Welcome to the Artisans of Barossa blog where we will highlight news and events from around the Barossa.
This weekend at Artisans, the Massena crew are our ‘Winemakers in the House' presenting their bold, adventuresome and exciting wines from 12-4pm on Saturday and Sunday. Come up to Artisans and have a chat with winemaker Jaysen ‘JC’ Collins and vigneron Glen ‘Glen’ Monaghan, both great guys, and both fully subscribed to the Artisans ideals of respect for provenance and guardianship of the art of small batch winemaking.
Well let’s call that ‘Plan A’…because the vagaries of weather and the demands of vintage have a funny way of turning plans to dust in an instant at this time of the year... so it may be that our winemaker in the house program will be more like a ‘winemaker in the house….winemaker not in the house…winemaker in the vineyard….winemaker back in the house….winemaker dashing off to the winery…etc etc’ affair.
Vintage in Barossa has kicked off big time this week with everything ripening up nicely - the fruit commencing its annual pilgrimage from vineyard to winery to transform from grape juice to delicious wine for our ever grateful satisfaction and refreshment. And because our Artisans are the genuine deal, proper winemaking folk whose hands (and most definitely on the occasion feet) produce the wine that finds its way into your glass - you can interpret ‘picked by Glen Monaghan and made by Jaysen Collins’ literally - as this is exactly what’s happening this weekend at Massena.
I put a quick call into ‘JC’ earlier today to get a heads up on his plans for the weekend… and he assures me the Massena team are good for their word and will be ‘in the house’ no matter what vintage throws at them. Here’s a quick run-down of what’s going on in Massena world right now, straight from the source:
- Early picked Durif from Krondorf Road at Kabminye is bubbling along nicely in the tank.
- A small parcel of cracking Marsanne from Stonewell landed at the winery this morning.
- Viognier from Greenock is probably coming into the winery tomorrow.
- They should pick their first Shiraz (from Basedow Road, east of Tanunda) over the weekend.
- Glen is working his way, snips in hand, through the Fruit Salad block on the Stonegarden Vineyard in Eden Valley - 20 different grape varieties all ‘tossed’ together to make one of the region’s most intriguing white blends.
- The basket press has ‘shit itself’ (a ‘JC’ technical term for temporarily out of service) and they expect to be jogging plenty of barefoot laps around the tanks over the weekend to press finished red ferments.
- Most importantly, someone remembered to fill the winery beer fridge with an eclectic collection of barley based beverages packaged in convenient 375ml can sized portions.
So this weekend is your chance to meet and talk to a real live winemaker or vigneron whilst they’re literally knee deep in the vintage action. I’ve asked JC to bring in a bit of fermenting juice, and Glen some freshly picked fruit, so if you or friends or guests head into Artisans this weekend they can get a taste and a feel for the fruits of the Barossa harvest. And if that’s not enough, there’s a first taste of the Massena ‘Caviste’ Blend - a blend of Shiraz, Primitivo, Petite Syrah (Durif) and Tannat.
Cheers, we hope to welcome you this weekend at Artisans.
We welcome Corey Ryan and Simon Cowham from Sons of Eden as our ‘Winemakers in the House’ this weekend from 12-4pm on Saturday and Sunday. Head up to Artisans either day to have a chat and taste through a range of wines that have made ‘the sons’ one of the most exciting names in town.
‘Winemakers’ in the house is actually a bit of a misnomer for the ‘Sons’. Corey Ryan comfortably fits the bill, but whilst Simon Cowham might not be ripping off the shorts, socks and shoes to squash Barossa grapes each vintage, the grapegrower/ viticulturist ‘son’ has plenty to do with ensuring what you discover in your glass of Sons of Eden wine is an outstanding expression of Barossa wine. The combination of winemaker and grapegrower working in unison defines Sons of Eden and makes them one of Australia’s great winemaker/grapegrower double acts - the quality of their wines living testament to the adage that one plus one can equal three.
Speaking to a grapegrower in February is like trying to speak to someone running late for a plane, and Simon politely asked me to keep the Q & A session brief. So I fired three questions at him over a sausage roll at Nosh last week (a very good sausage roll, worth a go)
Why become a grapegrower, when winemakers get all the fame & glory?
