Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dr AC Kelly 19th Century Hero - History of McLaren Vale - Part 2

Dr AC Kelly - The original winehero.
To quote Dr A C Kelly from Winegrowing in Australia published in 1867 -

'The time has come when the winegrowers of this colony must bestir themselves and boldly face the difficulties before them. They must be prepared to take their stand on the ground already occupied by the experienced winegrowers of Europe.

'All have a direct interest in each other's success, for according to the quality of wine produced for export will be our status as a winegrowing country.

'No petty jealousies need stand in the way of that friendly rivalry to produce the best wine which ought to be the endeavour of each winegrower.'

Now is here was a pioneer...

Alexander Charles Kelly (1811-1877), winegrower and medical practitioner, was born on 5 June 1811 at Leith, Scotland, son of John Kelly, agent of the British Linen Co.'s Bank, and his wife Margaret, née Porteus. Alexander was educated in France and Scotland, and studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh (M.D., 1832). After practicing briefly in Scotland, he became a surgeon aboard the East India Co. ship Kellie Castle; he kept a vividly written and illustrated journal of the voyage from England to Bengal in 1833.

Later, Kelly visited Canada, where he became interested in the problems of popular education, then returned to Scotland and practiced medicine at or near Dunbar. Perhaps inspired by his brother Thomas Bell Kelly, who had migrated to South Australia in 1839, he followed, arriving in the Baboo on 11 March 1840. Kelly was enrolled as the twelfth name in the medical register of South Australia and set up at Port Adelaide. In June 1842 he was made resident dispenser at Adelaide Hospital. He bought 80 acres (32.4 ha) of land west of Morphett Vale, south of Adelaide; the official title was dated 21 August 1843, although he probably occupied the land earlier. Here he built his home, Trinity, and planted his first vineyard, about 1845.

On 1 November 1854 Kelly married Annie Frances Worthington, in the Church of Scotland, Morphett Vale. He drew on the writings of French and other European authorities, which he translated and commented on, for his first book, The Vine in Australia (Melbourne, 1861); it introduced wine chemistry and modern science to Australian winegrowers and was so popular that it was reprinted next year. His Wine-Growing in Australia (Adelaide, 1867) followed. Kelly's two influential books did much to establish Australian technical expertise in viniculture.

In November 1862 he and five of Adelaide's businessmen—(Sir) Thomas and Alexander Lang Elder, (Sir) Samuel Davenport, Robert Barr Smith and (Sir) Edward Stirling—formed the Tintara Vineyard Co., with Kelly as manager. Next year he sold Trinity to concentrate on clearing the 213 acres (86.3 ha) of heavily-timbered country near McLaren Vale which the trustees had bought in December 1862, and on planting vines, building cellars and, eventually, making mainly table wine. In 1871 Tintara shareholders sent him to London to search for new markets. The difficulties of an English market more accustomed to the strong, coarse wines of Spain and Portugal, financial depression in the colony and intercolonial tariffs that disadvantaged South Australian wines contributed to the demise of the company. In September 1877 it was announced that Thomas Hardy had purchased the vineyard, with 27,000 gallons (122,742 litres) of wine. The land was not transferred to Hardy until June 1878.

In 1868 Kelly had given articulate evidence before a parliamentary select committee on education reflecting his long-standing interest in the subject. A photographic portrait of him later in life showed a clear, kindly, open face with silvery hair and a full white beard. In 1876 he retired to his home at Norwood, where he died of bronchitis on 9 October 1877. He was buried in Clayton Chapel cemetery, Kensington, survived by his wife, three daughters and two sons, one of whom (John) was involved in the wine industry. An obituarist noted Kelly's 'obliging disposition . . . his kindness to people in straitened circumstances . . . high character, benevolence, and kindly genial manner'.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

McLaren Facts - Winemaking Behind the Scenes.

Hot town: McLaren Vale’s consistent warm summer climate and coastal proximity areis ideally suited to super premium winegrape production.
Seaview: McLaren Vale is one of the few areas in the world where grapes are grown so close to the ocean. Many of the best vineyards have a view to the Gulf of St Vincent.

Trad is rad: McLaren Vale has strong traditions. Our winemaking history dates back to 1838- with vines still in production from Dr AC Kelly’s original farm ‘Upper Tintara’ - section 605- hundred of the township of McLaren Vale. Old vines in McLaren Vale are responsible for wines that regularly win top awards around the world.

Big time: McLaren Vale is one of the top three producing regions in South Australia with 6,523 hectares of vines planted. Wine and tourism are the biggest employers in the area.

Black grape: The grapegrowers of McLaren Vale have a particular way of speaking about their produce. An old-time McLaren Vale grapegrower calls their red wine making fruit- ‘my black grapes’. Modern testing techniques have shown they are right! McLaren Vale produces some of the highest colour scores in grapes ever recorded. The grapes are not soft red like other regions when ripe they leave a purple stain.

