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Wine Traveler Riverland

While South Australia’s riverland region has always been famous for bulk wine production, innovative local winemakers are changing the landscape by planting a range of grape varieties perfectly suited to the hot, dry climate.

As I sit down to pen this brief piece on the Riverland, I’m reminded of the words of that great American philosopher LL Cool J who rhymed, “don’t call it a comeback; I’ve been here for years; I’m rockin my peers; Puttin’ suckers in fear”. Mic drop from Queens.

Perhaps I’m getting carried away. I’ve always been told I have a fertile imagination, but who would have thought a decade ago that boutique winemakers from Margaret River to Coonawarra would be sourcing fruit from the Riverland and proudly displaying that fact on their wine labels?

The Riverland has always been, along with several other regions that lie along the life-giving artery of the Murray, the engine-room of the Australian wine industry. The Riverland accounts for over 50% of South Australia’s wine crush and around 30% of the national total, some 470,123 tonnes in 2017. It is a very important region for Australian wine.

One winery alone, Berri Estates, is the largest grape processor in the southern hemisphere, crushing some 220,000 tonnes of grapes annually or around one-third of the total grape crush of South Australia. Several years ago, I recall driving with the Berri Estates winemaker to the crushers; a journey through a huge truck marshalling area complete with traffic wardens. He turned to me and said, “Can you feel the romance?” Funny, but the sheer scale of the operation was astounding.

The Riverland is also a region well aware of the hardships of farming; of extended droughts and the plunging grape prices of boom & bust cycles. But the droughts, while devastating for growers already struggling with low grape prices, have forced some changes for the better. Included among them are sustainable irrigation, drought hardy rootstock and clonal research, and the planting of alternative varieties, or, as one local winemaker described them, “appropriate varieties.”

King of grapes

One of the larger producers is Kingston Estate, established by Greek immigrants, Nina & Steve Moularadellis in the mid-1980s after they met picking grapes in the early 1960s. Today, you can still find them in the winery most days, but it is son Bill who steers the ship.

Kingston Estate produce a range of wines that offer great value for money and drinking pleasure. Their portfolio centres around the European classic varieties, but for me, when I think of the estate, it is their Petit Verdot that springs to mind and it is certainly a variety they have hung their hat on.

Deeply coloured and laden with rich fruit and spice, it possesses an ample structure with plenty of ripe tannin and is a variety that seems to thrive in the warmer climes of the Riverland.

Salena Estate, another of the larger operators, has around 520 acres under vine, roughly half of which is certified organic. Their range includes classic varieties, across different price points that provide great drinking, and their ‘Ink’ series concentrates on the ‘appropriate’ varieties with some great examples including Montepulciano, Graciano, Bianco d’Alessano and Vermentino.

The Banrock Station cellar door is top-notch with the complete range of wines available for tasting, a great little restaurant if you are feeling peckish and the amazing wetlands ecosystem with walking trails if you need to stretch your legs. The Angove cellar door in Renmark is another must visit for the quality and diversity of their range of wines with fruit sourced from the Riverland and further afield across South Australia.

In recent times, the interest in sourcing fruit from the Riverland by winemakers based outside the region has been pleasing to see. There are several factors at play here. Better farming practices and increased interest in some of the varieties that end in ‘O’ that seem well suited to the region are certainly in the mix.

Another is the tireless efforts, boundless energy and great farming nous of Ashley Ratcliff of Ricca Terra Farms, who has done much to raise the profile of the Riverland as a source of well-farmed, alternative varieties.

Part of this nous was knowing when to take a risk on doing something new. As he explains, “During the boom times in the Riverland, grape prices were up and getting people to change their practices was hard. Why would you decrease your yields and plant new varieties? When things turned, however, others panicked, but we were brave; buying up vineyards and planting alternative varieties that now fetch sustainable prices.”

