six generations, the celebrated winemaker has much to reflect on – and look forward to.

For starters, there is a new cellar door at Henschke’s Keyneton winery in the Barossa, featuring the stone walls of the farm’s original grain barn, to complement the adjacent cellars constructed in the 1860s by Johann Christian Henschke.

The new tasting space will be open to visitors from early November.

Being respectful of history is important to Stephen and his viticulturist wife Prue. “We all live in a continuing history, and times are moving fast,” Stephen says.

“I delve into history to make sense of what generations of my family have achieved. I’m a serious student of the past to learn what worked and what failed. Understanding this defines the provenance of what we have with our vineyards and winery, and why ours is like no other.”

The new cellar door at Henschke’s Keyneton winery.

This care is reflected in the painstaking recent reconstruction of The Julius Room, another private tasting room at Henschke’s Keyneton winery.

The room was moved stone-by-stone from within the belly of the winery to its new home among the gardens, still with it’s forked bough supports for the roof, original timber-framed windows, and with historical family photographs and documents lining the walls.

Stephen says his passion for uncovering history has accelerated recently, as his and Prue’s three children Johann, Justine and Andreas proceed through adulthood, and with the recent arrival of first granddaughter Matilda.

“You build on history, and this is our challenge as generations change and a winery of our modest size sets itself to move into the future,” he says.

The opening of the new cellar door coincides with the release of an outstanding crop of elite new Henschke wines – including the stellar 2013 vintage of the winery’s flagship Hill of Grace single vineyard shiraz, along with new additions to the portfolio, being the 2015 The Wheelwright Shiraz, and matured sparkling wine Johanne Ida Selma Blanc de Noir MD.

The 2013 Hill of Grace Shiraz.

Presenting these wines to the media for the first time, Stephen offered examples of Hill of Grace vintages across six decades for comparative tasting, dating from 1962.

“Here it is on the table before us – my lifetime with Hill of Grace,” says Stephen.

“It’s all about memories – memories that we cherish.”

Beyond receiving global accolades for the large suite of Henschke wines, Stephen also likes to shine a light on his family’s achievers, especially those whose toil was not widely recognised during the war years, when German influence in the Barossa was frowned upon and quelled by government administrators.

This includes gifted sculptor and stonemason Albert Julius Henschke, whose 1920s masterwork, carved from Angaston marble, is the giant angels that stand as centerpiece of the National War Memorial on North Terrace, Adelaide.

He also carved war memorials in Tanunda and Freeling, but was refused a commission for the Gawler South war memorial in 1920 solely because of his German name.

Winemaker Stephen Henschke.

Stephen even embarked on a campaign to restore the original Germanic name of the small river that runs close to the Henschke winery, called the North Rhine by the area’s Silesian founders, then changed to the Somme in 1918, reflecting strong anti-German sentiment after World War I.

It was one of many German names in the Barossa changed under the Nomenclature Act of 1917, but Stephen’s rigorous public campaign saw it officially gazetted once again as the North Rhine River.

He’s not just curious about his family’s German history. Stephen has become a student of Aboriginal culture and influence throughout the Eden Valley, learning about the movements, settlements and harvesting by different Indigenous people in the long history before colonial settlement.

“Through this, I’ve learned a much deeper history, that gives me a more complete understanding about the story of this land,” he says.

Prue Henschke in the Mt Edelstone vineyard, located in the Eden Valley. Photo by Dragan Radocaj.

Stephen, who was recently invited by the University of Adelaide to deliver a public lecture in the city about what happened to the Barossa’s German descendants between the two World Wars, tells tales of Henschke history from the heart, with a mixture of awe, deliberation and pride.

The family is also the subject of a commemorative hardcover book, Hill of Grace: 150 Years of Henschke Under Southern Skies (Hardie Grant Books, $60), tracing the history of the Henschke family’s flight from religious persecution in Germany during 1841, through its continued nurturing of the Hill of Grace vines at Keyneton, planted from the early 1860s.

The book is completed by historical photographs, colour plates by Barossa photographer Dragan Radocaj, and tasting notes of Hill of Grace vintages, from their first bottling as a single vineyard expression in 1958.

“History is such an important part of who we are and what we do,” says Stephen. “We’re fortunate that we have it on the page, in pictures, and in the incredible living library of wine that comes out of our cellars.”

