The day we left it was pouring rain in Sydney but still with killer humidity. Once we hit Adelaide however, you could feel the change. South Australia has been going through a rough time this summer with a record drought. Winemakers throughout the SA regions (and all over the country for that matter) have had much smaller yields and had to turn around the produce much quicker than previous years. They have all still managed to create some amazing wines this vintage as Dan and I found out on our ‘working’ holiday, first stop, Vanguardist Wines in the Barossa Valley.
Michael J Corbett of Vanguardist Wines has become a good mate of Dan’s. He is precise, measured and clean, just like his wines but when it’s time to relax and unwind, he definitely doesn’t hold back!
Michael, of course, got us straight to work hand plunging 34 ferment bins. Jeremy from local restaurant FermentAsian also rocked up to lend a hand. Hand plunging is rough work on your own but with a couple of extra hands no sweat at all. We then moved and labelled a whole bunch of barrels and racks ready to be cleaned and then filled with delicious vino.
Winemaking is sweaty, dirty, hard work. There are however, good parts, like tasting!
Michael also spends a lot of his time driving between locations, picking up tools and equipment and heading to locations to check on his wines. Which is exactly what we did next! Off we went in Michael’s ute to pick up some racks and a new barrel. Another hands-on craft big in South Australia is Coopering . These guys craft and repair barrels for most of the regions of SA. We visited A.Stiler Cooperage with Michael and got see some of the craft in action.
Upon our return we were greeted with a small leak from one of the fermenters, so were straight back to work saving the grapes and juice for pressing the following day. After recovering from this incident with a glass of Riesling we head out yet again to the Hills where Michael has some of his Riesling and Rose at their final stage of fermentation.
This is the first time I had been able to taste wine at this stage of the process before filtering and bottling etc and it just goes to show how skilled these winemakers palette are and amazing how they’re able to discern what the final product will taste like depending on what they do next. As well as being able to react quickly to the unknown, like drought and accidents, and still be able to create a fucking delicious bottle of wine.
After a long day of working and driving Michael treated us to an amazing dinner at the Summertown Aristologist for the Poly / Ester pop-up dinner where we saw a few familiar Sydney faces and got to meet a lot of the other winemakers from the RSW wine list, Gentle Folk, Yetti & the Kokonut, Borachio. Plus other winemakers from the region including Basket Range Wines, Commune of Buttons, Lucy Margeux & DiGiorgio to namedrop a few.
Our first night we slept in the Barossa on the Vanguardist Wines vineyard and woke to a breakfast feast cooked by Dan.
After a feed Michael had us back to work pumping the wine bins that needed to be pressed from the previous day before heading out on the windy roads of Adelaide Hills to the Basket Range to meet BK. Greeted with a beautiful lunch with Brendon, Kirsty and Lauren outside the winery surrounded by the picturesque Aussie bush. Lunch was complimented by some of BK’s Grenache from 3 different vintages to help him choose which one would be best to take to Tasting Australia.
Brendon is a fucking cool guy and so is his winery. Not just full of the good stuff (wine), there’s also a collection of skateboard decks on show and crates full of vinyl to play throughout the day. There is even a sweet little BSA that he has been working on tucked away in the corner. It will be finished soon we hope!
Lunch was followed by a trip to the Ashton Cold Store with Kirsty to label some BK Wines destined for Japan. It’s actually a beautiful building and a nice escape from the dry South Australian heat. Kirsty says this is a place where a lot of the winemakers get a chance to catch up and talk shop.
We then came back to winery to help Lauren do some pump overs (a.k.a. wetting the cap of the ferment) and then clean up for the day before heading out to dinner at a local Japanese restaurant called Yuki’s in the hills and then back to BK’s to share a bottle of fucking delicious Archer Chardonnay.
Slept to night in a swag and fell asleep to the peaceful sounds of the resident male Koala calling for a mate.
Yetti & the Kokonut are David Geyer and Koen (a.k.a Koko) Janssens. The two met about 5 years ago while Koko was somming somewhere in Adelaide City and both decided they wanted to start experimenting with new ways of making wine. They’re an iconic duo, you can’t have Yetti without the Kokonut. We’re always happy when they walk into RSW wearing thongs and carrying an esky full of tasty treats for us to try.
Had an amazing sleep, can’t speak for Dan.
We woke up to gorgeous sunrise peeking through the tree tops. It was worth braving the Koala.
Made a couple of lattes down at the BK winery before heading back on the road again to Yetti & the Kokonut’s neck of the woods via Vanguardist wines. Where Michael put us to work yet again, this time wax sealing some bottle tops.
Dave and Koko had already picked and pressed most of their fruit so most of the hard work was over. The wine had been barrelled and racked and we drove around to each of their warehouses to collect AND TASTE samples.
Wine making is often up to chance. Particularly when you’re not sure what the weather will do from year to year. Each years vintage can be very different from the last as Koko spoke about while we were tasting.
This year was hard for all the wine makers involved but that have managed to produce some amazing wines.
We are bringing all these legends to Rising Sun Workshop on the 24th April to show off there wines, party and let their hair down. The Dollar Bin Darlings will be here to supply your ears with some sweet tunes while the RSW team feed and wine you.
If you haven’t got a ticket yet get some mates together and come meet your (wine)makers.