“I hear what you’re saying – I don’t think anyone at Artisans has ever asked to meet the grapegrower! But I’ve always been a bit of a nature boy and I just love getting around in the great outdoors, kicking the dirt and marvelling at what mother nature is capable of providing us. And whilst I may not be the bloke making the wine, I’m the one charged with delivering the fruit the winemaker wants, so I’m always conscious that what I do out in the vineyards directly impacts on the winery and what ends up in the glass. I need to have a foot in both camps – respecting the landscape and what it’s able to produce, whilst also considering what Corey needs. To that end, the onus is on me to have a very good grasp of what’s happening in the vineyards we source fruit from, and understanding how I can respond to ensure we get the fruit quality and flavour we want. I’ve also got a decent grasp of winemaking and have spent plenty of time exploring the dark arts of sales and marketing – so when I’m standing in a vineyard, I get a sense of the connective line between the dirt and the glass.”
Every year is different. How do you as a grape grower respond to changes in growing conditions to ensure you keep delivering top quality fruit to the winery?
“That’s true…every year is very different and presents a whole new challenge. You just have to adopt the mindset that you need to start each year with a fresh perspective, but be comforted that the knowledge of a vineyard landscape you’ve built up over many years will see you right. I started back in 1990, so I’m now well into my third decade. Over that time I’ve learned plenty about how different varieties, sub regions and individual vineyards respond to the changing conditions of each year. They teach you a fair bit at University, but it’s what you learn through experience that counts in this game. What I’ve seen and learned, and no doubt the mistakes I’ve made help me to respond to whatever the current season throws at me. But put me in the Hunter, or Margaret River and I’d be like a duck out of water because I’d have no feel for the landscape and environment.”
Now for the BIG question….how’s this year looking?
“Everyone’s always asking me how the vintage is shaping up, and it’s bloody tough to throw a blanket over the entire place and give it a single rating. Every variety performs differently each vintage, sub regions and individual vineyards respond in various ways (some good, some not so good) to the vagaries of the seasons and years. Barossa is an amazing place to grow grapes and make wine because there is no much diversify inherent in the landscape, but that also makes it almost impossible to get everything perfect every year. I’m a fan of rating vintages in terms of the number of highlights, whereby the great vintages have the highest number of individual highlights, and the average ones the lowest. And in a place like Barossa, no matter what the season brings, you’ll always find a good amount of highlights. For 2018, I’m excited about the quality I’m seeing in our vineyards, and how the fruit will land in the winery over the next few months. The cooler sections of the Barossa Valley and warmer sections of the Eden Valley look especially good. Fingers crossed”
And with that, I’m left with a plate of crumbs (did I tell you it was a good sausage roll at Nosh?) and Simon is off out the door. Do yourself a favour and head into Artisans this weekend…and make sure you ask to speak to the grapegrower!
I’m of the belief that John Duval has never once acted on impulse – certainly not when it comes to making wine. Quiet consideration, patience and a commitment to doing things ‘just right’ are engrained in his DNA. His humility, gentlemanly demeanour and ‘think then act’ approach hugely admirable.
Perhaps ‘hasten slowly’ is John’s motto when it comes to the headlong rush of a Barossa vintage? At a time when plans can dissolve in an instant as the vagaries of weather toss up cruel and unkind curve balls, I doubt John’s pulse rate moves a blip. Cool as a cucumber. Seen it all before. (With something like 45 vintages under his belt, I suspect ‘JD’ has.) Therefore, with patience and particular consideration for timing the essence of the Duval way, it should come as no surprise that on the cusp of the 15th anniversary of their foundation vintage, they add just a sixth wine to the range. (Plexus was first (’03), followed by Entity (’04) and Eligo (’05) in quick succession before a short hiatus leading to the release of Plexus White (’10) and Annexus Grenache(’13).) This Saturday marks the release at Artisans of the first vintage of Annexus Mataro from the stellar 2016 vintage, and this is what John had to say about the new wine.
“I’ve got a lot of time for Mataro, it’s a critical element of Plexus and a grape variety that deserves to be celebrated by Barossa winemakers. We’ve sourced fruit from this dry grown 100 year old vineyard at Light Pass for all the years we’ve produced Plexus - and with 2016 being such a great vintage the time was right to release a small quantity of Mataro under the Annexus label. We’re very happy with the first release wine - it shows plenty of classic savoury spiced fruit on the nose and powerful, yet restrained black fruit flavours on the palate, supported by ample, long flowing waves of tannin. It sits very comfortable amongst our small family of wines. Will we make an Annexus Mataro every year? I think the answer to that is entirely dependent on the qualities of future vintages.” (That Duval ‘quiet consideration’ at play again!)
Also this weekend, the new vintage of Eligo will be released at Artisans of Barossa - the 2015 vintage. John’s aim with Eligo is to produce a structured but elegant expression of Barossa Shiraz - a wine with restrained power, rich texture and palate length in the classic John Duval Wines mould. From a master winemaker with access to exceptional and rare Barossa vineyards, the release of the 2015 Eligo will be one of the highlights of 2018 at Artisans.
