Meet Elena Brooks of Heirloom Vineyards
How did you get started in the wine business?
From the age of two, I grew up in the winery in Bulgaria where my mother worked in PR and marketing. As not many people knew English at that time (the early 90s), I started interpreting at 13 years of age for the flying winemakers that worked at the winery.
You have worked within the wine industry all over the world, how does Australia compare when it comes to winemaking and what makes it unique?
I have worked in Italy, Spain and Bulgaria, and visited many wine regions. Quality is always number one for Australian winemakers, even when it defies tradition. As well, I find it accessible for age and gender, and have had many doors open despite the fact I am an immigrant, a woman and I was young (not so much now!).
What initially drew you to the South Australian wine scene and what keeps you there all these years later?
I was accepted to study winemaking at Adelaide University 20 years ago. However, I stayed for the above reasons, the husband I married and the chance to make the wines I want.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given when it comes to winemaking?
Listen to your peers, work hard and drink the great wines of the world.
What have been some of the highlights of your time at Heirloom Vineyards?
Creating it. Experimenting with philosophies and standing behind the styles of wine Heirloom is about and the rewards that come from all this.
Heirloom Vineyards makes wines using grapes from multiple South Australian areas – including the Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, Coonawarra, Eden Valley, McLaren Vale – what qualities do each of these regions bring to your wines?
Each region is matched with the grape varieties most suitable to it. Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir and Tempranillo from Adelaide Hills. The cool climate in the Adelaide Hills brings the most out of these varieties. It accentuates the acidity and aromatics. Shiraz, Grenache and Touriga from McLaren Vale, classic combinations. It’s the region that delivers aromatics and balanced structure in these varieties, but also fruit that suits being moulded into the different style wines that Heirloom creates.
The Heirloom Vineyards Adelaide Hills Tempranillo 2016 is our Wine of the Month for August – what makes this such a standout wine?
Heirloom’s Tempranillo is inspired by our work in Spain. The wine is designed to push our perception of Australian Tempranillo, which usually is grown in warmer regions. Our Tempranillo comes from a cool climate Adelaide Hills vineyard. It has only French oak to keep the aromatics purer and give it a more masculine structure. We ferment it with about 20% whole bunches to aid the structure of the wine.
We have paired it with Spanish Style Pork Ribs with White Bean Salad. What do you enjoy pairing it with?
That sounds perfect. Add the Manchego and I am up for lunch.
Other than your own wine, what wine do you like to drink at home?
We regularly have the wines from our friends’ wineries, as well as many international ones. Love Manzanilla, Sherry, a good Burgundy or a Barolo.
What’s your ultimate wine and food match?
Oysters and Heirlooms Gold Label Chardonnay.
What is your favourite…
• Book? Right now Outlander books.
• Holiday destination? Everywhere, love travelling. Looking forward to Cuba.
• Time of day? 5.30am.
• Restaurant? Always a great time at Spice Temple.