The Vintage Journal - McLaren Vale Guide 2022

This eJournal explores the foundations and current state of play in McLaren Vale including a local history and essays on leading grape varieties.




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McLaren Vale: A History


McLaren Vale’s Oldest Surviving Vineyards


by Andrew Caillard MW

Living Icons


Living Icon Vineyards

25 26

The Living Icons

Grenache: A Jewel Hidden in Plain Sight


by Andrea Pritzker MW

Shiraz and Beyond


by Angus Hughson

Tasting Notes


White Wines

42 44 58 65

Shiraz and Blends

Grenache and Blends

Other Reds



Although McLaren Vale had been surveyed by South Australia’s Deputy Surveyor John McLaren in 1839, it took some time before settlers arrived in any number. William Colton and Charles Hewitt were the first farmers to arrive, and over the next few years a trickle of new settlers acquired land, acknowledged by the McLaren Vale wine community and beyond as the traditional lands of the Kaurna people. The first grape vines in the Southern Vales area were planted at Surryville (near Hurtle Vale) in 1839 by John Reynell one of South Australia’s earliest vignerons. A few years later around 1841 a vineyard was established at Reynella Farm. The winery and family vineyards were located a fair distance north of McLaren Vale, but close enough to become an important part of the region’s social fabric and history. By 1841 there were only 12 settlers, 200 cattle, and 2000 sheep in McLaren Vale and it took a while until vineyards were planted. In June/July 1850 George Manning obtained sections 513 and 519 a few miles north of the twin settlements of Bellevue and Gloucester (renamed the town of McLaren Vale in 1923). The 161- acre property was called Hope Farm . Initially, George Manning planted Muscatel grapevine cuttings acquired from the Reverend Thomas Quinton Stow, who introduced Congregationalism to South Australia. By 1853 George Manning had acquired a further 84 acres of wheat and cattle grazing land. But farming techniques were not well-adapted to Australian conditions, and wheat yields diminished greatly. Perhaps inspired by the success of John Reynell at nearby Reynella, he expanded his vineyard to 30 acres and built a cellar at Hope Farm in 1855. By the early 1860s, Hope Farm was in full production, but intercolonial customs and tariffs to protect the wine industry in Victoria and New South Wales made commerce hard going.

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By the 1850s, sailing ships and steamers regularly ploughed the southern Australian coastline, moving people, livestock, agricultural goods, and other wares. Vinestock material was traded across borders. Nurseries in Adelaide and early vignerons supplied cuttings for landholders and farmers. In July 1859, a large consignment of vine stock was sold at auction in McLaren Vale at Yankalilla and Willunga – which only comprised about 23 acres of vineyard at the time. This region rapidly expanded with an increase in plantings. In South Australia, most of the vineyard plantings at this time were centred around Adelaide at Mitcham (149 acres), Payneham (155 ½ acres), and West Torrens (71 ½ acres). Also farther afield in the hills (Clarendon 78 ½ acres), Morphett Vale (90 acres), Noarlunga (26 ¾ acres), and Onkaparinga (49 acres). McLaren Vale was still primarily grazing, wheat, and barley country. Vigneron Thomas Hardy, who worked with John Reynell at Reynella for a year or so from 1850, bought land at Bankside near Adelaide in 1853, planted just under an acre of Shiraz vines in 1854 and made his first wine in 1857. He exported his first two hogsheads of wine to England in 1859. By 1862 his winery was making 1500 gallons of wine, and by 1865, within three years, he had expanded production almost ten-fold to 14000 gallons. Over half of the grapes were sourced from growers in McLaren Vale, highlighting the rapid development of vineyards in the area. In 1862 Dr Alexander Charles Kelly established the Tintara Vineyard Company with the backing of brothers Sir Thomas and Alexander Elder, Sir Samuel Davenport, Robert Barr Smith and Sir Edward Stirling, all significant business figures in Adelaide. The original property had been called Tintinara, and over the following years, 213 acres of heavy timber country was cleared and a vineyard planted. Kelly’s gravity flow Upper Tintara Cellars became a model for winery design in McLaren Vale and beyond, including the 1894 Wirra Wirra and 1895 Kay Brothers wineries. According to Dr AC Kelly most of the wines produced in the 1860s and 1870s were based on early-picked fruit rather than more fully ripe grapes, because most winemakers believed that “there is less risk of excessively hot weather than at an earlier period.” This translated to higher yields and “more favourable circumstances for conducting fermentation”.


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Around Adelaide, including the Barossa and McLaren Vale, most wine produced was red, based prominently on Grenache, Mataro, and Carignan. Typically, the blend would be around 50% Grenache, 25% or more Mataro and the remainder Carignan. “Scyras” was an additional variety mostly used for colour and tannin. Cabernet Sauvignon was often grown too, but its performance was variable. In 1866 Thomas Hardy entered an agreement to purchase Manning’s wines on an annual basis, probably saving his enterprise. This arrangement which lasted until 1891, when Hope Farm was sold, was highly valuable. According to vigneron Ronald Martin at a Federal Viticultural Congress held in Sydney in 1923, “Mr Hardy told my father (HM Martin) that Manning never made and could not make bad wine, whereas everybody else could. And often did. I account this by the fact that the old cellar had a thatched roof a foot thick, wooden slabs lining the walls and was protected from the north wind by a hill and gum trees.” After George Manning died in 1872, the family continued to make wine, but the second generation were not good managers and were forced to sell in 1892. The property changed hands a few times and became known as Seaview during the 1950s after the land was purchased by William Benjamin Chaffey. Although almost forgotten, George Manning should be remembered for being a founding vigneron of the McLaren Vale wine region. Over-cropping became a significant problem during the 1870s and 1880s because it led to a decline in soil quality, fertility and yields. Many farmers in the area looked towards alternative crops, especially currants, wine grapes and orchard fruits. Wheat and barley fields were sold or converted into vineyards. McLaren Vale’s landscape changed markedly during the 1880s as new capital investment flowed in. Even during the depression years of the 1890s, wine businesses flourished with the development of export markets. New innovations and technologies were also introduced. Almost every aspect of viticulture and winemaking was improved during this period, including winery design and machinery. By the 1880s, the system of grafting scions onto American rootstocks had become an accepted practice. Also, selected yeasts or levures were

