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Hastwell & Lightfoot Vineyards

McLaren Vale

A decades-old winery that produces elegant, and complex wines in South Australia

The partnership that is today’s Hastwell & Lightfoot Vineyards was a long time in the making. Two couples who had been friends for many years, decided to take an adventurous step and enter the wine business.

Mark and Wendy Hastwell were natives of South Australia. Martin and Jill Lightfoot were transplanted Australians who had embraced the lifestyle of Southern Australia and were old friends with the Hastwells.

On one occasion in 1988, Mark and Wendy were visiting one of his school friends at his McLaren Vale vineyard and were impressed with the lifestyle the vineyard offered. Told of a 20-acre block adjoining his friend’s vineyard, Mark immediately called Martin Lightfoot who agreed to enter the partnership. Unfortunately, the property owner said no but Mark Hastwell persisted in his quest. Three months later the owner relented and Hastwell & Lightfoot Vineyards became a reality.

“We were both in advertising,” recalled Mark Hastwell. “We had a desire to get out of the office and get dirt under our fingernails. We knew little about growing grapes but our advisor, Geoff Hardy, was a viticultural expert and our vineyard flourished.”

In 1991, the first wine under the Hastwell & Lightfoot label appeared, a minuscule 60 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon. More than twenty-five years later, the fortunes of this well-founded partnership have grown considerably.

From the original thirteen acres under vine, today’s vineyard holdings occupy more than 40 acres and comprise some rather unique varietals. In addition to the common Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, a number of exotic grapes fill the company’s portfolio. Included are Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Barbera, Montepulciano, Grenache, Fiano and Vermentino.

“We were aware that newfangled varietals offered us a better chance in the marketplace,” Hastwell continued. “There was a reason for their popularity increasing. We took note and chose what we wanted to plant with great care. Some growers only plant ‘safe’ varietals but we feel our company is still something of an adventure with great rewards available for those who take the chance and plant some not-so-common varietals.”

Awards and plaudits have pushed Hastwell & Lightfoot to the forefront of top producers. The fact that McLaren Vale has also been viewed as a world-class growing area has fueled the company’s growth and statue. It has remained a hands-on operation, blessed with younger family members to carry on in the future.

History of Australian Wines

Picture of History of Australian Wines

When considering that the modern Australian wine industry is less than 200 years old, it is ironic to consider the fact that the Land Down Under is listed as the world’s fourth largest exporter of wines. This was not always the case. Roughly forty years ago, most Australian wine was sold in a plastic bag inside a box, a result of which relegated the wine to a most basic status - cheap wine at modest prices.

The Australian Wine Renaissance of the mid-1980’s took care of many of Australia’s wine problems and even more so. Historic lows for the Australian dollar allowed the wholesale value to double. On two separate occasions this factor influenced both the domestic consumer price and the export consumer price, both of which grew by more than 50% over the next decade.

Today’s Australian wine industry continues to ride the wave of international popularity with no real end in sight. New wineries have continued to pop up throughout all of Australia’s 60 wine-producing regions. Wine has also become an integral part of the Australian culture. Fueled by a plethora of wine appreciation courses, wine bars and a large number of boutique wineries, the average Australian is actively supportive of the country’s wine prowess. Gone are the weekend trips to the beaches for many. Those outings have been replaced by vineyard tours and wine tastings that provide added fuel to the country’s wine explosion.

Practically every wine known to man is produced in Australia whose diverse climate and substantial microclimates offer a friendly environment for even difficult varietals to thrive.

The overall quality of Australian wines has far exceeded many expectations. High quality Australian wines have garnered top scores and medals by the proverbial bucket in competition with the best wines of other wine-producing nations.

College students can now study viticulture and winemaking in local universities (Charles Sturt University is the best school) and are assured of good jobs upon graduation.

But it is not just the climate and variety that makes Australian wine so successful. The National Wine Centre in Adelaide and the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre in New South Wales provide research in a number of scientifically-based wine arenas as well as consumer preferences around the world. The aforementioned centres interact with commercial vineyards and wineries to provide profitability and satiability for Australia’s growers and vintners.

It is also prudent to recall that Australia’s grape varietals continue to be untouched by the phylloxera epidemics that ravaged both Europe and California during the past two centuries.

