A top-rated winery nestled in the Barossa Valley
Of the three great growing areas for Australian wins, the Barossa Valley of South Australia can lay claim to the fact that it is the country's oldest, and in the opinion of many connoisseurs throughout the world, also the finest wine producing region in the country.
Originally named by Colonel William Light for the Barrosa Region in Spain where he had fought in the Spanish Peninsula War, the name became misspelled due to the general illiteracy of the times. The word literally means 'Hill of Roses' and is home to one of the most beautiful wine valleys in the entire world.
The Barossa Valley is situated about seventy miles north of Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia. It was settled in the early 1840's by a number of German Lutheran farmers who had fled their homeland due to economic problems as well as religious persecution and who had sought a place to reestablish their lives. For the next three generations, the Germans, along with their language and culture, prospered in the Southern Australian hills. When it became apparent that the Barossa's fertile soils were perfect for growing grapes, the first organized plantings took place around 1847. Three years later, a Bavarian settler named Johann Gramp had produced his first commercial wined called Carte Blanche. In the next few decades, the entire valley became a veritable vineyard and was recognized as Australia's leading viticultural area. Names like Penfolds and Seppelt emerged as leading wineries that are still in operation to the present day.
About the same time, the early relatives of Ian Mader set foot in the Barossa Valley. Natives of Silesia (at the time part of Germany, at present, Silesia is officially part of Poland); the new settlers were peasant farmers who took to growing vines like most of their contemporaries.
'Our family has owned vineyards here for many years,' informed Mader, 'but mostly my early relatives tended to be farmers who supplied other wineries with top flight grapes. It wasn't until my generation that we decided to make wine for ourselves.'
In the late nineties, Mader and his wife Suzanne began development of a winery. The name they chose for their efforts was Vinecrest, a combination of the word vineyard and also the place where magnificently colored Grass Parrots or Laurakeets are found in abundance. The beautiful birds are prominently featured on the Vinecrest labels. The winery's first release of around 1000 cases occurred in 1999 and was met with instant raves and honors.
'Before then we had always made a little wine, but mostly for family and friends and family,' offered a good natured Ian Mader. 'Of course, everyone liked the wines we had made, but they were, after all, our closest friends. It was wonderful that the outside world immediately took to our wines.'
Vinecrest's production has risen steadily in the ensuing years and today stands around 10,000 cases, still small enough to be considered a boutique winery. If Ian Mader has his way, Vinecrest will remain that way forever.
'We have some extremely sandy soils around here, and with the ever present potentiality for drought, it just seems wise to keep Vinecrest at its present level. '05 and '06 created a large overage of wines in the Barossa Valley but '07 came in at just 50% of average and this year we are estimating that the tonnage will be around 75 or 80% of normal. You can see that Mother Nature played a deft hand in evening things out over the past two years.' The fact that Vinecrest has risen to the highest plateaus of Australian winemaking (a Vinecrest wine has been selected as Wine of the Year for two successive years) is extremely important to Ian Mader, who considers his winery operation a symbol of true consistency.
'I've see too many wineries win a nice award and then not be seen around again for five or more years,' he explained. 'To me it's vitally important that all of our Vinecrest wines meet a certain standard. It's what I believe in and what all of those involved with our operation also believe is our benchmark.'
In addition to exporting to the United States through Gold Medal Wine Club's International Series, Vinecrest can also be found throughout Asia and expects to add Japan to its list in the near future.