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introduced for winemaking in order to improve fermentation and wine character. Thomas Hardy and Sons continued to expand during the 1870s and 1880s with a strong export focus, despite the faltering fortunes of others. With failing health, Dr Alexander C Kelly’s Tintara Wine Company and vineyards in McLaren Vale were put onto the market and purchased by Thomas Hardy in 1876. The timing was perfect. Thomas Hardy was exporting all of his red wine in bulk to Peter Bond Burgoyne by the 1880s. Already the export business was showing potential, but through luck and good timing, Thomas Hardy was able to ride the crest of a wave and became the most important figure in South Australian wine, not only enriching himself but also many other wine producers by facilitating their bulk wine exports as well. He converted an old flour mill at McLaren Vale to manage the increasing volume of wine. In 1890 Burgoyne was already importing 123,658 gallons from South Australia. By 1893 the non-vintage dated Tintara brand was the most important and recognised Australian wine in the UK market. It was also the same year Peter Bond Burgoyne visited South Australia, no doubt to coincide with the opening of Thomas Hardy’s new cellars at Mile End. The “mature, pre-eminent, full bodied”, and iron rich “ferruginous” Tintara was promoted as being of “generous quality and possessing high tonic and invigorating properties”. The wine was primarily a blend of South Australian Shiraz, Grenache and Mataro. To put Burgoyne’s power and influence into context, he was sent an open letter from South Australian vignerons (published in Adelaide’s press). They openly acknowledged his withering attack on them some months earlier in which he described South Australia’s bulk wines as “poor, vapid, characterless liquids.” They wrote. “However unpalatable your vigorous attack upon us may have been, still the fact remains that you have driven home to the minds of many of the grape growers what many of us have been advocating for years.” The signatories show the extent of Burgoyne’s reach. They were WH Gillard, S. Smith & Sons (Yalumba), S&W Sage, TF Hyland (Penfold & Co), W Salter & Son (Kalimna Vineyard), E. Burney Young, Thomas Hardy, B. Seppelt, H Dunstan & Co, GF Cleland & Co, William Patrick Auld, H, Buring & Sobels. In other words, the majority of South Australia’s wine industry! In 1893 Tintara reached a turning


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point in which bulk sales increased and quality improved. It also saw a progressive programme to plant more Shiraz and a decline in Mataro. By 1894 Hardy’s was the colony’s largest winemaker with a vintage of 315,000 gallons. Management of vineyards became a primary concern. Thomas Hardy instigated vine pruning competitions to encourage grape growing in McLaren Vale and optimise yields. (Soon after, children in the area were taught pruning as part of their school curriculum). Pruning was about the most important and skilled job in the vineyard. If done badly, the economic repercussions are enormous. Schoolboys and other locals were awarded certificates by the Agricultural Bureau to give vignerons some confidence when hiring labour. Some varieties were “spur pruned with two buds on a shoot, whereas Shiraz and other varieties had long canes wrapped on the trellis wire (rod pruning).” Thomas Hardy also established McLaren Vale’s first vintage fete in 1890, the forerunner of the region’s bushing festival. In 1899 Hardy’s was exporting between 200 and 250 hogsheads a month to England. The wine classed as “A” and “B” Blend, Burgundy and Claret styles were shipped in brand new oak (seasoned with salt and water to reduce the effect of new oak flavours in wine). The hogsheads, 18 at a time, were taken by six-horse wagons to the railway goods yards on Adelaide’s North Terrace.

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The promise of the country life and the opportunities winemaking offered lured Herbert “Bert” Kay to McLaren Vale in August 1890. He purchased the established Amery property in the north-eastern hilly pocket of McLaren Vale. The extraordinary demand for Australian Burgundy accelerated in the late 1880s and offered entrepreneurs, large and small, new possibilities. In 1891 Bert Kay, a year after purchasing Amery Farm, brought in his younger brother Frederick “Fred” Kay as a partner beginning a remarkable family wine business. On the 2nd of February Bert and Fred Kay, along with their sister Rose, took possession of Amery Sections 514,515,516 and 740. Within a few weeks they sourced 60,000 cuttings from Thomas Hardy’s Tintara Vineyard and a few months later, 40,000 Mataro cuttings from neighbouring Hope Farm. Zante Currant for dried fruit production was also sourced from Thomas Hardy’s currant vineyard at McLaren Flat, managed by Richard Cooper. The following year the brothers planted the 52-acre Hillside Vineyard (Mataro, Shiraz, Cabernet, Carignan with smaller areas of currants, Doradillo (for distillation) and Muscat. As demand grew, new vineyard blocks were established. A winery was constructed in 1895 using John Kelly’s “down the slope” approach – the design allowing gravity flow of grapes from the crusher into fermenters and then down into storage vats and barrels below. Clearly, the family was receiving the best advice available. Thomas Hardy, who paid a visit to Amery in 1895 took away a sample of the first wines. And in 1896, 20 hogsheads of dry red wine were ordered. Typically, the wines were deeply coloured, full bodied and rich in tannins. By 1897 Peter Bond Burgoyne was purchasing bulk wine from Kay Brothers. On the 6th of December that year, 132 hogsheads were despatched. This trade increased over the forthcoming years as Kay Brothers’ production was further boosted by grower-purchased fruit. The Emu Wine Company’s Walter Bagenal also purchased bulk wine for its expanding Emu Burgundy brand. A 1903 photograph shows the handsome Cuthbert Burgoyne (PB Burgoyne’s son) and the marvellous Walter Bagenal sitting with McLaren Vale Vignerons. The extent of the supply chain is revealed. AC Johnston (Pirramimma), Herbert Kay & Frederick Kay (Kay Brothers), Frederick Wilkinson (Ryecroft), Fred Shipster (grower), Robert Wigley (Wirra Wirra), Bob Russell (Katunga) and Cyril Pridmore (Wattles) are all present.