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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Wolf Blass life and legend comes to Hahndorf

Recognised by his trademark bow tie, legendary winemaker Wolf Blass has a new venture, one that has taken him to the Adelaide Hills town of Hahndorf.

The German-born wine industry icon’s achievements are on show at the recently opened Wolf Blass gallery and museum in the old German town’s main street.

The attraction has been open to the public for only two weeks but is already luring scores of tourists, wine lovers and locals.

“It has been an emotional thing,” says Wolf, referring to the three-year project that has seen decades of memorabilia, photographs and artefacts relocated from their home in the Barossa Valley.

“Now we have something very modern with a touch of history.”

The Wolf Blass gallery and museum in Hahndorf features a bar, cooperage display, function room, sitting areas and memorabilia scattered throughout.

The gallery and museum, owned and operated by the Wolf Blass Foundation, has been developed in the old BankSA building in Hahndorf’s main street.

Contained within the building is the town’s original schoolhouse built in 1854 and now hosting a Cooperage display.

Many of Wolf’s personal achievements and milestones are contained within a collection of 73 scrapbooks featuring newspaper clippings, photos, and items from past decades.

Among the many prized possessions is the soon-to-be displayed 1865 Melbourne Cup trophy.

Aside from wine, Wolf also has a love for sport.

The 7m long Wolfie’s Horse Bar displays a selection of trophies from his winning horses, while other parts of the building contain cabinets full of other football, cricket and skiing memorabilia.

The gallery and museum stocks a range of wines from a selection of regions, as well as grazing platters, allowing visitors to wander around the exhibits or relax in one of the many sitting areas.

Wolf Blass – full name Wolfgang Franz Otto Blass – is renowned for pioneering wine styles and introducing quality wine to the predominantly beer drinking society that existed in Australia.

Although Wolf Blass Wines’ home is in the Barossa Valley, the 84-year-old was driving through Hahndorf one day with his wife Shirley Nyberg-Blass when they spotted the BankSA building was up for lease.

A few phone calls and handshakes and later the building was sold and set to become the new home of Wolf’s collection of personal memorabilia, originally housed in the Barossa.

Wolf says Shirley was behind much of the interior design, seeking the help of local architect John Ashcroft of BeyondInk.

“I must always thank my wife, she was the instigator,” Wolf says.

“On September 5 we had our first function, a soft opening that was exclusive to Hahndorf and the Adelaide Hills.”

Born in East Germany in 1934, Wolf’s introduction to the Australian wine industry came when he migrated here in 1961 after spending more than a decade working in the European wine industry.

The Hahndorf gallery and museum took three years to complete.

He worked in the Barossa Valley for Kaiser Stuhl as a sparkling wines manager before becoming Australia’s first freelance technical advisor to wine companies across South Australia, earning $2.50 an hour.

In 1966, Wolf registered his business Bilyara, an Aboriginal word meaning ‘eaglehawk’ – a symbol that would go on to mark the winemaker’s brand for decades to come.

His first vintage was 250 dozen, a small fraction of the 50 million Wolf Blass branded bottles eventually sold by 2005.

By the late ’60s Wolf was a manager and winemaker for United Distillers, helping to convert Tolley’s image from a brandy producer into a leading wine icon.

In 1973, the Wolf Blass Wines International company was born, and the man himself was on the way to becoming a household name as he pioneered new wine varieties.

Over the years Wolf Blass has won four prestigious Jimmy Watson trophies, the most highly sought after wine award in the country.

Photo: supplied.

He was the man behind the key word ‘drinkability’ and also engaged more women in wine as alcohol consumption was usually reserved for the working class man.

“In the ‘50s we didn’t drink wine we only drank 120 litres of beer. So that has been the biggest social change – to get women involved because they were totally isolated,” Wolf says.

“Six o’clock closing times, all men at the bar, there wasn’t much fun.

“Wine, sparkling wine, pearl wine was part of that change and suddenly there was a bit of life.”

Wolf says he was met with criticism for “shaking the establishment” throughout the early foundations of his career.

“I made wines that could be easily consumed, I was at the time very much criticised because I did things differently,” he says.

“When you consider I came here with $200 in my pocket and how much I have now achieved … it’s giving me a lot of joy.”

The Wolf Blass gallery and museum in Hahndorf is open Thursday – Sunday.

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