John and Tim Duval will be our Winemakers in the House this weekend at Artisans, from 12-4pm both Saturday and Sunday presenting these two brilliant new release wines along with the rest of their family of wines that has been carefully framed over the past 15 years. Not to be missed!
This week at Artisans we resume our Winemaker in the House program with Greg and Allison Hobbs from ‘Hobbs of the Barossa Ranges’. Greg and Allison will be in the House on Saturday and Sunday from 12pm to 4pm and you’re invited to head to Artisans to taste their brilliant Eden Valley wines and meet two people who are utterly consumed with their vineyards and their wines. Not to be missed!
I have a confession...I can't get enough of hearing their Barossa wine story, because it's just so bloody good. Whilst many of us have dreamed of a vine change, Alli and Greg have made theirs reality...and with very good form to boot. And if their story was to become a book, the synopsis of the story so far would probably read something like this;
Non wine drinking copper meets wine drinking nurse. They fall in love (aaaw), the non wine drinking copper becomes a wine drinking copper and together with his wine drinking nurse girlfriend they begin their wine journey with weekends spent exploring South Australia's wine regions tasting, buying and accumulating an impressive cellar. (Good start!)
Moving on...now married with 3 kids, life in the big smoke begins to lose its allure for our wine drinking dynamic duo. A desire to find a new life in the country combined with the urge to take a really big step in their wine journey leads them to buy a home in the Eden Valley which is...by pure chance (wink-wink) surrounded by a century old, but 'seen better days', vineyard.
Time to meet the neighbour...who quite fortuitously happens to be Chris Ringland who knows a thing or two about old Barossa vineyards and making wine. Exchanges of information about grape growing and wine making, swaps of vineyard equipment and the occasional passing over the figurative back fence of the odd decent scone (produced by Alli, with the assistance of the Angaston baker) are the rights of passage that build neighbourhoods in these parts. Fi and Col Shepherd of Flaxman Wines will move into the 'hood soon after.
Business Plan 'A' is formulated - fix vineyard, grow grapes, sell grapes. This is replaced at some stage later by Business Plan 'B' - realise grapes are too bloody good to sell, so grow grapes, make wine! Business Plan 'C' is a pragmatic response to Business Plan B - 'make wine, drink some wine, and sell wine after allowance for 'ullages' caused by now adult kids coming up to see mum and dad on the weekends. There's also an exciting foray into Artisans of Barossa with 6 good winemaking mates.
There are two things that are plainly obvious when you talk to Greg and Alli about their vineyard and their wine. First and foremost, they love what they do...and believe me, their's is not the romanticised version of winery ownership. These people work exceptionally hard, but they do so because everything they do on behalf of their wine brings them enormous joy. You can see that in their smiles and in their eyes. They also love being an Artisan and the camaraderie they feel through the connection to other winemakers who share a common approach to wine...they do it because they love it, and for no other purpose. The other thing you sense from the Hobbs' is the pride they take in their wine. An outsider observing how they work in their vineyard, how they make their wine, how they package their wine would jump quickly to the conclusion that "there has to be an easier way". But that's not how Greg and Alli see their world.
They never look for an easier way to do anything, they only look for a better way. And in the quest to make these wines that they can be justifiably proud of, that 'better way' inevitably implies 'the hard way'!
The connection the Hobbs’ have to their vineyard is like few others. They look over it every morning when they wake up, they pass through it every morning taking the dog for a walk, they work in their vineyard every day…and each evening they enjoy a glass of wine from the fruit they’ve grown from the vines that surround them. Beautiful place, beautiful people…magnificent, richly flavoured wines that reflect the hard work and love that goes into making them.
The 'Hobbsies' have just released the first vintage of their Tin Lids Shiraz Cabernet - an Eden Valley expression of the classic Australian red blend, bringing together Shiraz from their vineyard at Flaxman Valley and Cabernet Sauvignon from Phil and Sarah Lehmann’s Boongarie Estate on the Keyneton to Eden Valley Road. (We’re a close knit bunch – Phil and Sarah were ‘in the House’ just a few weeks back.) It's big on flavour and oozing class. We’ll have that on tasting alongside the first vintage of the Tin Lids Aria Secca Shiraz. ‘Aria Secca’ is an Italian term, meaning ‘air dried', and refers to the 7-10 days the harvested grapes lie on drying racks at the winery to further concentrate the flavours of Shiraz from a 100+ year old vineyard. And I’m sure corks will be eased from bottles of the monumental 1905 and Gregor Shiraz….exceptional, rare Barossa wines of particular provenance – grown, harvested and made by Greg and Allison Hobbs
As good a reason as any to stick your head in the door this week at Artisans.
