Chain of Ponds
Chain of Ponds wines epitomise the elegance, refined and epicurean qualities synonymous with the Adelaide Hills wine region.
If you could travel back in time to the mid-19th century and visit the South Australian town of Chain of Ponds, you would find a bustling little village full of life. You could have a beer at the pub, visit the town hall, attend church on Sunday and chat to locals whilst doing the shopping.
This hamlet, around 30 kilometres north east of Adelaide, was originally named Philiptown, after the founding Publican of the Morning Star Hotel, but in 1864, it changed to Chain of Ponds, named after the series, or chain, of ponds in the area.
Even in the driest of summers these ponds never dried up, despite having no visible connection above the ground. However, like the township, these ponds vanished under the waters of the Millbrook Reservoir in 1918.
FROM TOWN TO WINERY
Today, the memory of the town lives on through the wines produced by the eponymous Chain of Ponds winery. While vineyards have been a mainstay of the Adelaide Hills wine region since the mid-1800s, the Chain of Ponds vineyard and brand was established in 1985 on the outskirts of Gumeracha, approximately four kilometres from the original township.
This was the first major planting in the northern area of the Adelaide Hills. That initial planting of four thousand vines consisted of nine varieties, 470 vines of each. This was further increased when an additional 150 acres were planted in 1989.
In more recent times, the winery has extended vineyard boundaries to source fruit from a broader area of the region, allowing for greater varietal distinction and complexity. Chain of Ponds’ winemaker is the talented Greg Clack, who joined the winery in 2005 having gained extensive experience at wineries in both the Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale.
Greg initially worked under the late Neville Falkenberg, who taught him the secrets to producing elegant, cool climate wines. Since then, he has gone on to amass an impressive collection of awards and accolades, thanks to his meticulous attention to both detail and quality.
One of the reasons Greg has done so well with his craft comes from his love and affinity for the Adelaide Hills.
It is, he says, “One of the most beautiful wine regions in Australia with a great diversity of both white and red wine varieties and styles, perfect for matching with food, all within less than an hour from the city.”
The landscape, he describes, of “Rolling hills, deep valleys, diverse aspects and soils gives rise to complex nuances and great flavour diversity.” This allows Chain of Ponds to offer a wide selection of varieties and styles, with the result being “something to cater to all palates and food types. The range starts with the more traditional varieties of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Chardonnay, we then move to Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese Rosé, Cabernet Sauvignon and finally an offering of Barbera, which is a lesser known variety in Australia.”
This is not only great for wine lovers, but it keeps Greg and his team engaged, too. He says, “The choices of varietal that we make are deliberate, focusing on varietal definition and purity of fruit suited to the cooler climate of the Adelaide Hills region. By having such a large portfolio, it keeps vintage interesting and very enjoyable - with the different flavours from the vineyards right through to the finished wine.”
In fact, this is one of Greg’s highlights of the winemaking process. He explains, “The moment that sits with you each year is when you taste the evolution of wines through the vineyard, crushing, fermentation, maturation through to the finished wine and thinking this is going to be a great wine.”
While Greg loves all varieties in the Chain of Ponds collection, he acknowledges his favourites are, “Chardonnay, as it thrives in the Adelaide Hills climate, producing wines with focussed acidity, fruit purity and elegance yet power. And Barbera, as the higher altitude of the hills suits the variety well, producing wines with the trademark acidity, freshness and power, yet supple tannin structure, making it ideally suited to food.”
Greg acknowledges that another highlight of making wine in the Adelaide Hills, is the sense of community the region offers. “All the region’s members are very supportive,” he says, “often working in collaboration, giving rise to one of the most promising up-and-coming regions in Australia.”
So, whilst the Chain of Ponds township may have been relegated to history, its memory lives on through not only the wines of its namesake winery, but also the close community that lives on in the region