The next generation of Barossa producers are here, and they’d like to meet you.
The Barossa’s new guard
As a wine region, the heritage of the Barossa weighs heavy on the minds of all South Australians, but there is a new generation emerging and challenging the region’s long-held identity.
As part of Barossa Gourmet Weekend, The Young and The Restless is an event bringing together the Barossa’s smaller producers, all of whom are leading the revolution.
What’s your history in distilling?
My history in the industry is fairly recent. We’ve only just completed all of our licensing, so I’m one of the new breed, you’d call us, that have discovered our passion and our drive to make things happen.
Why move into distilling?
I wanted to make pastis. My grandfather was a five-foot-four Frenchman that married a six-foot-two German blonde, and one of my earliest memories of him was drinking this cloudy licorice. He was being a bit naughty and showing a kid what his favourite drink was… It was sort of something that had been dwelling in the back of my mind for a very long time.
I had to figure out how to make alcohol, and then to make alcohol and put the right herbs in it to make the pastis work properly was a lot more experimentation.
Trying to do it on the small-scale didn’t seem to work, so when my mother-in law and father-in-law bought an orchard, [it] proved another catalyst to say ‘What are we going to do with all of this fruit?’ So we’ve been figuring out ways to soak them in alcohol, get their flavours into the alcohol. So that accelerated it even further.
What is your current range of gins?
At the moment we’re making a particular savoury-style gin called The Matriarch… It’s a very savoury, green olive, rosemary, juniper kind of gin. It’s a very close cousin to a dirty martini, quite finely balanced so you can use it for cocktail, or just gin and tonic with some ice and lime.
We also make a sloe gin, I went and got a biosecurity import permit from the Government so I could import traditional sloe berries from the United Kingdom, and we make a sloe gin from that, but… it’s a rare breed.
And we’re making a maritime strength, which is more of a dry London-style gin.
We also do a gin school, where people can use five-litre tabletop stills and create their own gin recipe, and then basically distill it.
We’re sort of continuing that tradition of passing on what we learn to the next person, to grow the industry that way, so that we’re all working together, which is actually one thing the Barossa is known for. I want to keep that alive.
How is the Barossa changing?
The Barossa traditionally has been known for the big houses, the Wolfblasses, the Jacobs Creeks, the Yalumbas, St Hallets, the Rockfords – the ones that have been carrying the flag.
All of those brands have been established and pushing, but there is a new breed of young guys who are challenging that mould, who are taking varietals and moving in new directions, trying new techniques… so they’re not these crystal clear ready-to-serve table drinks that consumers are always, apparently, craving.
What we’re finding in the Barossa at the moment is a lot of people who are willing to risk themselves and experiment and challenge those old paradigms of what a wine, or a gin in my case, should be.
How do you fit into the Barossa’s new generation?
I don’t actually think I do represent the new generation, I think I represent a little bit of the old generation, in regards to, my mentor, PJ Wall, was actually crucial in the development of the Yalumba Whisky Project.
The larger winery houses would have their own stills so they could make their own spirit to fortify their own wines, so there’s an art and a craft being revived, and being taken in a new direction, I think.
So I’m not representing the new wave, I’m kind of reviving the old and putting my own spin on it.
Is there anyone else on The Young and The Restless lineup you’re excited to hang out with?
The Brothers at War, I tried their reds, and I have to give them huge credit for what they’ve done. They’ve taken the normal varieties, and they’ve given them a challenge.
What other events will you be involved with over Barossa Gourmet Weekend?
We’ve decided to camp ourselves outside of the Tanunda Visitors Centre, so basically the village square, right next to the pedestrian lights in the middle of the main street of Tanunda [and] we’re going to set up a gin bar.
We’re going to be putting together different sessions throughout the day highlighting different combinations of food and gin. So we’re doing things like oysters, hiramasa kingfish ceviche, but with gin instead of vinegar, so we’re mixing those flavours together.
We’ll be serving a unique take on a Barossa fried chicken, and then we’ve got some contacts in the chocolate industry who are going to show off all of their chocolate and do some espresso martinis in the latter part of the day to get people warmed and excited about their evening events.
Arno Wine Co.
What’s your history in winemaking?
We moved to the Barossa in November 2005. Ruby [Stobart, business partner and wife] was at Two Hands Wines, the cellar door manager at the time, so we moved up from Adelaide and shortly after that started working in the wine business.
I did a vintage at Two Hands in 2006, was my first foot in the door into a winery, and then not long after that finished I moved on to work for Murray Street Vineyards, and I’ve been there for the last 11 years, and have since resigned to start our own venture.
Where did the idea for Arno Wine Co. come about?
I always thought that I really wanted to work for ourselves, and start our own business and concentrate on that.
Arno is our son’s name, so we named our little band after that, but what we’re trying to achieve is to produce wines that are respectful to the soil and the environment, and basically try and show the new Barossa style.
What is the Arno Wine Co. range currently available?
At the moment we have a 2017 semillon, a 2014 mataro, 2013 cabernet, and a 2015 shiraz, and we have a Grenache 2017 which will be released around October.
It only launched a few weeks ago, basically. Everything’s all labelled up, we’re all up and running and ready for market.
What is it like to set up in a region with such heritage, like the Barossa?
The beauty of the Barossa is a lot of people help each other out, so a lot of our small producers that we call our peers, everyone’s willing to help us out. But definitely daunting to leap out and start your own venture in a, not to say flooded industry, but there are a lot of guys out there trying to have a go of it.
How do you fit into the new generation of Barossa winemakers?
I think we’re going away form those bigger, riper, over-oaked shiraz. I think style is coming back a bit; they’re lower alcohol, lesser oak, a bit more respectful – this is in the small-producer scale, I think, and that’s where I see the changes.
With our style, and branding, and wine styles, that drinkability, early drinking sort of stuff, that’s what’s fitting in with the new guys, and a lot of people are moving towards, not natural wine, but the less intervention, which is what we’re all about. Wild ferments, minimal oak, that’s how we sort of fit in.
Is there anyone else on The Young and The Restless lineup that you’re excited to hang out with?
Brothers at War, Sam Wardlaw, he was my cellar hand when I was at Murray Street. I worked with him for about five years, he was my offsider, so it’s great to see him having a go himself, launching his small band.