The winemakers get a rest from the house this weekend with the annual grape squashing festival around the corner (possibly next week). We'll let them put their feet up for what will be the last time in many weeks of very long days. But don't let the absence of winemakers in the house take the shine off a visit to Artisans this long weekend... because we're launching something very, very special!
January 26 is a day in the Australian calendar that represents many things to many people. For plenty of folk it’s the day to simply celebrate what it is to ‘be Australian’. And there’s good reason to celebrate as a nation, because the big brown land is indeed a wondrous place. But it’s also the day that marks the landing of the First Fleet in 1788, and the notion of celebrating on this day is one the First Australians (and increasingly many others) find painful and offensive. Hopefully this current escalation of conversations, public discussions and debate (much like that accompanying the same sex marriage plebiscite) will enable broader awareness of the cause for malcontent, greater consideration for what Australia Day should signify and ultimately collective agreement on a date that Australians can celebrate as one. Let’s see how it all unfolds.
Captain Phillip - Australia's first vigneron, vintage 1788. (Pic courtesy of spectator.co.uk)
This Australia Day weekend at Artisans, we’re celebrating the 230th anniversary of something else that happened on the 26th January. A moment in this land’s history that should be rejoiced by lovers of Australian wine across the globe. For this day represents the arrival of vine cuttings into Australia, courtesy of Captain Arthur Phillip’s First Fleet. On the way down under, and with instructions from ‘Mad’ King George, Arthur Phillip collected vine cuttings from Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town to establish vineyards at Sydney Cove. The first vines hit the dirt in what is now the Sydney Botanical Gardens, before finding a more agreeable home at Parramatta by 1791. (It wasn’t until 1817 that John MacArthur is gazetted as the person to import the first Shiraz cuttings to plant at his property ‘Camden’, often credited as the birthplace of Australian farming.) Cuttings from Camden were sent to Barossa in the late 1830’s… and we all know what happened next!
George Blaxland, amongst the first Europeans to find a way west through the Blue Mountains was also in on the wine game early, and James Busby lit a fire under the whole show when he landed 570 cuttings of almost every known grape variety in Sydney in 1833. (Busby kept sailing and landed in New Zealand, where he planted the first vineyard and drafted the Declaration of Independence to stop the French laying claim to the world’s greatest rugby team. He also drafted the Treaty of Waitangi, written in both English and Maori, recognising native title and acknowledged as the foundation document of New Zealand. Waitangi Day is on February 6 and is New Zealand’s national day, commemorating the signing of that treaty. Pity he didn’t stay in Sydney a bit longer!
Those First Fleet vines were the catalyst for what has become one of the most exciting (if not the most exciting) wine producing nation on earth. What is remarkable is we know the precise date that wine came to Australia… a knowledge of ‘inception’ shared only with South Africa. But perhaps what is truly prescient of Australia’s future thirst for wine was that ‘plant the vines’ was at the very top of the list of ‘jobs to do’ when Arthur Phillip set foot on the beach!
To celebrate this great moment in this nation’s wine history, we’ll be putting our best foot forward with a tasting of our absolute finest Shiraz… the grape variety that John MacArthur bought to Australia in 1817 that went on to define Australia as a great wine making nation on the world stage. We’ll have a rare presentation of Autumnus and Romulus from Sons of Eden, John Duval’s Eligo, Hobbs Gregor, Schwarz’ Schiller and Spinifex’s La Maline on tasting all through the long weekend for just $15. When you consider the rare provenance and extreme pedigree of these wines, and their collective retail value of nigh on $900 (and maybe the cost of a glass of house wine in a fancy bar), that’s small change.
Come on up to Artisans this Australia Day weekend and commemorate the birth of a winemaking nation! January 26 - Australian Wine Day - you heard it first at Artisans!
Thanks to John McArthur for bringing Shiraz to Australia... and also sheep, thus creating the nation's greatest food and wine match! (Thanks to the therealreview.com for the pic)
Are you looking for some inspiration to get you through the last week of summer holidays? Whether it's cooling down, burning off some energy, or treating the little ones with an ice cream sundae while the grown-ups enjoy a treat of their own ( you know we're talking about wine!) - the Bethany to Angaston Trail has something to keep everyone happy.
