Pindarie 2016 Western Ridge Shiraz
For oenophiles like me, there’s an indisputable romance in wine, wineries and the vinicultural process. Sampling the product of other’s hard labour in the vineyard and expertise in the winery is enchanting, if not seductive; but for mine, there’s nothing more intoxicating than a good story about the journey of the people behind the brand. So, when I heard about the blood sweat and tears behind the transformation of the Pindarie Estate in South Australia’s Barossa Valley, I couldn’t help but dig deeper to learn more about their adventure in regeneration. And it’s an intriguing narrative!
In 1990, Tony Brooks and his partner Wendy Allan took over the family owned property on the western edge of the Barossa and set out on a journey to turn an over-cleared and somewhat barren agricultural plot into an environmentally sensitive and sustainable vineyard and cellar door of note.
Tony and Wendy were no strangers to the industry having met while studying at Roseworthy Agricultural College, and then taking different career paths before they embarked upon their Pindarie sojourn. Tony had managed feedlots in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan after completing his studies, while Wendy spent 12 years at Penfolds, climbing the corporate ladder to the point of being Senior Viticulturalist.
Over the last two decades, Tony and Wendy have changed the landscape on the family farm, planting over 12,500 trees and at the same time nurturing 35 hectares of vines since planting commenced in 1998. Together, they’ve made no secret of their belief in the need for sustainability, soil health and habitat and that “a great bottle of wine grows from the ground up”. Careful pruning ensures that bud numbers are regulated in order to keep yields low (and fruit intensity high) and all the while, biodynamic practices are engaged to ensure the balance of nature and a high quality of fruit.
Perhaps what is most fascinating about Tony and Wendy’s Pindarie fairytale is their conservation not just of the land, but the built environment. As a self-confessed action man, Tony can’t help but spend any spare time restoring and renovating original buildings on the property – often using recycled timber and stone quarried from the locale. The Pindarie cellar door is, in fact, an old chaff store and stable from the days of use as a grazing property. Tony meticulously rebuilt the dilapidated structure by hand, adding a contemporary pizzazz while respecting the history and authenticity of the original construction.
The sprawling vineyards at Pindarie produce fruit for a range of wines that includes cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, tempranillo and even montepulciano. Being situated in the Barossa, the climate is always going to be of a warm continental type, but a location within reach of ocean gives a hint of a Mediterranean influence.
The soils include sections of red loam on limestone which are the perfect setting for world-class cabernet (which is not what you’d expect in the Barossa) and the 2016 Black Hinge Reserve Shiraz Cabernet and 2016 Schoff’s Hill Cabernet don’t disappoint. Both are gifted with a generosity of fruit and luscious mouthfeel – though perhaps priced accordingly at $75 for the blend and $35 for the award-winning cabernet.
At the value end of the range is the 2016 Western Ridge Shiraz. It sells at around $25 a bottle and delivers the ripe, jammy plum and raisin characters that you’d expect from the region but shows an ingrained savoury leafiness that combines with medium tannins to round out a spice-laden conclusion. There’s a touch of heat on the front of the palate, but that doesn’t last thanks to the brooding red fruits that explode through the middle. Put it with quince paste and an aged cheddar and your taste buds will soon be dancing like no one is watching!
The Pindarie story is one of vision, hard work and a belief in ecological balance. But there’s nothing like seeing it for yourself, and if you get the chance, Tony, Wendy and their three kids will no doubt welcome you warmly at the cellar door.