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Ryecroft was another important producer which emerged in McLaren Vale during the 1890s. Its story paralleled Kay Brothers. The 160-acre property was originally a mixed farm and piggery, but it was bought by Frederick Wilkinson in 1884. According to historian Rosemary Burden ‘the first vines were planted in 1886 using the then rather popular method of running a strip of eight to ten rows of Cabernet Sauvignon through his larger plantings of Shiraz grapes.’ The vineyard expanded to 60 acres by 1903, reflecting the trade in bulk Burgundy red wine to England. But rabbits were an increasing problem in the area with massive crop losses. The business was sold in 1919 after the death of Frederick’s son Lewis in France in 1917. And bought by returned solider Lieutenant James Ingoldby with the help of his father-in-law. “The Wattles” vineyard at McLaren Vale was also contracted by Penfolds to supply the expanding Penfolds business under the direction of Herbert Leslie Penfold Hyland. Mr Cyril Pridmore, whose brother was the Mayor of Coventry in England, processed his first vintage in 1896 from grower fruit and added a stone cellar in 1901. In his obituary (1925) the Adelaide Register reports that “had this winery not existed, the vignerons in the district said it was difficult to know how they would have deposed of their crops during the glut years.” The Wattles vineyard and winery were leased by Penfolds in 1910 and then acquired sometime later. The vineyard added significant volumes to Penfolds intake. Despite the economic depression, export of bulk wine to England gathered steam in the late 1890s despite a long period of drought conditions. Among those who benefitted from this market was Robert Strangways Wigley, an eccentric hellraiser and third generation South Australian. Together with his brother Thomas, they bought 100 acres of land in McLaren Vale in 1893 and named the property Wirra Wirra (a local aboriginal phrase meaning “among the gum trees”). They purchased the land from the Phillipson brothers. Although Robert Strangways Wigley had partial sight loss, he played first-class cricket three times for South Australia. He installed a cricket pitch, with covered spectator stand, on his property as well. By the late 1890s, the venture was selling its Grenache- based wine in barrels to Peter Bond Burgoyne for the UK market. Most of this was for the growing Australian Burgundy market in the United Kingdom. The winery was producing around 20,000 gallons in 1907 with

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37,000 to 40,000 gallons in stock, reflecting the difficulty of the market. Robert Strangways Wigley, or “Bob” as he was called by his mates, jokingly called his estate Chateau Wigley. But after he died on April 20 th 1926, without a direct heir, the vineyard gradually fell into disrepair. One of the biggest brands of Australian wine in the UK market was Keystone Burgundy, a wine distributed by Stephen Smith and Co, and sourced from Tatachilla in McLaren Vale. It began as Liebig’s Meat and Malt Wine, a concoction of beef extract and red wine. But by 1900, the Keystone brand was being sold as a natural wine. And the source vineyard was described as being almost the size of built-up London at the time! The Tatachilla property in 1895 was 2000 acres in size of which 306 acres of vineyard was planted, predominately with Mataro (230 acres!), Carignan (35 acres), Shiraz (33 acres), and Cabernet Sauvignon (8 acres). It was planted by John George Kelly, the son of Alexander Charles “AC” Kelly, and partners in 1867. Most of the crop was sold to Hardy’s at Tintara where John George Kelly was working as a manager. But after a glut in 1903, Kelly left to find new markets for Tatachilla,


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including supplying importer Stephen Smith & Co., who owned the Hall’s and Keystone brands. After buying fruit for some years from Tatachilla, the property was purchased by Stephen Smith & Co. in 1911. Although the Tatachilla property was sometimes heralded as the largest vineyard in the colony, the largest plantings were found at the Kalimna Vineyard in the Barossa Valley. The new Tatachilla winery, completed in 1913, was an impressive investment that vinified all its wine for the export market. Keystone Burgundy, an iron-rich or ferruginous dry red wine (a shiraz mataro blend), was promoted by Stephen Smith & Co as a pick-me-up and recommended for “daily table and sideboard consumption”. Much was made of McLaren Vale’s iron-rich wines. It was apparently “delicious in flavour, not the least inky, and free from acidity”. There were other Burgundy brands too. Emu Burgundy, Harvest Burgundy (originally a Burgoyne brand), Southern Cross Burgundy (another Burgoyne brand) and Gilbey’s Rubicon Burgundy were available in the UK market into the 1960s. Another brand called Altusa Burgundy, launched somewhere in the early 1900s, claimed to be “superior in any other Australian wine on the market except Keystone.” Although it was “guaranteed pure South Australian”, little is remembered of it. In 1913 Carew Reynell and viticulturalist Gordon Cox planted the Jericho Vineyard at a rate of ten acres a day. And by 1914, the vineyards around Reynella extended to 500 acres. But Carew Reynell was also a part-time soldier. He was initially commissioned in the 16th South Australian Light Horse and then transferred to the 22nd Light Horse as a major and second-in-command. These regiments often practised their soldiering skills with manoeuvres near Bordertown, McLaren Vale, and Gawler, and used the railway network to reach their encampments. Carew Reynell was a highly skilled horseman and proved to be an inspirational leader. He landed at Gallipoli as second-in-command of the 9th South Australian Light Horse and was killed on the 27th of August 1915 on Hill 60, leading a charge on foot where half of his regiment fell as casualties. Thomas Cyril Hardy, a 22-year-old corporal from his family’s Thomas Hardy’s and Sons, was killed at Bullecourt in 1917. Lewis Wilkinson of Ryecroft was killed in action in France in the same year; there were many casualties from the area.

