For the Kalleskes, it’s a Vine Thing

With seven generations of farming at Greenock behind them, you could say without fear of contradiction that the Kalleske family didn’t rush headlong into making their first wine.

With seven generations of farming at Greenock behind them, you could say without fear of contradiction that the Kalleske family didn’t rush headlong into making their first wine.  

With their winemaking facilities finally set up in 2002, and a first commercial release in 2004, winemaker Troy and his vigneron brother Tony now run one of the most highly regarded young wineries in the Barossa’s top end.  

In winemaking terms, Troy Kalleske certainly did his prep; after finishing oenology in the 1990s, he went to Penfolds and Seppeltsfield as part of the Southcorp graduate winemakers program, with a stint over the border at Seppelt Great Western. He squeezed in a vintage in Sonoma, California, and also worked for Lindeman’s at Karadoc (Mildura), and for Rolf Binder at Veritas and Miranda Rovalley in the Barossa.  

But for all his professional patina, Troy believes that the quality of the Kalleske range – from the sub-$20 Clarry’s Grenache-Shiraz-Mataro to the super-premium Johann Georg Old Vine Single Vineyard Shiraz  – rests more on what happens in the vineyard than in the vats.  

The Kalleske vineyards have had organic certification for the past 15 years, but the principles were introduced decades earlier by Troy’s parents, John and Lorraine, whom he describes as local pioneers in organic and biodynamic grape-growing and farming. Kalleske says that as well as “doing the right thing” by the environment and the workers, avoiding chemicals “makes a more natural, genuine, authentic wine”.  

Natural fruit flavours are front and centre in the Clarry’s GSM, a wine whose very raison d’etre, Kalleske says, is drinkability. Certainly it was this character that earned it a top 10 spot in The Adelaide Review’s Hot 100 South Australian Wines.

“It’s easy drinking, medium to full in body and in terms of weight; being Grenache, it is has soft tannins and it’s only been in old barrels, and for a limited time,” Kalleske says.  

“It’s all about the fruit: round, lush, rich, enjoyable fruit.”  

If a 160-year history at Greenock furnished the brothers with a swag of Prussian forebears after whom to name their wines, the tradition of grape-growing that flourished alongside stock and crops also left them a precious legacy in the vineyard. While the oldest vines contributing to the Clarry’s date back to the Second World War, a few rows of vines among the 120 hectares at Kalleske’s were planted in the century before last.  

“We’re lucky to have some very old vines on the property which give us quality fruit, so that makes the winemaking very straightforward – I just try not to stuff it up, really, in the winery.”  

And although the grapes now dominate the landscape and the balance sheet, the mixed farming continues.  

The critical acclaim afforded the 2011 Clarry’s – it also picked up two trophies, one for Best Australian Red and one for Best GSM, at the London International Wine Challenge last year – is all the more remarkable in view of the nature of the vintage.  

2011 brought the wettest and coldest growing season in memory, and with it vicious cycles of mildew and mould. Things looked especially grim for exponents of organic viticulture, whose philosophy doesn’t permit resort to the prophylaxis of sulphur sprays.

“There were plenty of people around who thought we were going to be screwed,” Kalleske says.  

But nemesis did not materialise: the Kalleske vines remained virtually disease-free, an outcome Kalleske believes is testament to the way the grapes are grown. ”For us to be able to pick all of our grapes in 2011, and for them to be of good quality as well, shows that the health of the soil and the health of the vines were of a really high calibre.”  

“In terms of the natural biological side of things, I think it really proves and shows itself in tough years.”


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