The Bethany Reserve is a great spot to spend a few hours. Well equipped with a shelter, bbqs, toilets and picnic tables, you can enjoy a picnic lunch and let the kids burn off some energy. There’s a playground and plenty of room to kick a ball, or the more adventurous could explore the creek area (keep an eye out for wildlife).
Local’s Tip - Our picnic would include some local specialties from Steiny’s Traditional Mettwurst (F6) and the Barossa Cheese Company (F1), and perhaps a bottle of multi-award winning Grenache from nearby Bethany Wines (W3).
Bethany Road, Bethany.
image by The Barossa Council
Barossa Sculpture Park at Mengler Hill
Enjoy expansive views of the Barossa Valley from the Mengler Hill lookout while discovering sculptures that reflect the spirit, environment and ambience of the Barossa region. Get the kids to explain their thoughts on the art – or just enjoy walking through the local marble and granite pieces.
Mengler Hill Road, Tanunda
Image by Art Music Design Barossa
Barossa Farmers Market
The Barossa Farmers Market is a ‘must-do’ if you are visiting the region on a Saturday. Stallholders have an amazing array of fresh fruit and vegetables, herbs, meats, smallgoods, baked goods, fresh milk, honey, olive oil, muesli and confectionery (with many available for tasting).
Local’s Tip – have breakfast at the market. Options include a special kid’s breakfast, pancakes and the legendary Market Burger.
Saturday 7.30am – 11.30am
Corner Stockwell Road & Nuriootpa Road, Angaston
Phone 0402 026 882
Map Location: F2
Image by the Barossa Farmers Market
Water Park – Barossa Valley Discovery Park
The recently opened Waterpark is a fantastic place for the whole family to cool down. The Waterpark includes 3 slides, a huge tipping bucket, water cannons, spray zones and a new resort-style pool.
Local’s Tip – call ahead to check availability as priority is given to guests staying at the park.
Barossa Valley Discovery Park
Barossa Valley Way, Tanunda
Phone (08) 8563 2784
Map Location: A2
Image by Discovery Parks
Artisans of Barossa / Harvest Kitchen
Views, vines, wines, cricket and ice cream – Artisans of Barossa and Harvest Kitchen have something to keep all ages entertained! Wine tastings from 6 artisan winemakers, all-day dining at Harvest Kitchen (including several vegetarian and gluten free options), vineyard views, beanbags, a large grassy area just perfect for an impromptu game of cricket and did we mention the ice cream sundaes...
Artisans of Barossa / Harvest Kitchen
Open 7 days 11am – 6pm
Corner Magnolia Road & Light Pass Road, Tanunda
Phone 08 8563 3935
Map Location: W1
Download your copy of the Bethany to Angaston Trail Map here - https://bethanyangastontrail.com/the-map/
Plan your Barossa visit at www.barossa.com
Learn about Barossa Wine at www.barossawine.com
Growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in Adelaide in the early ‘80’s and inspired by the Young brothers of ACDC fame, Tim Smith dreamed of forming his own band and making it big. Figuring there was room for more than just Phil Collins in the world of drummers leading rock bands, the plan was to call his band “The Tim Smiths”…that was until that bloke Morrissey and his mates from Manchester cut his lunch and launched ‘The Smiths’ onto the world stage. Fearing a phone call from a fancy lawyer, or a knock on the door from a couple of big fellas, plans for rock and roll stardom, a personalised 747 and a world tour were regretfully shelved. But a single encounter with the seductive, heady perfume and rich fruity sweetness of a bottle of early 80s Yarra Yering Dry Red #2 was enough to push Tim down a new path. His wine journey had begun, and he knew somewhere along that road he had to make his own wine.
Regardless of which path you follow in life, it’s inevitably ‘a long way to the top’. (I promise that will be the sole rock’n’roll pun). For several years and for countless hours, Tim’s wine dream was contained to the glamourous world of the cellar hand. Lugging hoses, heaving barrels, wash downs, pump-overs - whatever tasks the senior cellar hand and winemakers could dish out. But the many years of ‘hard labour’ as a grateful employee served only to stiffen his resolve, and over a glass of Condrieu enjoyed on the doorstep of the famous Hermitage Hill Chapel in September 2001, Tim Smith Wines was born. Proof that Viognier can inspire!
The Tim Smith Wines one man band kicked off in 2002, and 15 years later remains a one-man band starring the same one man. (Give the winery a call - the only answer you’ll ever get is ‘Hi, this is Tim Smith from Tim Smith Wines.) Each year, a little more wine is made, and then a little more is sold to fund making a little more the following vintage. But never so much that one hard working bloke can’t continue to point to every single of bottle of wine that has ever appeared with his name on it and say with enormous and justifiable pride – ‘I made that!’
