Planted to­gether, a prod­uct of love

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence -

HOW can two peo­ple with such dif­fer­ent back­grounds meet and make their life to­gether, as have Sabine Deisen and Les Fen­som? Deisen’s ac­count is so lyri­cal and po­etic that their odyssey be­comes even more won­drous.

Fen­som was an elec­tri­cian and builder liv­ing in the out­back for sev­eral years, su­per­vis­ing the build­ing of bridges and cul­verts on the Stu­art High­way. This was where he met Deisen more than 20 years ago.

Af­ter that he helped build the greens at the Ta­nunda golf course in South Aus­tralia’s Barossa Val­ley.

So when the wine boom took hold, it was a nat­u­ral move to build vine­yards and de­sign and in­stall ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems.

Deisen was born in Dus­sel­dorf, Ger­many, her fa­ther a mu­si­cian, her mother an opera singer. In 1964 they im­mi­grated to Aus­tralia. ‘‘ Both my par­ents were at the peak of their ca­reers yet dis­en­chanted that their lives had be­come so driven, so far away from na­ture, soil and time with their kids,’’ Deisen says.

Af­ter two years in Ade­laide they bought a tiny strip of land at McLaren Flat, rent­ing a house in nearby Ble­witt Springs.

‘‘ The block had ev­ery­thing: shi­raz, cur­rants, quinces, prunes and apri­cots. My mother was in her el­e­ment, fi­nally liv­ing with the land, while my fa­ther thrived on his bal­ance be­tween the trac­tor work and still play­ing mu­sic,’’ Deisen says. ‘‘ In all this we took a gi­ant step back fi­nan­cially, but I never for­get my sense of wealth and pros­per­ity liv­ing in what seemed like God’s gar­den.’’

When Deisen was 14, her par­ents bought a 32ha prop­erty on the west­ern side of the Barossa, half planted with old vines, half a dairy farm. Two hectares of trees and shrubs were planted around the house but, in 1985, un­able to sell the shi­raz and grenache from the 80-year-old vines, Deisen’s mother fol­lowed oth­ers at the time and pulled out the vines. Part of the land was de­voted to an or­chard and groves of olives and al­monds.

Deisen had been an artist (with a bent for land­scape de­sign) for 15 years be­fore the fam­ily made the de­ci­sion in 1997 to re­plant the vines, leav­ing the nat­u­ral fea­tures that Deisen had land­scaped, with tiny blocks be­tween ar­eas of gar­den, for­est and hedges.

Not­with­stand­ing that Fen­som was still work­ing full time else­where, they did all the work them­selves. ‘‘ A bot­tle of wine ac­com­pa­nied most evenings. I re­call park­ing our glasses on top of the posts as we worked our way down the row and back,’’ Deisen says.

They now have 10ha of vines, mainly shi­raz, with 1.6ha of grenache and 1ha of mourve­dre, or mataro as it is still doggedly, al­beit in­cor­rectly, called in the Barossa. There’s room for some more mourve­dre and a cou­ple of rows of ries­ling. (‘‘I love to drink it, even though we only sell a few dozen,’’ Deisen says.)

As planned, some of the shi­raz is sold to Rock­ford and John Du­val (dis­crim­i­nat­ing buy­ers, if ever there were) but part of the har­vest goes to mak­ing the Deisen wines.

What was not in­tended was that the cou­ple should be­come self-taught, book-in-hand wine­mak­ers. (Fen­som did a course at Re­gency TAFE.) All the batches are very small, down to 20 dozen, and this is the way it will re­main.

Deisen has the last word: ‘‘ For Les it’s a sense of achieve­ment; for me it’s my love for the aes­thetic that re­wards me, not just in the fin­ished prod­uct but in the whole process of mak­ing it.

‘‘ I love the still­ness in the air while watch­ing the last of the free-run wine drain out of the press in a pink and red swirl; or the heav­enly scent of fer­ment­ing grenache when you walk past the open vats at night. I wanted to make truly beau­ti­ful wines, hand­craft­ing them, hand-la­belling them with a bunch of happy ladies who en­joy the work, work­ing in the bar­rel shed with the af­ter­noon sun stream­ing through a small win­dow, touch­ing the round bel­lies with gold.

‘‘ All this takes time. To do things with love takes time.’’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.