Welcome to the Artisans of Barossa blog where we will highlight news and events from around the Barossa.
Jaysen Collins from Massena is in the Artisans house this weekend. (And because winemakers are real people too, he’ll be a little late on Saturday as he heads back from Adelaide after watching the kids play soccer.) Catch him from 2-4pm Saturday, and 12-4pm Sunday.
A Massena tasting can be best described as an adventure – the wines once described by Lisa Perotti-Brown of The Wine Advocate as “…exciting departures from the status quo.” This weekend’s tasting will definitely have you venturing off the high street – the Eleventh Hour Barossa Shiraz surrounded by a bedazzling collection of diverse varietals including Saperavi and Primitivo, and red and white blends that reflect the eternal willingness of the Massena winemakers to take a path less travelled in the pursuit of making wines that are a sheer pleasure to drink. If you happen to make the journey to Artisans this weekend, you’ll also be treated to a sneak pre-release tasting of the first edition 2017 Massena ‘Stonegarden’ Grenache. Jaysen has smuggled a few bottles out of the winery ahead of the official release (which is on June 6 at Rockpool in Sydney) making it well worth a drive to the top end of Magnolia Road over the weekend.
Massena celebrates 20 years of winemaking next year, and I sense it’s a coming of age moment for founders Jaysen Collins and Dan Standish, along with their new collaborator - vigneron Glen Monaghan. Jaysen and Dan were young blokes in their early 20’s when they thought it might be ‘a bit of fun’ to partner up to make ‘a bit of wine’ – an opportunity to express some artistic licence free of the restraints of their respective day jobs at Turkey Flat and Torbreck. With the benefit of hindsight, those founding ideals of ‘a bit of fun’ and ‘a bit of wine’ now appear to be equally gross understatements. Plenty of wine has been made (albeit in small batches), and plenty of fun has been had… some would suggest fun on a scale previously unimaginable in the business of making wine.
2017 was a watershed year for Jaysen and Dan’s, bought about by the decision to head out in search of a peerless Barossa vineyard to produce a new range of top tier wines for Massena. They say fortune favours the brave, and an introduction to Glen Monaghan who’d only recently purchased the Stonegarden Vineyard in Eden Valley saw a partnership of two winemakers grow to include a vigneron. The platform for Massena ‘Stonegarden’ wines was in place and the first wines are now released. The 2017 Riesling was an impressive debut, as was the 2017 Fruit Salad Block White – a brilliant example of the power of collaboration between committed grape grower and innovative winemaker. Few would think to hang onto a vineyard block containing 20 something grape varieties – and I suspect only Massena would think to have a go at making a wine by blending the lot! The 2017 Stonegarden Grenache is next on the release schedule, followed by a 2017 GSM blend, then a second vintage of Riesling and a Shiraz and a Cabernet Sauvignon. And there is talk of a Mataro and a Malbec made in tiny quantities from fruit picked from individual vines found here and there amongst plantings of other varieties at Stonegarden. All exciting examples of extreme and rare Barossa provenance.
For 20 years, Massena has lived and celebrated the Artisan ideal of individual expression in Barossa winemaking. And whilst the Stonegarden wines might represent (dare I say it) a ‘maturing’ for Massena, the determination to keep making sure it’s fun has not diminished. To prove the point, Jaysen tells me they’re testing a new Shiraz-Tannat blend from the 2018 vintage – apparently it’s going to be called “Shitnat”.
I grew up in Melbourne in an era when there were 12 VFL footy teams, and every game was played on a Saturday afternoon with kick off at 2.30. Harry Beitzel’s broadcasts on 3AW, then 3AK and later the ABC were legendary, especially his ‘around the grounds’ crosses to each of the games for regular score updates. Amazingly he could do all that, still call the game he was at and at the same time promote Pelaco shirts - ‘It is indeed a lovely shirt, Sir!’ His sidekick Tommy Lahiff was an accidental comedy genius. With a nod to the nostalgia of the good old days when Saturday afternoons in the middle of a Melbourne winter were spent listening to the footy on a National Panasonic transistor radio powered by 2 ‘D’ sized batteries, here is our first ‘around the wineries’ report on the 2018 Grenache Project.
This vintage, all six wines are being made from the ‘Kylie’s Garden’ vineyard at Stockwell. A 40 year old bush vine vineyard that yielded a crop of small, intensely flavoured berries. Each winemaker was allocated a single row, and each picked one tonne of fruit…which will make around two barrels of delicious Barossa Grenache.
John and Tim Duval are all business, and we received a detailed and precise ‘game update’ from Tim just 5 minutes after we ask for it - “The ‘Duval’ component of the AoB Grenache project is happily fermenting away in a small open top fermenter. The fruit was hand-picked on Friday 9 March, and we tipped a single bin of whole bunches into the bottom of the fermenter. We destemmed and crushed the balance of the fruit on top of the whole bunches and the ferment started kicking off on Saturday. We are now four days in and the lovely red fruits of Grenache are really singing. There is some savouriness from the whole bunch showing through and this will intensify as the fruit sweetness reduces during ferment. We are currently sitting at about 7 baume, and so far we are very happy.”
Jaysen Collins at Massena is classically light on with the details - “100% destemmed fruit being tipped into a fermenter, with the lid on and shoved somewhere in the back of the cellar.” (In 2017, Jaysen completely forgot about the fruit he’d sealed in a tank until 45 days later, and then went on to make a sensational wine….glorious mistakes can produce glorious results, and inspire a new direction in winemaking!)