Ashley’s Ricca Terra Farms is just outside Bamera and is planted with many of the varieties that are now sought after in the region – Nero d’Avola, Fiano, Vermentino, Montepulciano, Zibbibo, Muscato Giallo and the curiously named, Slankamenca Bela. As well as supplying grapes for other winemakers, Ashley has his own ‘Ricca Terra’ label featuring inventive blends of these varieties. Another producer riding the wave of the alternative varieties that are well-suited to the Riverland is Alex Russell Wines. Viticulturist and winemaker Alex Russell crafts a range of delicious wines from Montepulciano, Vermentino, and Lagrein to Nero d’Avola, Saperavi and Graciano. Alex’s range of wines hold true to the tenet that a wines ‘raison d’etre’ is to be above all else, delicious to drink and they have picked up a swathe of awards at the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show in Mildura.

small names, big impression

Other small local producers who farm in a thoughtful, sustainable fashion to seek out include Whistling Kite, whose biodynamically farmed range includes a fantastic Petit Manseng and a Montepulciano that is a benchmark for the region. The organically farmed Bassham Wines is another, with delicious, racy whites including Vermentino and Fiano, along with lovely examples of Lagrein, Nero d’Avola and Graciano.

Also check out 919 Wines, whose range of table wines provides beautiful drinking across both the classic and alternative varieties, including a killer Pale Dry Apera style.

And last but not least, the Delinquent Wine Co has a fantastic range of funkily packaged wines for “drinkin, not thinkin”, featuring new wave varieties, including the very drinkable Bianco d’Alessano Pet Nat Sparkling.

Of the producers from further afield who proudly source fruit from the Riverland, the list is growing. Sue Bell from Bellwether Wines in Coonawarra produces a fantastic, award-winning Nero d’Avola Rosé and crisp, textural Bianco d’Alessano; Margaret River based winemaker Brad Wehr of Amato Vino produces a dangerously drinkable Riverland range including a wonderful Slankamenca Bela. In the Adelaide Hills, Unico Zela features amazing Fiano, Nero d’Avola and an enchanting skin-contact white blend. And from McLaren Vale, ex-NYC sommelier Brad Hickey of Brash Higgins Wines crafts a heady, textural Zibbibo using grapes from Ricca Terra Farms vineyard.

a bright future

Riverland is on the up and up and if you haven’t sampled its wines, now is the time. Perhaps its reputation has been unfairly tarnished as a source of lower-end, bulk wine offerings, but today the wines have never been better and there is an undercurrent of innovation, sustainable viticulture and experimentation that bodes very well for its future.