Crush: The area has one major grape variety, Shiraz with 3,218 hectares planted. Other major varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon with 1,288 ha planted and, Chardonnay with 722 ha planted and Grenache with 402 ha - much of this as dry-grown bush vines.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Young but not in a hurry

Article in the Australian - 15/8/2009 -

If you want to taste the youthful enthusiasm pulsing through McLaren Vale's wine community right now, visit Justin McNamee at Samuel's Gorge.

This wonderfully quirky cellar-door hideout is in a converted 1850s barn on a sheer ridgetop overlooking the Onkaparinga River. With a low-walled garden, stone floors, ancient olive presses and tiny rooms stuffed with barrels of red wine, it’s a cross between a remote Sardinian shepherd’s hut and a Burgundian cellar. Like a wild-haired alchemist-philosopher, McNamee dispenses shots of energy and wisdom from behind a huge, chunky espresso machine plonked on the tasting counter.

“In the last few years all we've read about and heard about is the doom and gloom of the wine industry," he says, knocking back another short black. But that's not what I see in McLaren Vale. Here, there’s an explosion of young people saying, ‘Times are tough, but what can we do to change things around?’ And then just doing it. It’s f..king brilliant, I reckon.”

“Doing it” means, first, drought-proofing the region: as with almost 50 per cent of the vineyards in the Vale, the grapes at Samuel’s Gorge are irrigated with reclaimed wastewater. “Doing it” means throwing away the chemicals: close to a quarter of all the region’s vineyards are now farmed using organic and biodynamic methods. “Doing it” means both embracing the region’s traditions (McNamee’s grenache and shiraz are fermented in big old slate vats rescued from an overgrown paddock) and exploring new grapes such as tempranillo.

“It’s all about getting good grainy texture in the wines to counter McLaren Vale’s natural juiciness,” he says. “There’s been a lot of apathetic winemaking here in the past, during the boom times, because we get the sunshine, we get the sweet fruit. But mid-palate opulence is easy. Complexity’s the hard part.”

McNamee is building that complexity by carefully blending grapes from the Vale’s many distinct terroirs – “tar flavours from the seaside vines, spice from our own south-facing hillside vines, chunky fruit from the black, black clays” – and building structure through extended skin and lees contact. “I take my time,” he says. “It’s the Slow Food philosophy applied to wine. No rush.”

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A terrible waste of ink...

PR guff in the format of news. This article appeared in the Daily Wine News of 6/8/2009.

I have never been to Shoalhaven. Based on the misleading, misinformed information below, I never will. My comments are in bold italics below.

Shoalhaven Wineries lead the way in use of social media and harvest technologies

Shoalhaven wineries are leading the way in the use of social media in Australia to attract new visitors to wineries and investing heavily in new equipment in their ongoing quest to develop high quality, market leading wines.
Rajarshi Ray, owner of the dual branded Silos Estate and Wileys Creek wineries commented "We were the first winery in Australia to develop a Twitter presence, and this has attracted a whole new range of people – local and overseas — finding out about us and the South Coast region.

There have been many on Twitter who question this. They believe that Silos Estate was not the first to use this technology. 
Additionally Silos Estates only have 21 followers on Twitter and you do not follow anyone else. This would lead to questions on the validity of their social media credentials.

He added, "Earlier this year, we preceded this by being amongst the first wineries in Australia to have a Facebook and Skype presence. These tools allow us to engage with customers and visitors alike in an ongoing conversation about our wineries — and the wine region as a whole."
For context Silos Estates have 21 followers. Why is this news? Teusner Wines has 20x more followers, and would have a greater claim to be a proponent of using social media.

Further down the coast, Louise Cole, owner of Cambewarra Estate pointed to the use of mechanical harvesters for their picking season as key to the improvement in their wine quality in recent years. "Not only has the cost of labour been reduced, but most importantly the crushing can now be done on site before we send to our winemaker as picking is so much faster. This makes a dramatic difference to the quality of the end product," she said.

It has been so successful other winemaking regions are now using our equipment to make a similar level of improvement in their wines" she added.  

Machine harvesters have been used since the 1970's. That technology is older than I am. If you have just discovered it - congratulations, but please don't be offended if I tell you that this is irrelevent to the rank and file wine industry.

Sometimes there is an anger in me. I feel this 'news story' is Nero fiddling while Rome burns. There is real news out there.

Reply from Silos Estate:

Dear James,

We hope this e-mail finds you well.

We were doing some work this evening and came across your blog... and your notes. Certainly not our intention to mislead, but we were advised fairly early in the piece that we were the first winery to go for Twitter. We set up a Facebook page almost a year and a half ago, but were not sure about the technology... and indeed what it meant so we never discussed it. We were asked by several wine commentators to encourage other wineries to look at the use of socal technology... hence the comments in the press release.

The harvester comments are interesting and valid, but remember for small winery regions like the Shoalhaven... this does represent a big advance, as most of the time they are sending it offsite uncrushed and creating quality problems during transport. At a total regional crush of less than 500 tonnes at present, for wineries like Cambewarra this is a big advance (we only do 20 tonnes and it’s all hand picked but processed on site).

We wish you success with this years vintage (we have already had bud burst!) and look forward to reading more of your comments (for good or bad!) in future.

Your Hosts,

Sophie and Rajarshi