By David Sly
Mark Mader has always known there’s something special about a part of the Barossa where his family first planted vines on Gumpara vineyard 90 years ago. Now he has a major award for his shiraz to prove it.
Gumpara 2014 Hexen Shiraz was named second behind Penfolds’ Grange in Winestate Magazine’s 13th International Syrah and Shiraz challenge, announced in September.
In Mark’s eyes, the prestigious award is a long overdue stamp of recognition for the largely unheralded Light Pass sub-region of the Barossa where Gumpara vineyard is located.
“More sub-regions of the Barossa are being identified on wine labels as the source of exceptional and distinctive fruit, but Light Pass is one area that should be a lot more famous for the quality of what is produced,” says Mark.
He points to the unusual mix of ironstone, marble and terra rosa clay in the Barossa’s gentle north-eastern hillside soils as the reason for the intensity and length of Light Pass fruit flavours.
Mark says the Gumpara brand name clearly explains the significance of his vineyard, which is laid out beside the North Para River and flanked by ancient gum trees.
Its position captures cool gully winds through the summer that bring a unique complexity to the fruit, according to Mark. He identifies this in the best 20 tonnes of fruit from the vineyard that he keeps for Gumpara Wines (the remaining 140 tonnes is sold to Peter Lehmann Wines).
Now Mark and his wife Mandy are keen to share and explain the story of their Light Pass vineyard when they open the Gumpara Wines cellar door to public visitors on November 24.
After many years of supporting two daughters playing high-level basketball through their teenage years, Mark and Mandy now say they’ve got the necessary time to host cellar door visitors – and enough stock to warrant a cellar door presence. While the first Gumpara wines were released 18 years ago, volumes were initially very small.
“Our growth has been cautious. We haven’t wanted to carry massive debt,” explains Mark.
“Our family has traditionally been grape growers selling to other wineries, so it was a big step for me – the sixth generation on this land – to start making wine. It’s been a great thrill to identify how exceptional our fruit is.”
For a while, Gumpara was part of a collaborative cellar door with several other boutique Barossa labels, sharing a rented shop in Tanunda’s main street, but the arrangement proved difficult to manage and stopped after a few years.
Now, an old shed on the Gumpara vineyard has been re-purposed and refitted with timbers salvaged from the 1857 Light Pass Church Manse, and a 4m Redgum slab used as the bar. It will now be open for regular public tastings on weekends, by appointment.
Visitors will be able to purchase the limited-release $240 Hexen Shiraz, named after an old Silesian “witch”, Mutter Jaeckel, who lived near the Gumpara vineyard and created homeopathic remedies for the first Barossa settlers in the 1840s.
This is the first release of this wine – the culmination of a five-year project, sourced from vines up to 90 years old. It replaces the Reserve Shiraz as Gumpara’s flagship wine, which was also a significant award-winner, taking third place in Winestate’s 2012 International Syrah and Shiraz Challenge.
Cellar door visitors seeking a more modest wine will find great value in Gumpara Victor’s Old Vine Shiraz ($32), which also registered the maximum five-star rating in this year’s Winestate International Shiraz Challenge.
Mark is confident that his small cellar door will help bring visitors to Light Pass, and feels the time is right to put this overlooked part of the Barossa on the map.
“A lot of the fruit grown in the Light Pass area has traditionally been sold to big wineries, but never identified on the bottle as a source,” he says.
“There’s a few small cellar door tasting rooms – Pete Scholz’s The Willows, Gibson Wines, Ben Chipman’s Tomfoolery Wines – but it’s not really known as a region to visit.
“I think it’s time to shine a brighter light on the place and highlight what we have here that’s special.”
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