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Great Cellar Doors of South Australia
Words by Louise Radman on 13 Sep 2016
South Australia is renowned for its fantastic wine country. If you are planning to explore the regions around Adelaide here are some top cellar doors that make worthwhile stops on the itinerary. Murray Street Vineyards – Barossa Valley Ranked as the number one locale in Barossa by Trip Advisor for the past two years running, Murray Street Vineyards has earned a reputation as a must-visit destination. Situated in the quiet village of Greenock, this cellar door offers a relaxed and personal experience on the Western ridge. With no tasting bar to separate you from the team, you can try a seated tasting of six wines that honour the rich winemaking tradition of the Barossa in elegant Riedel stemware. Experience the tasting room or the view from the shady pergola on the deck overlooking a typical Barossa setting of manicured vines. You might like to graze on regional cheese and charcuterie platters while enjoying Murray Street’s classic ‘The Barossa’ blend of Shiraz , Grenache and Mataro. Recently awarded the Barossa trust mark, the grapes for this wine represent the best of the season and hail from some of the world’s oldest soils. This is the perfect location for a day out with family and friends. Why not while away the afternoon on beanbags in the garden playing lawn games like quoits and bocce. Barossa is calling. murraystreet.com.au d’Arenberg – McLaren Vale Don’t be fooled by the traditional exterior of the 19th century homestead at this landmark cellar door, a visit to d’Arenberg is a journey into new and inspiring territory. Boasting a range of over seventy wonderful and wackily named wines, there’s always plenty to taste while enjoying views of McLaren Vale , Willunga Hills and Gulf St Vincent. Highlights include a behind the scenes vintage tour and blending bench sessions where you can create and bottle your favourite style. The luxury reds flight dives deeper into the region to uncover single vineyard wines that showcase the personality of individual patches of earth. Just $20 buys you an exclusive look at the flagship Dead Arm and two Amazing Sites Shiraz, each valued over $200 per bottle. Think The Athazagoraphobic Cat Sagrantino Cinsault or The Old Bloke and Three Young Blondes, starring Shiraz from the oldest and best vines together with young whites; Roussanne, Viognier and Marsanne. Adventure seekers can explore the region in a four-wheel drive or take to the skies for a scenic flight in a Waco plane before settling into epicurean heaven at the award winning d'Arry's Verandah Restaurant. Soon to be housed in a 13 million dollar Rubik’s Cube complex, this legendary cellar door has perfected the art of being different. We can’t wait to see what’s next. darenberg.com.au Skillogalee – Clare Valley Nestled in the contours of the Skilly Hills, Skillogalee has held the title of first and best winery restaurant in Clare Valley for over twenty-six years. Built in 1851, the heritage cellar door is housed in a charming miner’s cottage consisting of tasting and dining rooms with a long verandah overlooking three tiers of cottage garden. The famous vine pruner’s lunch can be enjoyed from prime position under the shade of a large olive tree, while early risers will love the breakfast of potted trout, baked eggs and taleggio. Spend an afternoon on the lawn amid the heirloom roses with a bottle of iconic Skillogalee Riesling and some chicken liver parfait, and duck rillettes. You can taste the full range of estate grown wines including the exceptional single contour Trevarrick series and delicious liqueur Muscat. Don’t forget to pick up house made quince paste, pickled figs, chutney and other goodies from great old trees on the property to stock the larder. This cosy and authentic experience is a longtime favourite of locals and visitors alike. skillogalee.com.au The Lane Vineyard – Adelaide Hills The Lane sets one of the country’s highest standards in cellar doors. The modern tasting space, light filled dining room and sun drenched deck float above the heart of the vineyard with sweeping views of the Onkaparinga Valley and Mount Lofty Ranges. Casual and structured experiences include guided vineyard and winery tours, interactive blending sessions, twilight masterclasses and exquisite luncheons. Estate grown tastings of the Block Series, Occasion and Heritage wine ranges are guaranteed to thrill your senses and soften the edges of daily life. Food and wine are woven together in a paired tasting served in stunning varietal specific stemware with delicate morsels from the kitchen. You can also select from dishes such as spiced almonds, house made chicken liver parfait and ocean trout ceviche to design your own tasting platter. Friendly and professional staff are a fount of local knowledge, walking you through the history and geography of the domaine, farming traditions of the Hills and region’s bid for world heritage status. This is an immersive Australian experience founded on love of place and irrepressible family passion for good food, great wine and friendship. Time moves a little slower at The Lane, why not linger? thelane.com.au
