When our family first settled on our beautiful ‘Taranga’ farm in McLaren Vale in 1841, they planted Shiraz, Grenache, Mataro and Doradillo vines. Fast forward 174 years, and not much has changed! Well, it is true that the Doradillo vines were lost some time ago, a victim of the change in consumer tastes away from Sherry. However, Shiraz still makes up 60% of our 110Ha vineyard. For good reason as well, as anyone who has enjoyed the infinite pleasures of a McLaren Vale Shiraz or Grenache can attest.
While this all sounds very traditional, there have been some changes afoot over the last 15 years. We had started to see the effects of climate change in our small piece of the world. Heat spikes and droughts were becoming more prevalent. Our winemaking philosophy was becoming more of a ‘hands-off’ one, wanting to let the vineyard express itself with as little in the form of additions (yeast, acid, tannin, sulfur, etc) as possible.
Thus, in the early 2000’s, we, the sixth generation to farm our land, started looking towards Southern Italy to learn more about their indigenous grape varieties. Luckily, at the same time, the Chalmers Family had imported a selection of 70 Italian varietals into Australia. Armed with plenty of the Australian “have a crack” mentality, but limited viticultural knowledge of the varieties, we jumped in feet first with Fiano, Sagrantino and Vermentino.
What we quickly discovered was that Fiano is a bit of a dream to grow in our vineyard. Drought tolerant, heat tolerant, disease tolerant, high natural acidity, later ripening than Shiraz, great textural natural tannins……Maybe we were onto something? Maybe the Italians have been onto something for millennia! Our adventure has continued with the floral, richly tannic and savoury Sagrantino, and the fresh, crisp, oyster shell-esque Vermentino.
To be sure, Shiraz and Grenache will continue to reign supreme in McLaren Vale for the foreseeable future, and the styles that you already know and love will not be at risk. But the Fiano, Vermentino & Sagrantino, along with the numerous other varieties being championed by other McLaren Vale producers, definitely add layers and richness to our wine offering. For those who are keen to come on a journey of exploration with us, there are many rewards to be reaped.
Oliver’s Taranga Vineyards
Winemaker & Director