Tim refers to his chosen home as ‘God's Own Barossa’. "I am fortunate to be in a business that, despite its lows and because of its highs, has allowed me to forge not just a career, but provide a lifestyle unsurpassed anywhere else - although Bandol in southern France would give it a run for its money if Port Power could arrange to play a few home games nearby. ‘Passionate’ is a hackneyed word, but this is what I admire about this region and its people. The cumulative passion of seven generations of Barossans for their patch of dirt and what they grow allows me as a relative newcomer to make great wine from some of the planet’s most remarkable vineyards. And alongside my life as a winemaker, I get to spend hours riding my vintage Triumph motorcycle through the Eden Valley high country, explore the Barossa’s bakeries for the best freshly baked breads anywhere, and (if you know the right farmers), feast on sublime local lamb and pork. In addition to all this, I still get to be the drummer in a band! Why would I want to live and make wine anywhere else? (Especially when Port Power’s home games are played nearby.)”
We admire Tim’s take on wine and life. His approach to winemaking is grounded in respect for the gifts the Barossa landscape and the passion of its grape growing families gives him. He works bloody hard as you’d expect for a one-man band, and he is utterly consumed by everything there is to love about Barossa. I reckon he bleeds Shiraz and cries Viognier (as opposed to me…Viognier makes me cry). We’re very happy to have Tim Smith from Tim Smith Wines as our Winemaker in the House this Saturday and Sunday between 12 and 4pm with a fantastic selection of his current release Barossa wines.
I hate to say I told you so but … well, I told you so.
In my first column for this newspaper a year ago I hailed grenache as a grape variety on the rise in Australia. And look what a huge year 2017 turned out to be for this once-maligned red wine.
At the Barossa Wine Show in September, the 2016 Bethany Old Vine Grenache won three trophies, including the gong for best wine of show. And in October the 2016 Turkey Flat Grenache, from a vineyard just up the road from Bethany, won the famous Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy. It's the first time a wine made from grenache has won the Jimmy, and from what I can gather it's also the first time the grape has achieved such prominence in the Barossa show.
It came as no surprise, then, to learn that during the 2017 vintage the Artisans of Barossa group decided to play a little game with some grenache grapes to explore the role of winemaking in the expression of terroir.
The Artisans are six wine producers – John Duval Wines (John and his son Tim), Sons of Eden (Corey Ryan and Simon Cowham), Massena (Jaysen Collins), Schwarz Wine Co (Jason Schwarz), Spinifex (Pete Schell), and Hobbs of Barossa Ranges (Greg and Allison Hobbs) – who share a beautiful cellar-door tasting room near Tanunda in the heart of the Barossa.
In late March, they each picked a parcel of grenache grapes from the 46-year-old Quarry Hill vineyard near Angaston and took the fruit back to their respective wineries. A fascinating project: same vineyard, same fruit, harvested at the same ripeness, but six different approaches to winemaking. How would they turn out? Would vineyard character – terroir – triumph? Or would the fermentation techniques stomp all over the flavour of the grapes and produce six wines that reflected maker more than provenance?
It's not the first time something like this has been done. In 2008, 2010 and again in 2015, for example, a group of six grape-treaders (including Pete Schell from Spinifex) ran a similar exercise with shiraz grapes from the Chalk Hill vineyard, with the wines sold in a six-pack under the Alpha Crucis label.
The Grenache Project six-pack was released just before Christmas. The Artisans kindly sent me the wines to taste, which I did, blind, over a number of days. And I can tell you that right now, 10 months after vintage, the winemaking influence is far more obvious than the vineyard-derived characters that all six wines should, theoretically, share (they were made from the same fruit, remember).
This fits with my experience of other wines made from the same site by a number of producers. In their youth, the differences can be stark, thanks to factors such as how much (if any) whole bunch fruit went into the fermenter, how long the wine spent on skins after ferment, what kind of oak it was aged in and so on.
But as wines age, the winemaking influence recedes a little (it never disappears) and the underlying terroir and vintage conditions emerge. In the case of the Grenache Project wines, despite their differences, all of them do have a savoury, sinewy edge – albeit subtle – and I'd expect this to build over time.
The only way to find out, of course, is to buy a couple of six-packs – one to try now (chuck some garlicky lamb on the grill and invite some wine-geek friends over to share the bottles with you) and one to try in five years' time.