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The Best Barossa Valley Wineries & Cellar Doors
Your guide to Barossa Valley’s historic cellar doors and tasting experiences! Only a short drive from Adelaide will get you to one of Australia’s most historic wine regions, the Barossa Valley. The international success of Australian wine has a lot to thank the Barossa for, recognised for the outstanding quality of wine to come out of the region since the first plantings over 160 years ago. Today, there are so many internationally renowned wineries in the Barossa with equally acclaimed cellar doors and restaurants that a visit to the area will definitely reward any person with a love of regional wines, produce, and beauty. Fine, fresh and regional flavours abound; a bold Shiraz, a hearty Cabernet Sauv, classic Chardonnays, fresh Rieslings, and everything else in between are all ready for your enjoyment. So, jump in the car, take in the views, soak up the sunshine and savour everything the Barossa has to offer. The Willows Vineyard    Situated at Light Pass in the Barossa Valley, The Willows Vineyard has roots going back to the beginning of this historic grape growing region – Johann Gottfried Scholz, an early European colonists and previous Prussian Army bonesetter, first settled The Willows Vineyard property in 1845. But it wasn’t until 1936 that fourth generation relatives of Johann planted the property’s first Semillon vines, with Shiraz, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache added over the years. Now home to the ‘Bonesetter’ Shiraz and ‘The Doctor’ Sparkling Shiraz in honour of Johann, the Scholz family are proudly 100% Barossan, sourcing fruit entirely from their Light Pass vineyard. 310 Light Pass Rd, Light Pass Open Wednesday to Monday 10:30am-4:30pm | Closed Tuesday and Public holidays Visit The Willows Vineyard website Schild Estate   Recognised as a Five Star Winery and listed as one of the ‘Ten Dark Horses’ in the 2019 James Halliday Wine Companion, Schild Estate produces highly acclaimed wines including the Moorooroo Shiraz, of which the 2015 vintage was awarded 99 points (James Halliday, 2019 Wine Companion) and the Ben Schild Reserve Shiraz which was awarded ‘Best in Show – Australian Reds’ at Mundus Vini Grand International Wine Awards 2019. In addition to classic wine tasting experiences, Schild Estate also offers a wine and chocolate pairing experience for $20 per person where guests will be treated to artisan chocolates expertly matched with wines from their collection. Pre-bookings are essential for this unique experience. Lot 1095, Barossa Valley Way, Lyndoch Open Friday to Sunday 10am-4pm or by appointment |Closed public holidays. Visit the Schild Estate website Château Tanunda The majestic bluestone winery and expansive vineyard of Château Tanunda epitomises the Barossa’s colourful history and pioneering spirit. Established in 1890, the grand, meticulously restored buildings and carefully manicured gardens of Château Tanunda are home to the Barossa's earliest vines with the winery now proudly producing wines with fruit from 150-year-old vines. For visitors to this historic property, booking the ‘Discover the Château’ tour is a must, plus there are a host of wines to taste in the Grand Barrel Room, including Old Vine Expression, Terroirs of the Barossa and more. Or, simply enjoy a game of croquet on the lawn and take in the sunshine. 9 Basedow Rd, Tanunda Open daily 10am-5pm Visit the Château Tanunda website Bethany Wines Bethany Wines’ first vineyard was planted in 1852 with a wine cellar built on the site. Despite the winery’s pioneer, Johann Schrapel, having a good reputation as an early colonial winemaker, the Schrapel family made the decision to focus on viticulture instead of winemaking for the next four generations. However, it was this early insight into maintaining their early plantings – even through the wine glut years when the government encouraged wineries to pull up their vines – that has allowed the now fifth and sixth generations of the Schrapel family to continue working this prized Barossan plot to produce luscious old vine wines alongside their new and alternate varieties. Visit Bethany Wines’ cellar door to enjoy a fresh and delicious picnic platter, taste estate made wines, take in the views, or even take a historic walk. 378 Bethany Rd, Tanunda From Adelaide, travelling North away from the city on the Sturt Highway, take the Gomersal Road to Tanunda and then Bethany Road to the foothills. Open Monday to Saturday 10am-5pm | Sundays 1pm-5pm Visit the Bethany Hills website Elderton Wines Neil and Lorraine Ashmead moved to the Barossa in 1979 after Lorraine’s father told them about a home with great potential. The homestead in the heart of the township of Nuriootpa was surrounded by extremely old Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vines, which offered great appeal, but their move to the region was at a time when demand for Australian table wine was negligible, and the vineyard had become derelict since the vine pull to address the wine glut in the region. So, after years of no interest, the real estate agent eventually offered the Ashmeads the 72acre vineyard as a bonus, as part of the sale of the homestead. Three years later, after restoring the vineyard, Elderton Wines was born. Visit this quintessentially Barossan cellar door, complete with stunning views, fantastic wines and friendly staff. 