The Australian - Wish Magazine - - DRINKING -

You could not find two wine re­gions more dif­fer­ent than Cham­pagne in north­ern France – his­toric home to the finest and most del­i­cate sparkling wines and dom­i­nated by lush, green vine­yards – and the Barossa Val­ley, whose sun­baked soils turn out bold and gen­er­ous red wine styles. But the two are brought to­gether by Brett Grocke and his Eper­osa win­ery. Named after both, it’s where the sub­tlety and re­straint of Eper­nay in Cham­pagne emerges in red wines with a truly Barossa heart that trace back al­most 200 years.

This is not a story of long-held vine­yards, raised by a fam­ily for decades; hand-tended vines, passed down through the years to a new gen­er­a­tion. It is more about a home­com­ing and a re­turn to the past – the Grocke fam­ily re­turn­ing to its roots of grape­grow­ing and vine­yard own­er­ship that started in the late 1800s.

Brett Grocke’s early mem­o­ries are teth­ered to Barossa roy­alty. Grow­ing up a stone’s throw from Moorooroo Park vine­yards, where rel­a­tive Sa­muel Nitschke had planted vine­yards al­most 200 years be­fore, he was also friends with Travis O’Cal­laghan, son of Robert O’Cal­laghan of Rock­ford Wines, which would later come in handy. “Robert knew me as a kid as I used to walk home with his son Travis and would of­ten spend an hour or so at their home wait­ing for my mum to pick me up. Travis and I of­ten watched Mon­key while drink­ing milk and eat­ing YoGos.” Yet, de­spite his long his­tory in this hal­lowed re­gion, young Grocke would have to build up his own legacy from scratch, the fam­ily’s vine­yard hold­ings hav­ing been sold off in the early 1990s.

Eper­osa be­gan in 2013 with Grocke’s first vine­yard pur­chase. After look­ing for over a decade, with a num­ber of dis­ap­point­ments, Grocke was more than happy with what he had found. The Mag­no­lia Rd prop­erty was, he says, “a wine­maker’s dream of old vine plant­ings”, with shi­raz vines from 1896, 1965, 1996 and 2010; semil­lon from 1941, 1971 and 1975; and gre­nache planted in 1950, to which he added gre­nache blanc.

And it was not long be­fore an­other op­por­tu­nity arose. “A few weeks after I bought the Mag­no­lia Rd vine­yard a Kron­dorf vine­yard came up for sale less than a kilo­me­tre from my orig­i­nal fam­ily home. I’d al­ways wanted to buy land back in the Kron­dorf vil­lage.” Money was tight but an old friend­ship would come in handy. Grocke went into part­ner­ship with Rock­ford wines to pur­chase the prop­erty, which had gre­nache plant­ings dat­ing back to 1903. He added mataro and five favourite clones of shi­raz, and built an un­der­ground, off-grid, so­lar-pow­ered win­ery. The in­fras­truc­ture was funded by his own viti­cul­tural con­sul­tancy, al­ready ser­vic­ing vine­yards around South Aus­tralia, although this has now been cut back to a bare min­i­mum as Eper­osa has grown.

The sus­tain­able win­ery and his own or­ganic viti­cul­tural philoso­phies fit neatly in the Barossan ex­pres­sion that is at the heart of Eper­osa – pow­er­ful and gen­er­ous wines but with a mea­sure of re­serve that are a re­jec­tion of the oaky, soupy, sump oil, black-as­night wines that were pop­u­lar a decade ago.

Min­i­mal ad­di­tions in the win­ery and no fin­ing or fil­tra­tion are just some of the ways that Grocke is look­ing to cre­ate the most hon­est Barossan ex­pres­sions. And pro­duc­tion is small, sourced al­most ex­clu­sively from the two vine­yards and pro­duc­ing at most 1000 cases per vin­tage.

With Grocke’s viti­cul­tural train­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence, though, it is no won­der he sees much of his work as be­ing in the vine­yard. “Viti­cul­ture is of ut­most im­por­tance and cru­cial to Eper­osa and its wines. I feel that I’m more of a farmer than a wine­maker.”

Tast­ing the Eper­osa range, the in­flu­ence of France’s Rhône Val­ley comes through quickly in their re­serve and savoury char­ac­ters as well as the va­ri­etal mix of shi­raz sup­ported by sig­nif­i­cant plant­ings of gre­nache, mataro and gre­nache blanc, which Grocke shows an un­com­mon in­ter­est in. Quite early in his ca­reer in 2003 Grocke was se­lected for a Barossa-Rhône ex­change and spent a month hosted by winer­ies through­out the re­gion with plenty of time in lo­cal vine­yards and cel­lars. “I prob­a­bly don’t give this the credit it’s due in shap­ing what I do now, but I think there’s a lot of al­most sub­con­scious di­rec­tion given from the ex­pe­ri­ences of that trip,” he says.

Yet while the out­side in­flu­ence is strong, these wines are still un­mis­tak­ably Barossa, with more than a touch of se­ri­ous sub­tlety and style.


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