By Kaia Wallis
You can’t make great wine without great produce – at least, that’s the belief of Kellermeister winemaker and owner Mark Pearce, who last week took home the award for best wine in the world.
The Lyndoch winery’s Wild Witch Shiraz – a 2015 vintage – took out Wine of the Year recently at the prestigious London Wine Competition, while also being ranked as the competition’s best Australian wine and best shiraz.
“It’s a Barossa sub-regional blend, it includes components from more elevated regions of the Barossa like Eden Valley which bring elegance, blue fruit, and more savoury characters along with the darker fruits from the Barossa Valley floor,” Mark says.
“Blending can create synergy, it can produce a wine that’s got great power and greater aromatics, which with moderate oak influence and alcohol levels can express the sense of place with more distinction.”
The Barossa Valley is one of Australia’s only wine regions to have neighbouring warm and cool climates – with the warmer Barossa Valley, famous for its shiraz, and the cooler Eden Valley, known for its riesling.
“When I’m making wine in the Barossa I’m looking to express the strengths of the region and shiraz is primarily what makes the Barossa famous, because it has such a strong signature,” Mark says.
South Australia is indisputably Australia’s wine state – producing 50% of the nation’s annual wine and 75% of premium wine – and was recognised as a world leading wine producer in 2016, when it joined the prestigious group of Great Wine Capitals, a global network of wine regions including Bordeaux (France) and San Francisco (US).
Wine Australia data revealed the value of SA’s wine exports have grown around 7% over the past year and Mark expects an award like this to draw more attention to the state and Barossa region.
“Such a strong showing on the international stage is great for our state, our beautiful Barossa region and for Kellermeister. We’re thrilled,” he says.
Since taking out the top gong, Mark says interest has poured in from consumers and traders looking to taste the world’s best wine.
“We’ve had a lot of interest since the award, our website even went down at one point – which is a good sign,” he says.
“I think the state should be more recognised globally and an award like this will help with that; people are wanting to look at the wine, taste it, drink it and collect it.”
Kellermeister’s win is the latest in a string of recent accolades, including two gold medals at last year’s Syrah du Monde international wine competition in France where it ranked as Australia’s best shiraz producer.
But while Mark has led Kellermeister – established in 1976 – to global success, he only made the plunge into winemaking in 2012, when he purchased the winery after serving as its general manager since late 2009.
“It’s been a journey for me, coming from a pure business, financial background through to immersing myself in winemaking,” Mark says.
“I’ve learnt that to make great wine you need a good palate and a vision. Then it’s about getting hold of the best produce you can and being disciplined in your execution of the craft to create that vision.”
The Barossa has a strong history dating back to 1842 and is home to some of the world’s oldest vineyards – which Mark says are one of the region’s highlights.
“I think we’re at an advantage in the Barossa, we’ve got some of the oldest vines in the world to work with, so the raw produce is quite exceptional. It helps us create wine that is genuinely world class,” he says.
“It’s like cooking. You can’t make a good dish with average produce; you can only make a great dish with great produce; and the same goes for wine.”
The winemaker says the key to Kellermeister’s recent success is its emphasis on quality over quantity, with Mark choosing to produce higher-quality wine at lesser volumes.
“We’re a boutique winery and I want to stay that way because it’s how you make great quality wine,” he says.
“I’m in the vineyards tasting the fruit, making the picking decisions and then I’m back in the winery supervising and tasting the ferment and then doing the blending.
“When you’re our size this can all happen with one person, and being one nose, one palate and one set of eyes can give you a big advantage on picking the fruit when it’s ready, leading to a better outcome, to better wine.”
Feature image: the award winning Wild Witch, which Mark says pairs great with ‘anything grilled’.
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