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In South Australia a new railway line from Adelaide to Port Willunga, crossing through Reynella, Morphett Vale, Noarlunga, and McLaren Vale, was opened by Governor Sir Henry Galway on the 20th of January 1915. It was quite an engineering feat, with several extensive cuttings and bridges being constructed through the landscape. There were great hopes this passenger and luggage railway line would assist the development of the rich slopes and flats of the region. Already McLaren Vale was well known for mixed farming, especially market gardening, sorghum and wine production. One of the first shipments on the luggage-train was 300 hogsheads of wine destined for the export market. This railway line was gradually closed down between 1969 and 1972. Returning Soldiers from Europe, exhausted by the privations of war, started arriving back to Australia in 1917, but most after the conflict had ended in 1919. With them, many brought flu symptoms which soon began to spread around the Australian community. Pneumonic influenza, known as Spanish Flu, infected almost a third of Australia’s population and killed nearly 15,000 people. Most of them were young people between the age of 20 and 40. The crisis saw the closure of schools, churches, theatres, pubs and race meetings to encourage self-isolation and reduce the spread of the virus. Winemaker Corrina Wright’s great-grandmother Dulcie Rosa Christie, whose family grew grapes in McLaren Vale and sold their harvest to the Emu Wine Company, wrote a diary during this period. On one occasion she writes about her brother Tom who died of influenza after the end of hostilities while waiting for a ship home from Cairo in December 1918. She then notes the arrival of Spanish Flu in South Australia on the 29th of January 1919 and the first death in McLaren Vale just a week later. Dulcie Rosa Christie survived the pandemic and lived until she was 96. Although a pall of grief hung in the air, Australian vignerons were generally optimistic about the future of the industry. It knew that it had to adapt to new market conditions and expectations. Already new vineyards were being planted in McLaren Vale, The Barossa, the Murray Valley and elsewhere to meet the demands of the future market. Although the Export Bounty Act was not finalised until 1924, discussions about tariff preferences between the British Government and Federal ministers during and after the war were generally seen as something that would help the wine industry to prosper. The threat of prohibition was staved


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off, and a new long drawn-out battlefront with European Governments on Australian wine names would become a feature of debate for many decades to come. After the First World War, soldier settlement schemes, including at McLaren Vale, were established around the country to develop productivity and build new lives for returning soldiers. In 1920 Frank Osborn, with the help of his brother-in-law Sam Tolley, built a winery with “a row of nine five-ton open fermenting tanks, a block of 19 concrete storage tanks totalling some 40,000 gallons and hand- operated basket presses.” The following year he made his first wines, mostly heavy dry red table wine, for the Australian Burgundy market in the United Kingdom and a small amount of port. This venture was established to “cash in on the Commonwealth export bounty of four shillings per gallon.” At Kay Brothers, over 70% of production in 1930 was sweet, fortified red. Yet just ten years earlier, most of its wines were made for the bulk dry red market and destined for “Burgoyne’s Dry Red or Emu Dry Red” in the UK market. Such was the effect of the Export Bounty Act of 1924, which encouraged and subsidised fortified wine production. In the peaceable days of 1938 and early 1939, Lyndsay Booth began trucking grapes for Penfolds. During the war he gradually expanded his operations by carting wine between Clarendon, McLaren Vale, Magill, Marion and Nuriootpa. Marion, at that time, before urban development, was a big grape growing area. But petrol rationing became heavily controlled by the Government. Lyndsay Booth got around these war regulations by painting the Penfolds-branded livery on his trucks. The work was relentless, but it enabled Booth to acquire the turn-of-the- century Honey Pot Vineyard in the mid-1940s. A close relationship between Lyndsay Booth and Max Schubert would develop after the war. Max Schubert chose the Honeypot Vineyard as a source for his ground- breaking 1951 Penfolds Grange. In 1948 Emu Wine Company’s William Benjamin ‘Ben’ Chaffey, a scion of Mildura’s Chaffey family, and friend Alan Ferguson bought the historic old Hope Vineyards in McLaren Vale from Geoffrey Kay. Both had served with the Royal Australian Airforce during the war. The property was renamed Benalan and with the managing director Colin Haselgrove’s approval, the pair were able to sell their bulk wine to Emu Wine Company which kept the business solvent. Family connections with

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the Haselgroves and others also helped. Geelong Grammar educated Ben Chaffey, who had grown up in Mildura, worked at the Mildura Winery and Distillery under the management of Ron Haselgrove and had also attended Roseworthy Agricultural College where he graduated in Agriculture (1935) and oenology (1939). After the war, a long stint working for The Emu Wine Company as a winemaker had rounded out his wine education. Meanwhile Colin Haselgrove went on to become managing director at Reynella in 1953. Although Chaffey’s business partner Ferguson was practical with machinery and helped install the winery with second-hand equipment, his heart wasn’t in it, and he was bought out. In 1951 a new partnership, Edwards and Chaffey, was formed with friend Henry Edwards, a grape grower whose property had been compulsorily acquired for Adelaide’s urban development in the Marion District. Business flourished with bulk wine trade to the Emu Wine Company, Mildura Winery, Yalumba, Orlando, Lindemans and Penfolds. Edwards and Chaffey also launched the Seaview label in 1951, offering ‘all types’ of wines. The business was selling 50,000 gallons of red wine to Melbourne alone in the early 1950s, and Seaview became initially best known for its White Burgundy and Riesling. Seaview wines were also the first to be winery-bottled in McLaren Vale. Ben Chaffey recalled “it was quite a technical chore; I can tell you!” By 1954 success at wine shows and increasing demand enabled larger botting facilities. Meanwhile, adjacent land was acquired and with Government assistance, Edwards and Chaffey contour-planted new vineyards with red varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Malbec and white varieties Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Palomino. Ben Chaffey observed that during his years as a winemaker, “the biggest change was in the public acceptance of wine as an adjunct to dining and more than just something you take frivolously.” But in 1970, Ben Chaffey, now the sole owner of the business, sold out to Allied Vintners (a 51%/49% partnership between Allied Breweries UK and Tooths Brewery of Sydney). This foreshadowed other takeovers and mergers during the 1970s, including the Acquisition of Wynn’s. As the economy geared up many agricultural regions began to mechanise. Frank Osborn of Bundarra Vineyards, later d’Arenberg,