Australian wines can now be found in more than 100 countries and Australia is listed as the fourth largest exporter of wine in the world. Wine-crazy Great Britain imports more wine from Down Under than it does from its world-class wine producing neighbor: France.

Many of Australia’s higher quality wineries have made it to the United States and many have proven wildly successful. The excellent price/value relationship that exists with Australian wines has been a boon to anyone interested in exploring the numerous offerings from Australia’s assorted wine regions.

It is our pleasure to introduce the wines of Hastwell & Lightfoot Vineyards to our International Wine Club members. Enjoy!

Australia Wine Regions

Picture of Australia Wine Regions

Australia is home to an amazing array of diverse climates and these are reflected in the country's unique and regionally distinct wine regions. This month's featured winery is from South Australia, one of the country's top wine producing states.

South Australia is responsible for almost 50% of Australia's annual production and it is home to some of the most famous regions, historic estates and oldest vines in the country. It is the driest state, but the Murray River supplies critical water for irrigation and the multitude of soils and varying altitude allows for a wide range of wine styles.

South Australian wine regions include: Clare Valley, Riverland, Barossa Valley, Eden Valley, Langhorne Creek, Adelaide Hills, Padthaway, McLaren Vale (this month's featured wine region), Southern Fleureu, Padthaway and Coonawarra.

Australia: Fun Facts!

Picture of Australia: Fun Facts!

• Australia has its own brand of football that consists of two teams of eighteen players and is played on an oval-shaped field, often a modified cricket ground. Players wear no pads but can tackle each other for any reason. Scoring consists of kicking the oval-shaped ball between two tall goal posts. Australian Rules Football is the country’s most watched sport and there is also a league for women (some 380,000 at last count) that mirror the men’s leagues.

• Australian slang for having a tantrum is “Carry on like a pork chop”. A crazy person is “Barmy as a bandicoot.” “She’ll be apples,” refers to a situation that will be resolved. “Quick as a koala on a sleepy day” refers to something slow and “Lower than a snake’s belly,” implies something untrustworthy or immoral. “Wouldn’t be dead for quids,” signifies one loving his/hers’ present situation. Lastly, when a person “Doesn’t have a sack” simply implies that person is bankrupt.

• Aussie Arthur Arnot is credited with inventing the world's first electric drill. Arno designed the drill to enable his employer to dig for coal. Countryman Gordon Withnall, another Aussie inventor, created the Super Sopper, a giant sponge for removing excess water from sporting grounds after his golf ball landed in a puddle while playing in 1974.

The Flag of Australia

Picture of The Flag of Australia

First chosen in 1901, the Australian flag is a defaced Blue Ensign with a Union Jack in the upper hoist quarter. A large white seven-pointed star, known as the Commonwealth Star, is located in the lower hoist quarter. The flag contains a representation of the Southern Cross Constellation and contains five white stars, one small five-pointed star and four seven-pointed stars.

The new flag replaced the Union Jack. A red version is used by Australia’s merchant shipping industry on Australian ships. There are additional flags utilized by the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, and the Australian Defense Force as well as flags honoring the country’s Aboriginal population and also a flag depicting the Torres Strait Islander heritage. Finally, the Royal Standard of Australia is Queen Elizabeth II’s personal flag in her role as Queen of Australia.

James Hastwell - Winemaker

Picture of James Hastwell - Winemaker

Winemaker James Hastwell, (Mark and Wendy’s son), decided to become a winemaker at the tender age of nine. He took part in planting the original vines at Hastwell & Lightfoot Vineyards while still in primary school. He followed his intuition into college and obtained a wine science degree from Adelaide University, graduating in 2001.

Each working vintage during his college career was spent at either Haselgrove Wines or Kay Brothers (the area’s oldest winery). He also worked for time at Australia’s iconic Rosemount Estate. Working abroad, he spent time at Cabernet-only producer Cardinale Winery in Napa Valley. In 2003, he became the winemaker for his parents’ Hastwell & Lightfoot Vineyards and hasn’t looked back since.

James Hastwell shares his parent’s passion for exploring new varietals and the challenges they provide in the winemaking arena. In 2003, James built his own winery in McLaren Vale, a short distance from his family’s most successful tasting room.