VineCrest Fine Barossa Wine
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 Wine Club, VineCrest can also be found throughout Asia and expects to add Japan to its list in the near future.
Wine Regions of Australia
Australia is currently home to approximately 2000 wine producers, most of whom are small winery operations found in the 74 wine regions and subregions across the country.
The vast majority of these wine regions are located in the southern terrains of Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. These areas are filled with a diversity of climates, soils, elevation, and-ultimately–wine styles.
Barossa DGI Wine Region
The Barossa is Australia’s richest and best known viticultural and wine- making region. The Barossa is located approximately 60 miles north of the city of Adelaide in the state of South Australia.
Self sufficiency was important to the early settlers and as a result smoking meats, preserving fruits and making cheeses flourished. Above all, wine became a basic part of life and grape growing developed as a fundamental agricultural activity. The English sponsored the development of a commercial wine industry in the 1850s but the real growth took place from the 1880s onwards.
The Barossa wine industry developed along a different route from the traditional European practice of grower/winemakers. Although some growers did make wine for their own use, the majority sold grapes to wineries. The Barossa’s strength and success has come from this specialization. Its pool of 540 expert growers who have blended their 150 year knowledge of the land and its climate with modern viticultural practice, creating a partnership with the wineries whose skills make the most of the superb fruit.
The Barossa has the world’s oldest Shiraz vineyards, some dating back to the 1840s. Perfectly suited to the region’s climate and soil, they produce a style no other region can match, and Barossa Shiraz has made an indelible mark on the international wine scene.
The Mader Family
“From the stories I have heard since I was a youth,” Mader began, “the first settlers who came here were mostly peasant farmers. At the time, most of the land was owned by the British aristocrats, and the prices they were asking for the land weren’t all that attractive. But the Germans were a determined, hard-working lot of people and over time they began to be able to afford the land. They built the towns similar to the ones they had left in Germany with the doors facing the street. In South Australia, their culture and language flourished. My great, great-grandfather and the next two generations of our family spoke only German, and my own parents were really the first in our family to be multi-lingual.”
Mader also recalls the stories about the time during WWII, when the German population of the Barossa Valley was keenly watched by local authorities. Some residents were even interred, and the names of many places were changed from their German origin. Thankfully, all these towns have been restored to their former names. All the while, Ian Mader grew up in a wine friendly world. As a toddler, he was offered a tiny portion of wine with his meals. This led to a fuller appreciation of the grape’s greater potential and product when he began drinking wine and beer later as a teenager. Even so, he went off to university and wound up with a building technology degree before returning home.
“I guess it was always meant to be,” Mader, now 59, fondly reflected back. “All I had ever known was my family’s grape growing and I guess it was quite natural for me to follow my family into the business.” He met his wife to be, Suzanne, in the 1960s. Her father was, at the time, the Vineyard Manager for the giant Penfolds Wine Group in the Barossa Valley and offered to help Ian with the development of his first vineyard. “The vineyard was called Bull’s Grave Yard at first, but we changed it to Sandy Ridge,” he chuckled. “There were some old vines already there but I was encouraged to experiment with some new varietals. For the next thirty years, I was a grower for some of the finest wineries in South Australia.”
When Ian and Suzanne married almost thirty years ago, she brought into the marriage a deep background in the wine business. This expertise proved especially helpful when the Magers decided to open VineCrest Winery. “We found a wonderful location on what is called the Barossa Valley Way, which is the main wine route through the valley. Suzanne had former experience in opening and running cellar doors (winery tasting rooms) so the move was quite natural for her. She has been invaluable in making VineCrest a success, and I truly couldn’t have done it without her.”
Ian Mader also confessed that opening a boutique winery was something he had wanted to do for quite some time. He explained that as he got older, he looked around for a segment of the business where he could really enjoy himself, and considered VineCrest to be the perfect vehicle. “After all,” he confided, “it is all relevant to where one is in his life’s journey. My wife and I both wanted to really enjoy the business as we got older. Where else can you find lovely wines, lovely food and lovely people in the same setting than a small winery?”
An inkling of the dedication Ian Mader has set for himself and his winery can be found in its official name that Mader has recorded. That name is VineCrest Vineyards Fine Barossa Wine and serves as an inspiration to everyone connected to the winery. “I want our name to remind us what we stand for on a daily basis,” he added. “It also calls to our mind the degree of cooperation it takes for each of us to achieve our individual goals within our company.”
It is easy to see why VineCrest’s wines have gained such lofty status among the international wine community. Ian Mader just wouldn’t want it any other way.