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purchased the first rubber-tyred tractor in McLaren Vale. But horses were still used in the vineyard especially for pulling incinerators to burn cuttings until the early 1960s. They would later be replaced by rotovators which would mulch the cuttings and “work them up with the soil.” Frank’s son Francis “d’Arry” Osborn, who built up d’Arenberg’s reputation during the 1950s, observed that downy and powdery mildew seemed to appear more regularly after the vineyards stopped burning cuttings. By the mid-1950s, McLaren Vale was producing half of Australia’s dry red table wines. Much of this was produced by Hardy’s, Kay’s, Tatachilla, Reynella, and the Osborns. It was the beginning of a new direction for the region. The introduction of half-gallon glass flagons of inexpensive table wines became hugely popular after 1958 and propelled sales of domestic wine, eventually capturing 40% of the market by 1971. Amongst McLaren Vale’s most entrepreneurial and enlightened winemakers is d’Arry Osborn. When his father Francis (Frank) Ernest died in 1957, d’Arry began to bring new ideas to the family business with the help of others, including ex-Spitfire pilot Doug Collett, a Roseworthy Graduate who had worked at the Emu Wine Company and in the Riverland with new technologies. After trademark difficulties with Victoria’s Bailey’s of Bundarra, the name of the business was changed to Osborn d’Arenberg

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and eventually d’Arenberg. The 1967 d’Arenberg Red Burgundy, one of the most popular wines in the Australian market, ran the gauntlet of capital city wine shows and triumphed. Doug Collett continued an association with McLaren Vale all his life. He was the founder of Woodstock winery as well as an investor in the Barossa’s Rockford Winery. In McLaren Vale, Stephen Smith and Company Ltd sold out all its holdings to the Emu Wine Company. Only interested in Tatachilla’s UK wine distribution business, the Emu Wine Company put all of the winery buildings and vineyard up for sale. By 1964 the winery ceased production ending a dazzling era. But many McLaren Vale grape growers were left in the lurch creating new anxieties. Meanwhile, with the assistance of a government loan, a group of McLaren Vale grape growers were able to establish the short-lived Southern Vales Cooperative in 1965 at the recently defunct Tatachilla winery. Among the 182 growers was Greg Trott, the son of an orchardist and vineyard owner. Typically, at the time, Doradillo was vinified and distilled into brandy while the Pedro Ximenez or Palomino went into sherry production. Shiraz was made into table wine. But there were problems with fixed pricing of grapes and poor returns. A co-operative could add value to the crop by converting grapes into bulk wine. Winemaker Chris Hancock, working for Penfolds at the time, purchased the first 10,000 gallons. By 1966 Ursula Pridham (née Rauschal von Hartenau), a young Austrian electrical engineer married to Adelaide investment analyst Geoffrey Pridham, purchased a vineyard in the Coromandel Valley sub- region of McLaren Vale. After a few years learning how to make wine with Sid Hamilton, they produced their first wine under the Marienberg label in 1968. After winning her first gold medal for a 1970 Shiraz Cabernet at the Royal Adelaide Wine Show, Ursula enjoyed further success for many years before stepping down as a winemaker in 1987. In 1969 Pam Dunsford crashed through the wine industry’s cement ceiling and led the way for a new generation of women winemakers. After graduating in Agricultural Science at the University of Adelaide, she was the first woman admitted to the all-male autonomous Government- run Roseworthy Agricultural College. “There she lived in the infectious diseases ward and endured an ‘all-male post schoolboy’ culture.” It is surprising from today’s perspective how hard it was to break into this


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close-knit male-dominated wine industry, yet she managed to do it with great determination and courage. She was the long-standing winemaker at Chapel Hill wines in McLaren Vale and the very first female wine judge on the Australian wine show circuit. She credited the wine expert Len Evans for giving her the crucial break into this old-fashioned inwardly-looking institution. In 2021 she was awarded a “Degree of Doctor of Science (honoris causa) in recognition of her pioneering work in Australian winemaking, blazing a trail for women winemakers and championing the South Australian wine industry in a career spanning more than 40 years.” Also, in 1969, Greg Trott, with his first cousin Roger Trott, bought six sections of adjacent land with the advice of vigneron Jim Ingoldby and established Wirra Wirra. This venture became a prominent boutique wine producer and later employed Oenotec to help improve and develop its wine portfolio. The Church Block blend, comprising Grenache and Shiraz pressings, modelled on d’Arenberg’s highly successful Burgundy, was released in 1972 and became a popular national wine brand. The blend changed to Cabernet, Shiraz and Merlot in 1982 after Brian Croser and Dr Tony Jordan took on the role of technical consultants. Around the same time new labels began to appear. In 1967 Hugh and Molly Lloyd, together (briefly) with a collective of friends, established the Coriole Vineyard which already comprised a block of 1919 Shiraz plantings. The 1970 Coriole Claret, based on Shiraz, was soon after released. Chapel Hill (1972) and Noon (1976) were also soon established. The McLaren Vale Bushing Festival was inaugurated in 1973 and began an annual tradition where the winemaker who achieves the highest points for a wine in the McLaren Vale Wine Show is named Bushing Queen or King. It began as a relatively low-key and provincial festival with medieval themes and bawdy social activities. But, as the years progressed, the Bushing Festival has become an important social event on the region’s calendar, highlighting the advances in viticulture and winemaking. But it would take 18 years before a woman, Pam Dunsford, was crowned the first official Bushing Queen in 1991. Prolonged drought, excessive heat and floods in the early 1980s created challenging conditions, but the wine industry was poised for expansion