Grenache six ways
2017 Grenache Project Schwarz [Barossa Valley]
Jason Schwarz's 100 per cent whole-bunch fermented grenache, bottled early straight from tank, is the lightest and most immediately quaffable of the six wines. With its perfumed red cherry fruit and squishy tannins it tastes almost more pinot-like – no, gamay-like – than grenache-like.
2017 Grenache Project Ryan/Cowham [Barossa Valley]
Corey Ryan and Simon Cowham chose to make their grenache using very different techniques to those they employ for their Sons of Eden wines: 100 per cent whole bunch, fermentation in an egg-shapped vessel, and two months' maceration on skins. This explains the wine's savoury, sappy, slightly minty characters and persistent powdery tannins.
2017 Grenache Project Collins [Barossa Valley]
Another 100 per cent whole-bunch wine, left for a month to ferment in a closed tank, where it underwent carbonic maceration before pressing. At first taste this was the earthiest and funkiest of the six wines (in keeping with the Massena style) but exposure to air revealed some lovely, crunchy, bright purple fruit flavours.
2017 Grenache Project Schell [Barossa Valley]
Pete Schell's use of 50 per cent whole bunch, carbonic maceration and ageing in large old oak all contribute to this exceptionally vibrant expression of grenache – intensely aromatic (sarsaparilla, Campari, rose petals, vermouth herbs), wonderfully lively and juicy in the mouth. My pick of the six right now. Will be fascinating to see how it ages.
2017 Grenache Project Duval [Barossa Valley]
As you'd expect perhaps from ex-Penfolds chief winemaker John Duval, this expression of the Quarry Hill grenache is well balanced, approachable and generous. Just a little whole bunch in the ferment and gentle pressing have resulted in a wine with lovely supple dark fruit and flowing tannins draped across the tongue.
2017 Grenache Project Hobbs [Barossa Valley]
Greg and Allison Hobbs chose to turn the volume up to 11 on their grenache parcel by drying the grapes on racks for five days before crushing and fermenting them. The result is a quite different style of wine to the others: dark, dense, glossy blueberry and black cherry fruit, round, slick dark chocolate tannins.
The 2017 Grenache Project six pack – one of each wine in each pack – is available for $250 plus $10 delivery. artisansofbarossa.com.
Article by Max Allen
Appeared in the Australian Financial Review, 12 January 2018
The Barossa story has been 175+ years in the making, constructed from literally thousands of individual perspectives, narratives, experiences, vineyards and wines spread across eight generations of grape growing and wine making. Perhaps the most enthralling aspect of the Barossa story is its willingness to embrace renewal as each generation produces a new ‘batch’ of winemakers with what appears to be a shared and simple mission to ‘make wines they like to drink’. Some bear familiar names, extending their family’s association with winemaking, or taking the leap from growing grapes to producing wine. And each vintage, new folk are drawn to Barossa with a desire to achieve nothing more than ‘make some wine’.
If an individual winemaker’s story was a book, then consider this the foreword for Andy Cummins and Emma Welling and Rasa Wines. I’d imagine almost every wine drinker can tell a tale of winemakers, now established and well known across the land, that they discovered as they were just starting out. And this is where Andy and Emma find themselves - in January 2018 about to face up to just the 3rd vintage for Rasa Wines. Because this wine story is in its nascent years, it makes sense to start with the pre-Barossa years. Emma kicks off the story.
“We’re both from Bowral in the New South Wales southern highlands. Andy was a landscaper by trade, and I worked in hotels. We shared a love of wine, which led Andy on a couch surfing tour of European wine regions, and ultimately to a decision to pack up our lives and move to Barossa. Our plan was a winner from the start as everything seemed to fall easily into place. Andy secured a vintage job at Rockford in 2013, and I started working in restaurants and hotels around the region, before settling at The Louise where I’m now Director of Guest Services. We’ve been here less than 5 years, and we find ourselves surrounded by sensational food and wine, and a community of terrific food and wine people. Paradise found.”
And for Andy, all it took was a chance meeting and a bucket load of persistence to land a vintage job at Rockford. “I love the idea of making wine – an opportunity to be hands on, to be fully immersed and in control of the destiny of the produce I am crafting. For a bloke who’d never worked in a winery before, my time at Rockford was priceless. Here I was shown the ‘Rockford way’ of doing things, a brilliant induction that set me up well for my current job in the cellar at Henschke.”