3-5 Tanunda Rd, Nuriootpa Open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm | weekends 11am-4pm Visit the Elderton Wines website Z Wine Z WINE is seriously dedicated to making some of the Barossa Valley’s best wine. The Z in the name stands for Zerk, a pioneering settler family who came to the Barossa in 1846. Today, Janelle and Kristen Zerk, the famed Barossa Valley sister duo, are the passionate owners of Z Wine who are dedicated to creating regional, small batch wines using grapes from 10 different vignerons in the Barossa area, honouring their connection to the region which began five generations ago. Z Wines proudly stand alongside many well-known wines – recently winning third to Penfold’s Grange in the 2018 WINESTATE International Shiraz Challenge and topping the Barossa Valley Grenache entries in the recent 2018 James Halliday national Grenache challenge. A visit to their cellar door will reward you with the chance to taste wines from four different Z Wine labels, including 17 highly-awarded wines. Their new cellar door and wine bar in the main street of Tanunda is very popular, offering regional produce and local live music to accompany the selection of distinct wines.  SHOP 3, 109-111 Murray Street Tanunda The corner of Basedow Road and Murray Street Open Monday to Wednesday 10am-5pm | Thursday and Sunday 10am-8pm | Friday and Saturday 10am-late with LIVE music Visit the Z Wine website Pindarie Wines The old grain room and heritage stables make up the Pindarie cellar door that were hand restored over a period of 20 years by vigneron and winemaker couple Wendy Allan and Tony Brooks. A winner of multiple tourism awards, the cellar door is home to Pindarie’s Western Ridge estate grown wines, including Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and unique range of Mediterranean varietals such as Montepulciano, Tempranillo, and Sangiovese with the cellar door also offering a genuine paddock to plate experience with their range of seasonal lunches featuring local produce. It’s the perfect place to relax, take in the views and enjoy regional flavours. 946 Rosedale Rd, Gomersal Open Monday to Friday 11am-4pm | Weekends 11am-5pm Visit the Pindarie Wines website Henschke Wines Visiting the historic Henschke cellar door, built in the 1860s by Johann Christian Henschke, is said to be one of the most captivating wine experiences in the Barossa. The intimate and charming space is a showcase and celebration of the Henschke family’s winemaking prowess and ability to continually produce internationally renowned wines. Drawing on select vineyards from the Eden, Adelaide Hills and Barossa Valley regions, the Henschke cellar door is the perfect place to sample the unique terroir expressed in their premium single-vineyard wines. VIP tours and private tastings are also available, or you can always book yourself a table at the famed Hill of Grace Restaurant. 1428 Keyneton Rd, Keyneton Open Monday to Saturday 9am-4:30pm |Public holidays 10am-3pm | Closed Sundays, Good Friday, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day Visit the Henschke website Seppeltsfield Seppeltsfield is one of Australia’s most historic wineries with a history forged by the pioneering vision of Joseph and Joanna Seppelt in 1851. Seppeltfield’s grand complex of heritage buildings is the perfect place to sample their unique 100-year-old fortified wines and to taste wine from the year of your birth. Seppelt is also credited with paving the way for progressive cool climate styles, particularly for producing Australia’s first Sparkling wine, as well as pioneering Sparkling Shiraz. The winery has enjoyed many accolades over their extensive history, including being recognised as Australia's most awarded Sparkling producer, as well as winning the highly sought-after Jimmy Watson Trophy, three times. Stop by for free wine tastings, or book a private tour to take in the winery’s full historic charm. 730 Seppeltsfield Rd, Barossa Valley Open daily 10am-5pm Visit the Seppeltsfield website Thorn-Clarke   The name Thorn-Clarke honours the coming together of two Barossa Valley wine and agricultural families, the Thorns and the Clarkes; the Thorns with six generations of Barossan winemaking in their blood and the Clarkes providing vigneron and geology expertise. While a relatively young winery in terms of some of their Barossa neighbours, Thorn-Clarke was established in 2001 and has gone from strength to strength since then. Today, they boast one of the largest private vineyard holdings in the Barossa, which provides the basis for exceptional Barossa and Eden Valley wines. Their relaxed Barossa cellar door is the perfect place to unwind during your visit to the region – sample local produce platters as you sit in their winery garden, or sample their Eden Valley whites and Barossa Valley reds, sourced from their four estate-owned vineyards. 