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with the beginning of a new golden age of exports. This was helped with a visit to Australia in 1985 by a group of Masters of Wine (MW) organised by Hazel Murphy. Winemaker Pam Dunsford recalled, “there was a function held at Reynell’s homestead for the MWs. Wirra Wirra’s Greg Trott organised it. And I thought that I was going to a free lunch, but of course, there’s nothing free in the wine industry. UK wine journalist Jancis Robinson had a film crew, saying, ‘Okay, what’s Australia, and why is it different?’ That went straight back to the UK and was broadcast everywhere. Australian wine was a revelation to the visiting Masters of Wine, including many key buyers or opinion leaders in the UK market. In Pam Dunsford’s opinion, the MW visit in 1985 was the beginning of the export boom of Australian wine. According to wine writer Max Allen “the MW trip was a crucial factor in the export renaissance in the mid-1980s”, an opinion that is shared with many others. Australian wine export success was also aided by the weak dollar and fears of contamination caused by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Europe. The quality of the 1986 vintage across Australia combined with technology and imaginative winemaking resulted in a remarkable year for ultra-fine wine. Despite the problems of dwindling prices, oversupply and a vine pull scheme (legislated in 1987), McLaren Vale was inching its way forward and building a reputation for well-made red wines based primarily on Shiraz, Cabernet and Grenache. The region was also earning a reputation of producing Shiraz with middle palate. This idea was not new because the Burgundy wines of a previous era were prized for their plushness and ferruginous vigour. Penfolds Grange reached a new zenith in quality with component material coming from McLaren Vale. Growers including Don Oliver at Taranga Vineyards, later Oliver’s Taranga, became an essential part of the Grange story. By the 1986 vintage Grange had an extra sheen and density that gave the wines superb aging potential. This was in part because of the huge leap forward in oenology and part vineyard management. The impressive growing seasons of the late 1980s and 1990s, fruit sourcing and meticulous classification also elevated the reputation of Grange. By 1987 Hardy’s Eileen Hardy Shiraz was once again introduced as a single varietal McLaren Vale Shiraz. The release of Coriole’s 1989 Lloyd Reserve Shiraz, based on 1919 Block plantings (it is now thought that they go back before 1875) heralded a new perspective based on heirloom vineyards. This was followed by the 1993 d’Arenberg


The Vintage Journal – Regional Focus

Dead Arm Cabernet Shiraz (it switched to Shiraz in 1994), based on “truncated, gap-toothed” old vines dating back to 1912, which brought renewed interest and understanding of McLaren Vale’s heritage. Inspired by the classic South Australian wines of the 1950s and 1960s, particularly Penfolds, Roman Bratasiuk, a former biochemist, bought the old Elysium winery at Blewitt Springs, near Clarendon in McLaren Vale. By chance, he found the nearby 10-acre Astralis Vineyard as a source of “as good as you can get” Shiraz. The vines were first planted in 1920 with 19th-century colonial vinestock derived from Chateau Reynella. The 1994 vintage sparked controversy and awe by becoming Australia’s first wine to be released at over $100 a bottle. The polarising 1996 vintage caused an even bigger stir with derision and ridicule among Australian wine show judges and critics. But like Grange of the 1950s, Astralis ultimately transcended this cosy club of opinion makers. Around the 2000s, a new influx of Italian and European grape varieties was made available to Australian vignerons. Chalmers Nurseries, established by Bruce and Jenni Chalmers during the 1980s, were instrumental in diversifying and improving the availability of new vinestock material, especially after the importation of 70 clones and grape varieties in 2000. Italian varieties are, in theory, well suited to the Mediterranean and warm climate conditions across Australia with their naturally high acidities and flavour profiles. During the 2000s, many vignerons around Australia including McLaren Vale, increasingly aware of the changing climate, water availability and the need for sustainable practices, looked at alternative grape varieties as both insurance and opportunity. Vignerons including Coriole, d’Arenberg, Geoff Hardy, Serafino, Oliver’s Taranga, Alpha Box and Dice and Steven Pannell were particularly active in establishing new vineyards with Sangiovese, Primitivo, Nebbiolo, Mencia, Barbera, Nero d’Avola, Montepulciano, Pinot Grigio, Fiano, Vermentino and other varieties. Mark Lloyd at Coriole was early to recognise McLaren Vale’s potential for Italian varieties and planted Sangiovese back in 1985, with the first wines becoming available in the late 1980s. From the early 2000s, McLaren Vale was enjoying renewed prestige with fine wine collectors. A subtle change was beginning to emerge with the arrival of new entrants. Oliver’s Taranga, well-known grape growers in the area, pivoted to wine production and immediately captured

McLaren Vale


attention with high-quality wines. Operated by cousins Corrina Wright and Brioni Oliver and empowered by Don Oliver, the winery and wines became a symbol of achievement and ambition for women in wine. The acquisition of the Lalla Rookh property at Blewitt Springs by Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke of California’s Jackson Family began a new focus on old vine Grenache and terroir wines. Under the new brand name, Yangarra winemaker Peter Fraser and vineyard manager Michael Lane rose to prominence. Grape grower David Paxton also released his first wines, beginning a narrative of sustainable winemaking. By 2011 he had converted 100% to organic and biodynamic viticulture. Gifted winemaker Steven Pannell, who was working with Warren Randall at Tinlins and vinifying material for masstige wine brands, also set up (with his wife Fiona) SC Pannell in 2004. Within a short period, he became a leading figure in McLaren Vale’s fine wine renaissance. This was followed by the acquisition of a 35-hectare vineyard neatly wedged between the historic Upper Tintara and Seaview Vineyards. Renamed Koomilya, after a 19 th Century lugger, and now a part of Pannell Enoteca, it promises to become one of the region’s iconic vineyards. In 2008 Angoves purchased a 1936-planted vineyard in Chalk Hill Road and renamed it the Warboys Vineyard. Zar and Elena Brooks established their Dandelion brand, further expanding the diversity of McLaren Vale wine.