Andy commenced his formal winemaking studies the first year he produced wine under the Rasa label. (Rasa is a Sanskrit term literally means juice, essence or taste, the agreeable quality of something, especially the emotional or aesthetic impression of a work of art.) The first vintage release wines were typically sold to family and friends, which in turn helped support a modest increase in production for their second vintage in 2017. Vintage number 3 is just around the corner, and again with the support of family and friends and a growing list of restaurant customers in Sydney and Melbourne, they’ll produce a few more cases – but production remains tiny in its scale. Importantly, from each vintage experience and from time spent in the company of other Barossa winemakers they continue to learn and evolve how their wines express the Barossa vineyard landscape, the conditions each vintage presents and their own wine beliefs.
Andy is a willing listener when it comes to insights shared by established winemakers, given he’s still to complete his winemaking degree. “We’re so grateful for the guidance of other Barossa winemakers, as we’re still learning and evolving. We’re out to make wines that reflect who we are as people, wines that reflect what we like to drink. We want them to express a deep and obvious connection to the place they were made and when they were made…of vineyard, variety and vintage. We make our wines with the absolute bare minimum of human intervention, only to whatever extent is required to ensure they’re technically sound. Because we don’t filter or fine our wines before bottling, they can be a bit cloudy, but don’t let that put you off. Utmost in our minds is to make wines that are delicious and enjoyable, that create thought and bring about positive mood changes when people drink them.”
That’s the foreword to what I think is a brilliant wine story in the making. Andy and Emma are exceptionally grounded, and share a wonderfully simple and refreshing approach to making wine. They respect the landscape and aspire only to produce wine that reflects when and where it was made, and wine that they and others will derive pleasure from. This approach to wine making and wine enjoying is one we share and celebrate at Artisans of Barossa, and we welcome them into the house this Saturday and Sunday from 12-4pm to present a selection of their wines.
At Artisans, we’re obsessed with promoting consideration for where each wine comes from, and encouraging your appreciation for how it’s made and who made it. All with the singular aim of helping you make sense of Barossa wine, helping you drink better wine, and assisting you to be more adventurous along your wine journey.
There is no wine experience more engaging and rewarding than meeting the people and shaking the hands that have produced what is swirling around in your glass. Our aim is to personally introduce the very best of them to you through our 'Winemaker in the House' program.
Every Saturday and Sunday from 12pm to 4pm, the people who revel and excel in making the Barossa wines we most love to drink will be dropping into the Artisans house. A mix of established names alongside some new and exciting talent. They’ll be there to talk about their wines - where they come from and how they’re made, and (with great pride) how supremely special each one is. They’ll have a selection of their current best on tasting, and perhaps the odd rare gem of an older wine or special release direct from the their cellars. A great opportunity to immerse yourself in their winemaking world and be consumed by their expression of Barossa wine.
Our first Winemakers in the House are Phil & Sarah Lehmann from Max & Me.
Max has a lot to answer for. A chance meeting of Sarah with Phil’s dog Max marked the start of their journey together. Sarah, a professional ballet dancer, and passionate dog lover, was performing at the Barossa Music Festival. She met Max at rehearsal whilst waiting for the rest of her production crew. Meeting Max led to meeting Phil. Max was always with either, or both of them; he was included in everything. Whether working in the vineyard or winery with Phil, or work or University with Sarah. He went to the wedding, and tagged along to Tasmania on their honeymoon. So what to call their wines made from their beautiful Eden Valley vineyard? ‘Max & Me’ of course!
Phil & Sarah’s home, Boongarrie Estate, is a 120 hectare property in Eden Valley, in the Barossa Ranges. The soils are thin and underlain with rose quartz and siltstone; the landscape is undulating, studded with ancient redgums and rocky outcrops. The elevation tempers the summer heat, and provides cool air flow during the nights, ideal for nuanced and mineral flavours in the wines. Their philosophy for managing the land is to look after the soils and use minimal chemical inputs; biodiversity in mid-row grass and weed populations is encouraged and pest and disease pressures are minimal. Sheep and cattle graze the vineyard grasses during winter, and European species of dung-beetles have been introduced to recycle the animal manure as fertiliser, improving the fertility, water retention and structure of the vineyard soils. The vineyard is planted half to Shiraz and half to Cabernet. The Eden Valley Riesling grapes are purchased from a grower they’ve had long association with, and for who they have great respect for his fruit quality and careful stewardship of his vines.
Phil’s ‘day jobs’ over the years making wine for Yalumba, Peter Lehmann Wines, Teusner and now for St John’s Road, Parker Estate, Vickery and Hesketh have kitted him out handsomely in the winemaker skills stakes to enable him to make the utmost of these outstanding vineyards.
Meet Phil & Sarah this Saturday and Sunday 6 & 7 January from 12 to 4pm.
Contact Artisans of Barossa on (08) 8563 3935, or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, or to book a time to talk and taste wine with the people that made it.