Allison Hobbs called in from Hobbs of Barossa ranges. Last year they rack dried their Grenache before fermentation. Sounds like they’re taking a different approach this year – “We picked our fruit a few days ago and destemmed it before fermentation. Not much movement in the ferment yet, but we should start to see some action over the weekend. Looking very nice.”
The first report we saw from Jason Schwartz was on his own Instagram page with a video of his 3 kids in a ‘Barossa jumping castle’ – shoes and socks off and 6 legs and feet leaping with unbridled joy across the top of a tank piled high with whole bunches of fruit. There’s nothing better for a Barossa kid than helping dad make some awesome Grenache. FYI - foot stomping is not just used to keep Barossa kids busy after school, but to release juice from the berries and give the wine a bit of extra crunch from the breaking the stalks.
I didn’t get much out of Pete Schell – vintage is never a good time to be asking winemakers for information. But he did say he’d pressed the fruit and everything looks tickety-boo….bright, fresh and juicy. He made mention a few weeks back that a similar approach to last year was the plan – extended carbonic maceration with berries on the bottom and whole bunch on the top. When things calm down, we’ll get a few more words from Pete.
As for Corey Ryan and Simon Cowham, I think they were both last sighted buried under a mountain of red grapes. We might have to wait for the traditional post-game interview to get their story!
First time around, The Grenache Project became one of the most loved and talked about initiatives in Australian winemaking in 2017. The energy and excitement is up another notch this year, and we can’t wait to get these wines into bottle and ready to release on December 1 this year. If you’re keen, make sure you get your name on the waiting list by heading to our website here to register your interest.
Howard - Chief Operating Officer AoB
Register your interest in the 2018 Grenache Project
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!
Along with Shiraz and Mataro, Grenache has been a stand out feature on the Barossa’s red wine landscape since vines were first planted here over 170 years ago. Barossa today lays claim to be home to the oldest continually produsing Grenache vineyards in the world, and produces a diverse range of compelling expressions of a variety that is rapidly emerging a favourite amongst the region’s artisan winemaker community.
In the last few months, the faith of the Barossa wine community in its old Grenache vineyards has been rewarded spectacularly. Bethany Wines’ 2016 Grenache was awarded Best Red and Best Wine at the Barossa Wine Show, and Turkey Flat’s 2016 Barossa Grenache won Australia’s most famous wine award, the Jimmy Watson Trophy (a first for a Grenache wine). Barossa Grenache’s light has never shone more brightly.
The Grenache Project is an exciting new initiative from Artisans of Barossa, representing six wines made by our six winemakers from a single Barossa vineyard. Each winemaker was allocated two rows of vines, and left entirely to their own devices. Responding to a simple brief…’Make a Grenache you'd like to drink’, the Project has produced a set of wines that are testament to the outstanding vintage and an emphatic statement of the supreme qualities and deliciousness of Barossa Grenache. And whilst the character of the vineyard is evident throughout, each wine stands apart from the others, bearing the distinct imprint of the maker through style, character and flavour. For adventurous discovers of small batch Barossa winemaking, The Grenache Project is not to be missed.
“What we’re doing with The Grenache Project is really bloody important. It’s symbolic of the commitment of artisan winemakers and growers to exhibit the best of their craft and showcase the best expressions of the region’s ancient soils with a variety so deeply rooted in our viticultural heritage and so clearly suited to this place. The growing profile of Barossa Grenache is to me a sign of the maturing of a new generation of winemakers and wine drinkers. They respect the landscape and what it’s best able to produce, rather than imposing the will of the market upon it to yield the latest fashionable variety. By doing our best to make delicious wine, we hope to nurture new audiences for these brilliant heritage varieties.” Pete Schell
To purchase your 2017 Grenache Project please visit our online wine store.
Each pack contains a single bottle of each plus an exclusive storybook detailing the story behind the Project and each wine.
Price is $250 per pack plus $10 delivery.
The last few weeks the Artisans of Barossa and Harvest Kitchen crews have been out and about visiting some pretty special single site vineyards.
First of the rank was the Angaston foothills vineyard that Jaysen Collins from Massena uses for his JC's Own Originale Grenache. The vineyard is a stunning 150 year old, dry grown & bush vine gem that is nestled into the foothills just out of Angaston - a pretty special spot indeed.
Then it was off into the Eden Valley with John Duval to visit the vineyard that is home to some stunning Shiraz that goes into JD's Entity and Eligo. A quick tasting through the John Duval lineup including a sneak peek at the yet to be released 15 Annexus Grenache.
After that the team headed over to the settlement of Bethany, the original settlement of the German population here in the Barossa and home to the Schwarz family. The Thiele Road Grenache block is one of those hidden gems, Jason Schwarz has been making his old vine and dry grown Grenache of the same name for the last 12 years from this same plot.
A quick trip up to High Eden yesterday with Pete Schell from Spinifex and a wander through the Spinifex Riesling & Shiraz block left me in no doubt that Spring is actually on the way. Tiny little buds have appeared on the vines and flowering will be just around the corner. The High Eden vineyard is home to the Riesling that Pete and Magali source for the Spinifex Riesling, a wine that shows it's Eden Valley origins but also speaks to Pete's European winemaking experience.