The Vintage Journal – Regional Focus

Meanwhile, McLaren Vale’s Scarce Earth project was inaugurated by growers Adrian Kenny and Dudley Brown in 2011 to further the cause of Shiraz and single sites. With more than ‘30 geologies’ in the region, the project aimed to encourage winemakers to investigate the micro- geography of their vineyards including geology, soils, elevation, slope, aspect, rainfall, and distance from the coast. One of the most detailed geological wine maps in the world was also produced with the help of McLaren Vale resident wine writer Phillip White. Original workings by geologist Bill Fairburn were also improved by geologist Jeff Olliver and viticulturalist Jock Harvey. The value of old vines was further enhanced by the Old Vine Charter (inaugurated by the Barossa’s Yalumba in 2007), which defined the timelines of old vines (35 years +), Survivor Vines (75 years +), Centenarian Vines (100 years+), and Ancestor Vines (125 years+). Although this has not been officially adopted by McLaren Vale vignerons, the consumer has broadly accepted these definitions. Although the first vines were planted in the Southern Vales in the 1840s, urbanisation and economic pressures saw these early vineyards pulled out. The development of South Australia’s bulk red wine export market during the late 1880s, 1890s and 1900s saw many plantings in McLaren Vale. These form the majority of heirloom vineyards in the region. Significant plantings of Grenache in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s highlight the wine industry’s reliance on fortified wine production after the export bounty Act of 1924 changed the trajectory of Australian wine. McLaren Vale’s heritage is steeped in 19th Century and early 20th Century aspirations, and I believe that its future is still connected strongly to Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Grenache. These heirloom grape varieties excel in the region and offer the best in quality, character and longevity. During the 1870s, Mataro and Carignan were also prolific. While alternative grape varieties allow winemakers to imagine new expressions of the McLaren Vale aesthetic, I think it is a mistake to believe that the region’s future depends on them. Nonetheless, there are a few very fine examples that show the potential of these grape varieties and the diversity they may offer. Fiano seems to be particularly expressive, while traditional white Rhone varieties seem to have potential. With plantings going back to the 1930s, Chenin Blanc also offers something different. Sangiovese, first brought to Australia in the late 1800s, remains relatively obscure but some great examples exist.

McLaren Vale


Overall, I am impressed by the imaginative, emotional, and financial investment going into McLaren Vale. The interest in the region’s heritage is being activated in many special ways. New technologies, inventive architecture and outlooks have brought an extra shine. Chester Osborn’s obsessively imaginative and creative Cube project was thought up years before it became a reality. The idea stems from the complexities and frustrations of winemaking and the similar challenges of solving the problem of a Rubik’s Cube. The result is an extraordinary five-level building that lies on a rise. It dominates the landscape like a modern castle yet integrates with the colours of the surrounding early 20th Century winery buildings and vineyards. It beckons people to enjoy the sensory experiences of wine, food, art and alternative realities. Toby and Emmanuel Bekkers also represent an imaginative and forward-thinking approach to viticulture and winemaking. Their technical skills, experience and strong sensibility towards sustainability, ecology and regional culture define the values, ambitions and drive of contemporary winemakers in McLaren Vale and beyond. Their red wines, based on Grenache and Shiraz, are expressive, modern, and ageworthy styles. The pure fruit aromatics, Burgundian-style techniques, especially partial-whole bunch vinification, and fine sinuous tannins are signature attributes. Their recent purchase of the historic 50-acre Clarendon Vineyard is an investment of superb ambition and links their story to the efforts of previous generations. Andrew Hardy of Ox Hardy is reimagining the historic Upper Tintara Vineyard, where the ruins of AC Kelly’s grand vision are a reminder of past times. And Peter Fraser and Michael Lane are leading the modern Grenache aesthetic with their incredibly thoughtful wines. With American winemaker Chris Carpenter, their Hickinbotham wines highlight a cross-Pacific tension that brings new horizons for classic styles. Michael Fragos at Chapel Hill, now a part of Endeavour Group, has also integrated the region’s heritage with the great challenges of today; namely environmental awareness, sustainability and governance. At Wirra Wirra, Matthew Deller MW has started to reshape and reenergize the business with the appointment of Emma Woods as Chief Winemaker to complement its talented team. Aware of its heritage, plans are afoot to build more richness of story and character in its portfolio.


The Vintage Journal – Regional Focus

McLaren Vale


Of interest also is the foundation of Munda wines which marks a fresh step forward for indigenous empowerment within the Australian wine industry. But its story is yet to unfold. Angoves, Aramis, Battle of Bosworth, Bekkers, Bec Hardy, Bondar, Nick Haselgrove, Heirloom, Hugo, Blewitt Springs Wine Co, Chapel Hill, Clarendon Hills, Coriole, d’Arenberg, Dandelion, Field Day Wine Co, Geddes, Gemtree, Hither and Yon, Hugh Hamilton, Richard Hamilton, In Praise of Shadows, Inkwell, Kay Brothers, Koomilya, Longbottom, MMAD, Maxwell, Mitolo, SC Pannell, David Paxton, Pirramimma, Two Hands, Oliver’s Taranga, Mr Riggs, Serafino, Scarpantoni, Shingleback, Thistledown, Wirra Wirra, Varney, and Yangarra are all important wine brands that offer different expressions of McLaren Vale’s vineyard landscape. Their stories, outlooks and ambitions are well reflected in their wines. While I did not taste everything for this review, the overall tasting revealed many great wines. Emerging out of the fog of COVID, McLaren Vale is poised to enjoy a new era of possibilities. The outlook is both affirmative and cautious. The acquisitions of Penny’s Hill/Black Chook brands by the Randall Wine Group and Shingleback by Endeavour Group highlight the complexities and opportunities that relate to filling the pipeline of distribution. Direct to Consumer business, through cellar door, or electronically, is an important channel that all small and medium winemakers must engage with. The consolidation of retail channels in Australia and the rise in buyers’ own brands offer new challenges and opportunities, but premiumisation starts at home. Also, many wine growers in McLaren Vale are feeling the strain from the China fallout. With luck it will be a soft landing, although the outlook is uncertain. The development of new hotels in the region, at Wirra Wirra and Seaview Road, promises renewed growth in wine tourism but also offers other challenges. Export markets are also likely to rebound over time. Also environmental awareness, social practices and governance, which includes inclusiveness and well-being, have become a priority among the wine community and this trend of sustainability promises to further the cause and quality of fine wine. Nevertheless, McLaren Vale is deservedly one of Australia’s most important wine regions with one of the country’s most imaginative, collaborative, and enlightened wine communities. This is highlighted by the energy and diversity of its expressive wines.


