I’m finally over jet lag and enjoying the wonderful weather the Aussies arranged for us. The last week has been a whirlwind of activities, mostly wineries and vineyards in the Barossa. Plus I’m slowly learning to speak Aussie!
One of the first experiences was a Bethany Winery tour with owner Geoff Schrapel. This many generation winery has been around with same family ownership since the mid 1800’s. Geoff is an affable guy with a great deal of knowledge on the valley and the wine industry. I was fortunate to drive with him for a day and pick his brain – he is probably glad to see us transfer to another area! His winery produces 15,000 cases annually with 1/3 sold thru winery. Their vineyard is 125 years old. They have a policy within the family that any future generation wanting to work in the family must work for someone else first for at least five years. The taxes on wine are similar to Canada with half the cost going to taxes. We tasted many wines with my favourite being their Shiraz and Chardonnay.
Henschke Winery is another generational winery now operated be Stephen Henschke. Stephen is a graduate of Geisenheim in Germany and a good friend of Walter Gehringer, the winery owner of Gehringer Brothers winery in Oliver. This winery uses cement fermentation tanks and utilizes boards on top to submerge the cap during fermentation. They were in the midst of their harvest so we had tastings of their fermenting Shiraz and Riesling. This is considered a high end winery with wines mostly in excess of $100 with their most expensive being single vineyard Grace Hill Shiraz. Interesting to note their Shiraz is harvested prior to Merlot in the valley – the opposite of our harvests in British Columbia. The main red in the valley is shiraz and the main white is Riesling.
Lambert Estate is a new, large winery owned by Americans. Didn’t taste wines here but had a great lunch with the owner, who told us about his path from running a corporation to ownership of a premium winery in Australia.
One of my most interesting days was spent with Nikki Robbins touring research vineyards and discussing their very interesting Barossa Grounds project. Nikki works for the Barossa Grape & Wine Association (BGWA). They have spent five years vinting wine from Shiraz from areas thru out the valley with industry tastings. The comments are then put thru an elaborate statistical program which, over the years has managed to delineate four very distinct areas within the valley for four distinct Shiraz wines. They are still vinting wine and hope, within a year or two, to propose these areas (or ‘grounds’) as their equivalent of an appellation system based on their results.
The Barossa Valley has about 550 independent growers and around 170 wineries. About 25 per cent are under 10 hectares. The average age of a vineyard owner is 60 plus. The BGWA has started a leadership program in an attempt to bring younger people into the industry and discuss succession planning for family wineries and vineyards.
A lot more info gleaned from discussions but I will not bore you with details.Another tough day ahead of winery tastings and eating so G’day mate from Gawler, near Adelaide.