Andy Kalleske grows our Cemetery Vineyard Shiraz at Ebenezer, Barossa Valley.
My parents bought this land back in the 1970s. It was just bare farming land but they thought it’d be good grape country because of the soil. It’s really old, ancient soil. We actually find fossils on this hill occasionally, which apparently are about 100 million years old. It’s pretty cool.
On the main Barossa Valley floor, the Para River went through and cut it out a bit, changed it, and then the hills rose a little. But we’re told this area hasn’t changed much for a couple hundred million years. You see a lot of old ironstone lying around, which used to cover the whole ground. Over the years that’s broken down and you get these really tight red clays. We’re on a slope as well, so any topsoil that has developed gets washed off a bit.
So the soil’s not as fertile and therefore the vine has to struggle it’s way through. You get smaller, more intense berries. The wine itself is very dark and that’s just a factor of the berries being small. With that skin to pulp ratio, the skin level is quite high so you get a lot of colour out of those skins.
And it’s just that slow ripening. We’re a bit higher here and north-facing so it does get a bit of heat. The vine can hang on during the heat, there’s deep red clays there so it can access that moisture, but only slowly and that keeps everything quite small. You get some nice firm tannin structure as a result of the cold nights as well, I think. That up and down ripening, warm days and then it dips cold, that really builds structure in your wines. It’s almost like a desert here sometimes, it gets really cold at night.
We go back six generations. My first ancestor came to Australia in 1838 from what was Prussia. He settled in Hahndorf and then his sons moved to the Barossa in the late 1840s. They settled in Greenock and started to grow grapes there. My dad was brought up on that property. He left school when he was 12 to work in the family vineyard then eventually left and started his own business, planted vines and bought some old vineyards. Mum was a farm girl from Eudunda. She’s a good egg, Barb. Barbwire, I call her.
I left school after Year 12 and started grape growing and I’ve been doing it ever since. I make a bit of wine as well now, with Mum and Dad. That’s our history in a nutshell.
We’ll definitely be growing here for a long time. This vineyard was planted back in 1998 and these vines are getting to that age where you can expect good quality. As a vine gets older, yields drop a little bit and they just find their balance, find their feet. It’s been a good block for probably five or 10 years now.
The meaning of life? Drink wine. And shitloads of it … from this block, of course.