226 Gawler Park Rd, Angaston Open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm and 11am-4pm on weekends Visit the Thorn-Clarke website Two Hands Wines The idea for Two Hands came about when founders, Michael Twelftree and Richard Mintz, decided to make the best possible Shiraz-based wines from prized growing regions throughout Australia. They had a drive to shake up the Shiraz styles of the time and instead focus on the unique regional and vineyard characteristics that can be expressed in a good Australian Shiraz. They soon built their state-of-the-art winery, crafted their first wines, and then the accolades began to reward them for their passion and dedication to Australian wine. Stop by for a structured yet relaxed tasting that takes guests through their range of innovative wines in an intimate and informative setting out on the tasting deck with views across Marananga. 273 Neldner Rd, Marananga Open daily 10am-5pm Visit the Two Hands website Yalumba Established in 1849, Yalumba is one of Australia’s most iconic and important wine labels. The impressive wine room, built inside the original brandy store is the perfect place to sample the wide range of wines on offer from everyday table drops through to their exquisite reserve collections. A visit to their historic grounds and cellar door during the week may reward you with seeing the cooperage in action while you experience the fragrant sweet spice of their handmade barrels. And for weekend guests, the landscaped grounds, which are exquisitely framed by the Wine Room and the historic clock tower, are perfect for a relaxing walk or to throw down a picnic rug to enjoy one of Yalumba’s renowened Coopers Boards in the sun. 40 Eden Valley Rd, Angaston Open daily 10am-5pm Visit the Yalumba website Grant Burge Nestled atop of a hill along Krondorf Road, the Grant Burge cellar door in the heart of the Barossa Valley enjoys exquisite views over the valley floor in one direction and rolling lawns and manicured gardens in the other. The tasting team at the cellar door will lead you through Grant Burge’s extensive range of wines, including refreshing Sparklings, crisp Rieslings to full-flavoured Chardonnay. And in keeping with Grant Burge’s great reputation for bold Barossan red, guests can also enjoy Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and of course, powerful Shiraz. Take in the views, savour a bottle of your favourite wine, and enjoy a meal at their cafe featuring local produce. Group tastings are available by appointment.  Krondorf Rd, Tanunda Open daily 10am-5pm Visit the Grant Burge website More information For more information on visiting the Barossa be sure to visit the official Barossa website or stop by the Visitors Center  in Tanunda when you're in the area. But, if you’d like to sample some of the wineries listed in this guide before you visit – explore our wide selection of Barossa wines and find out more about the wineries listed in this guide in our Meet the Makers section. With our Wine Selectors Regional Releases , you'll experience a different wine region each release with all wines expertly selected by our Tasting Panel , plus you’ll receive comprehensive tasting notes and fascinating insights into each region. Visit our Regional Releases page to find out more!
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Meet Alex Russell of Alejandro Wines
More and more alternative wine varietals are being grown and produced here in Australia. We catch-up with Alex Russell to chat about his passion for these delicious drops and his exciting alejandro range. Your alejandro label focuses on a diverse selection of alternative varieties of European origin including Montepulciano, Nero d’Avola, Fiano and Arneis – why these varieties? Shortly after starting work for Angove in Renmark, the then chief winemaker Warrick Billings, introduced me to Riverland Vine Improvement Committee (RVIC). RVIC at the time was an importer of new varieties and they would propagate the vines and produce trial wine from them. I agreed to produce trial wine for them on a voluntary basis. I bottled their 2008 vintage and started making wine for them in 2009, in addition to my role at Angove. Before long, we were crushing far more than anticipated and the facility was filled with small winemaking equipment I had been accumulating since the early 2000s. As far as choosing different varieties, I’ve never accepted the status quo. In 2011, Fiano , Vermentino and Montepulciano were bullet-proof during the worst vintage we had had in 30 years and the latter two went on to win Gold medals at the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show. From there I led RVIC into their own label, Cirami Estate. It was a little too entrepreneurial for RVIC and we parted ways after vintage 2014 at which point alejandro was born. I didn’t choose these varieties, they chose me. These varieties are perfectly suited to being grown in the Riverland and Mildura and produce textured, flavoursome and distinctly varietal wines. What would you say to our Members to encourage them to try more of these varieties?