The Vintage Journal – Regional Focus

McLaren Vale’s oldest surviving vineyards

1887 Paxton Old Vine Block (Shiraz) 1891 Ox Hardy Ancestor Vines Upper Tintara (Shiraz) 1892 Kay Brothers Block 6 (Shiraz) 1892. Richard Hamilton Hut Block Vineyard Centurion Vines (Shiraz) 1897 Chalk Hill Home Vineyard (Grenache)

1897 Slate Creek Vineyard (Grenache) 1898 d’Arenberg Ege Vineyard (Shiraz) 1900 Woodstock Stocks Vineyard (Shiraz)

1901 Ox Hardy Upper Tintara Vineyard (Shiraz) 1905 Woodstock The Stock Vineyard (Shiraz) 1908 Hugh Hamilton Black Sheep Block 8 Vineyard (Shiraz) 1910 d’Arenberg Osborn Vineyard (Shiraz) 1910 Maglieri Family Old Foggo Vineyard (Shiraz) 1912 Sabella Vineyard (Mataro) 1915 Foggo Vineyard Old Vine (Shiraz) 1916 d’Arenberg Other Side Vineyard (Shiraz) 1916 d’Arenberg Osborn Vineyard (Shiraz & Grenache) 1919 Coriole Vineyard (Possibly 1870s plantings, Shiraz) 1920 Clarendon Hills Astralis Vineyard (Shiraz/Syrah) 1920 d’Arenberg Osborn Vineyard (Mataro & Shiraz) 1920 Steven Pannell Ronald Road Vineyard (Grenache) 1921 Fox Creek Grower Vineyard Old Vine (Grenache) 1923 Smart Vineyard (Grenache) 1925 d’Arenberg Bamboo Ridge Vineyard (Shiraz)

1926 Sabella Vineyard (Shiraz) 1928 Maxwell Block 6 (Grenache)

1930 Harris Creek Vineyard (Grenache) 1930 Foggo Vineyard Old Vine (Grenache)

McLaren Vale


1930 Woodstock Bush Vines (Grenache) 1933 Dowie Doole Tintookie Vineyard (Chenin Blanc) 1934 Noon Winery Block Old Vine (Grenache) 1935 d’Arenberg Ege Vineyard (Shiraz – also Sangiovese & Sagrantino grafted) 1935 Hugh Hamilton Black Sheep Block 4 (Shiraz) 1936 Angove Warboys Vineyard (Shiraz & Grenache) 1936 Blind Spot Vineyards OH60 Block 5 (Shiraz) 1939 MMAD Ronald Road Blewitt Springs Vineyard (Grenache) 1940 Neighbour Vineyard Brookman Road (Grenache & Shiraz) 1941 MMAD Ronald Road Blocks 2 & 3 Blewitt Springs Vineyard (Shiraz) 1944 Pirramimma Prisoner of War (POW) Block (Grenache) 1945 Dowie Doole Tintookie Vineyard (Cabernet Sauvignon) 1946 Yangarra High Sands Vineyard (Grenache)

1948 Serafino Gian Block (Grenache) 1948 Oliver’s Taranga Vineyard (Shiraz) 1949 d’Arenberg Bamboo Ridge (Grenache) 1950 Bondar Wines Rayner Vineyard (Shiraz)


The Vintage Journal – Regional Focus

LIVING ICONS A group of McLaren Vale vignerons recently formed an association of Living Icons to promote the region’s heritage through the antiquity of its 19th Century-planted vineyards. McLaren Vale’s surviving plantings date back to the 1880s. It is possible that Coriole’s 1919 Block comprises earlier plantings dating back to the early 1870s, but at this stage, it is not included. Nonetheless, the Living Icons vineyards are well-documented original McLaren Vale plantings and hark back to the days of South Australia’s remarkable export boom, mainly based on Shiraz and Grenache, but also Mataro, Carignan, and Cabernet Sauvignon. All the Living Icon wines are based on Shiraz, highlighting the variety’s importance in the South Australian Red Burgundy Blends of the 1890s, 1900s, and beyond. The Living Icons all share a common theme of winemaking with open ferments in the traditional way. These retro-modern classics also have a common peaty complexity and freshness, plushness, and ferruginous vigour. Living Icon Vineyards 1887 Paxton Old Vine Thomas Block Vineyard EJ Shiraz – McLaren Flat 2.6 hectares. Alluvial soils; clay and river stone dominant. Open fermented, gentle hand plunging twice daily, 22 months in 100% French oak barriques, and 18 months bottle age before release. 1891 Ox Hardy Upper Tintara Vineyards Ancestor Vine Shiraz – Blewitt Springs 0.35 hectares and 1.37 hectares planted by Thomas Hardy. Alluvial loams. Vinified in one-tonne open fermenters. Hand lunged three times daily. Matured in one-year-old French oak barriques. 1892 Richard Hamilton Hutt Block Centurion Vineyard (Hut 08) Shiraz – McLaren Flat 0.74 hectares. Sandy loam and old river clay with a deep bed of limestone. Partially whole bunch vinified in two-tonne open French oak fermenters.

Matured in 25% new and seasoned (1-3 year) oak. 1892 Kay Brothers Block 6 Vineyard Shiraz – Seaview

1.4 hectares. A combination of red loam, heavy clay and gravelly alluvial soils. Vinified in original 1895 open fermenters and basked pressed with maturation for 18-20 months in French and American oak puncheons.

McLaren Vale


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