The Dombeya Scholarship

by Ntando Buthelezi, April 14 2009

Dombeya Scholarship 2009- Ntando in Australia, Part 7

I have sadly reached the end of my journey in Australia. And I am closing on the high note as I am a lover of red wines and sparkling wines, and I am in the Barossa Valley.

My first day, I spent some time with Louisa Rose of Yalumba. Not only is Yalumba the oldest family owned winery in Australia but they are also the pioneers of Viognier in Australia, with the first plantings in 1980. In fact, Yalumba has the largest number of commercial vines of Viognier in the Southern Hemisphere. Louisa has worked extensively with the variety which has gained her recognition in the wine industry and she is considered an industry leader.

What an amazing wine maker. She is so confident in what she does. I had to pinch myself to be in her presence. She oversees about ten wine makers in different states where Yalumba produces wine. How she does it, and still manages to be so humble and willing to share her experiences is amazing. She's not only a forward thinker but very innovative. She taught me that it's good to share ideas within the wine industry, that way you grow as winemakers.

I thank her for her time and sharing of ideas and giving me insight on what makes Yalumba such a dynamic company. Her achievements reflect the teacher that she is, she was named as Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine's "Wine Maker of the Year" in October 2008. She also judges Australian and International wine shows.

The rest of the week was spent at Kaesler Wines. Kaesler has about 92 hectares of vineyards with the following cultivars; Shiraz, Grenache, Mataro, Semillon, Riesling, Viognier and Cabernet Sauvignon.

They pick fruit according to soil type rather than block location. Most of the fruit is hand picked, off dry land blocks with sandy clay loam soils. Clay as subsoil helps retain the moisture in hot and dry weather conditions which are typical of the Barossa Valley.

The vintage for 2009 started the first week of February with their reds (Shiraz). At first I thought how strange until I realized it's normal to have 40 C temperatures and with the heat wave earlier this year temperatures went up to 47 C.

This week I felt as if Reid Bosward (winemaker & general manager) was psychic in terms of how much I am interested in palate training and blending. My other secret interest is the input of viticulturist during the wine making process.

I had so much fun. We had a lot of wine blending decisions to make this week. It was interesting how this evolves and how Nigel van der Zande (viticulturist) had so much input into the discussion and decision making. The whole team would get together at the winery, taste the different barrel samples, and Stephen Dew (winemaker) tells me the reason he values Nigel's input is that he is always a year behind him as he prepares the fruit the year before.

Stephen taught me that the key to a balanced wine is between the fruit, acid, alcohol, oak and tannin;you need to ensure that consumer desires are fulfilled as it's crucial in selling your wines. Kaesler's style of wine making and management has showed me that not only are they making well balanced wines but team work goes a long way in fulfilling that outcome!

Kaesler is not only conventional with their wine making but also with their marketing. If ever you spot wines named WOMS (weapon of mass seduction), Old Bastard and Secret Shit - Do Not Touch, pick up that bottle, it's definitely Kaesler at their best!

Producing wines under such hot conditions and still managing to make wines with intensity of flavour and pure balance, with high alcohol of at least 15 % is not easy. Kaesler makes it look like it's a walk in the park. Go on line, buy their wines you will see what I mean. OUT OF THIS WORLD!

Thank you so much to the Kaesler team for teaching me and giving me a new school of thoughts it was entirely refreshing and encouraging. A big thank you to Bindy Bosward (Reid's wife) the poor lady fed me dinner (great food) the whole week and invited me into her home, hosting me throughout the week.

P.S. Australia Rocks!! Voyager Estate, AWRI, University of Adelaide and Kaesler Estate even better!

Click here to go to Dombeya Wines website.