If you enjoy wine enough to purchase through Wine Selectors, you know enough about wine to broaden your horizons. Have an open mind, ignore the name, even set up a blind tasting with friends, and just take the wine for what it is – it’s much easier to remember Saperavi or Bianco d’Alessano when you’ve had a great experience with them.

What makes the Riverland region so suited to growing Mediterranean-style and alternative varieties? Riverland and Mildura regions are equally suited to alternative varietal wines. If you’ve travelled to Spain or Italy during summer months, you’ll know the climates in Mildura and Renmark are very similar. The regions are hot and dry, with low disease pressure and there is so much sun. These varieties love sun and heat with Montepulciano ripening among the latest of all – late April for vintage 2017. Many of these wines, Graciano and Tempranillo , are as boozy in Spain as they are here. That said, the whites are produced with moderate alcohol to retain their fresh, distinctive flavours. Can you recall the first wine you tried? My parents always drank wine – from a cask. We had sips of wine here and there, but the best memory of my first wine was following work selling pies at the footy – the MCG. I was 14 or 15 years old and I had made my first wine by this stage, but I remember this fondly because it involved getting wine from the super boxes of the old northern stand. The foil capsule had been removed from these reds and were therefore unsalable. I took the bottles home with quite a number of Four’n’Twenty pies and my father and I sat on the couch and we ate pies and drank red wine together. Making it more memorable for me was how hot and red in the face I became having bumped consumption from a few sips to a couple of glasses. When did you fall in love with wine? I think I fell in love with making booze before I fell in love with wine. I was always close with my dad, he’s gone now, but he loved his beer. I used my pie selling income to buy a home brew kit from Kmart and produced Coopers Lager – though this was after I’d made my first mash beer using 4.5L demijohns and every item of stainless in the kitchen. Do you remember that moment? What happened? After the first mash came, Coopers, ginger beer, apple cider, elderberry wine and in Year 10, I made my first Shiraz, ironically from Shiraz juice concentrate out of a can from the Riverland ’s Berri. Another memorable moment was vintage 2002 in Mildura, working for Littore Family Wines. At the time they had a Merlot block in Gol Gol with 2000m long rows. I found a rogue vine in row 57 from the north end, 16 panels to the south. It was an off-white variety, I picked the fruit and soon realized it was Gewürztraminer. My housemates and I drank that wine before it had finished fermenting. Do you have an all-time favourite wine to make? Why is it this wine? That’s like asking who your favourite child is – all wines are different and there’s an occasion for each. I do like making Montepulciano, but mainly drink Tempranillo and Durif. Now with a vineyard in Tasmania, I also produce Pinot Noir which is a very interesting wine. There’s a wine for every occasion and every appetite. There are some 15 wines in my range – gives me a lot of choice! Other than your own wine, what is the wine that you like to drink at home? I like to compare competitors’ wines, like varieties and other obscure varieties, but the quaffers I like are Rosé wines. I’m not a fan of Cabernet Rosé or ‘drain off’ Rosé but give me a purpose produced Rosé with four days cold soak and I’m all over it. What is your ultimate food and wine match? My first experience with such food was at the 2012 Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show where Stephano di Pierre cooked and we had Vermentino with freshly shucked oysters with lemon and fresh oregano. Tempura Sardines are great with Bianco d’Alessano. In Tasmania we grow Wiltshire Horn sheep for meat. They mow the vineyard down in winter and keep hard to slash areas clean during the growing season. The meat is rich, tender and moist – Lagrein is a good match for this lamb. Can you cook? If so, what is your ‘signature dish’? My wife and I lived in China for 12 months, near the North Korean border. I used to cook a lot more but now my wife cooks anything and everything, she has a knack for it. When I cook I go Chinese and cook the dongbei cai from the north east of China, Dalian and Pulandian. These are better suited to Tsingtao and Mi Jiu and although considered qiung ren cai (poor man’s food) they are simple and delicious: Ban san ding is chopped cucumber and red onion with fresh roasted peanuts (skin on) with fish sauce and sesame oil dressing (and a dash of MSG). Tu dou zi is shredded potato with carrot, green chilli and garlic, stir fried for about 30 seconds with fish sauce and sesame oil. Xie hong shi chao ji dan is stir fried egg and tomato, again with fish and sesame, and don’t forget the garlic. It’s simple and really quick to prepare. What do you think is special about your wine region? Tasmania is now home and we are expanding our vineyard. Pinot is a great variety to grow and produce and the whites are excellent – although most visitors are left a little wanting for a big red. Riverland and Mildura (and Riverina) are the work engines for Australian wine and where I gained all my experience. They are quickly snubbed by many but do produce good wine. My greatest criticism of South Australia and the Riverland is that even many Riverland businesses dismiss their own wines when tourists ask for something local, offering Clare or Barossa instead. Do you have a favourite holiday destination/memory? Spain. Fly into Barcelona and jump in a rental car and head up to Ainsa, Mont Serrat. We have a winemaker friend named Ara there who I worked at Zilzie with in 2008. She came back to Australia for vintage 2012 in the Riverland and might have helped a little with alejandro in 2016 when she was here on holiday. Ara lives in Hellin and produces wine from Murcia region. Spanish food, wine and beer – ahhh! What is your favourite… Movie? Gladiator. I’m a wanna be Maximus, and the sound track I used to play when I slept – my housemates were worried at the time. TV show? Dexter, everyone loves it when a baddie gets it. Big Bang Theory because I was one of those nerds – a cross between Howard and Leonard. Sport/Sporting Team? Cricket…. Beer? My taste constantly changes depending on the day or the menu, but I love hoppy beers and stouts and pilsners with saaz and hallertau hops.
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