InDaily InDaily

Support independent Journalism Donate Subscribe
Support independent journalism


Manufacturing wine and provenance


Whitey unravels the astonishing yarn behind Australia’s newest wine region: Kanmantoo.

1 Comment
1 Comment Print article

It’s a rare treat to declare a new appellation, especially if it’s been going for more than 150 years.

Not many can lay such a claim.

One of the true delights of my moist life was officially launching the Southern Flinders Ranges wine region after it was internationally registered in 2003. That came about after only a decade of planning and tricky geographical delineation and survey work led to the region being declared and recognised in international law.

Peter and Margaret Lehmann drove me north for that event, ensuring we had a beer in every pub we’d never had a beer in before.

You can imagine.

Take Gulnare. Nobody in the Gulnare pub knew what the name meant, so it was a delight to get home to my library and discover the word is Spanish for pomegranate flower and that John Horrocks had taken the same route north in 1846. He named the place after his dog, Gulnare, which was gutted there by a kangaroo. Instead of supplying the explorers with fresh emu and ‘roo meat to save their sarce ammo, poor old Gulnare died slowly on his master’s saddle and things simply got worse as Horrocks and his compadres, who included the artist ST Gill, persisted with their northward expedition toward Lake Torrens.

Horrocks’ camel lurched near Lake Dutton, discharging his gun, which put a bullet through his head, shattering his jaw. They rode slowly back south across the desert and the poor bugger stretched out on his cot in Penwortham, which he’d founded, and spent a month there dying of gangrene. Nice. The cottage has been kept intact to this day: you can put some money in the maintenance box in that fair hamlet’s main street and breathe the still air in the fateful bedroom.

The camel, which had previous form, was “executed” on Horrocks’ orders.

See how easy it is to get off the track – I set out to write about an appellation established by other pioneers a lot further south.

You’ll be delighted to know the new – renewed, actually – Kanmantoo appellation “is well-known for its rich red loam soil and typical cool climate to grow high quality grapes”, as the Auzzie Food and Beverage Export Group claims on its website.

“Kanmantoo has a heritage of traditional French wine-making techniques combining with modern wine making methods to produce high quality wine,” the site explains.

“Wines have been produced in the Kanmantoo region of South Australia for over 150 years. In 1854 Charles Burney Young purchased several large properties to grow vines and in 1886, his son, Harry Dove Young, took over the wine making. The success of this particular family has meant that, over time, other vineyards have also been developed in the Kanmantoo region.”

“Purchased several large properties?” Stole the country from its Aboriginal owners would be more like it. That small matter aside, consider for a moment the new Kanmantoo Vineyard Wine Cabernet Merlot: As usual, rather than worry about actually tasting the product for personal evaluation before recommendation, I’ll trust the supplied tasting notes to report this noble blend is the colour of “ruby and garnet”.

Its nose boasts “elegant release black currant, plum and red berries with gently pepper and complex spices”; the palate “complex layers, red berry jam with dark chocolate extend in your tongue, company with spices flavor”, all at the fashionably elegant alcohol level of 13.5%.

I’m sure I’d award a perfect 100 if I tasted it.

There are five wines in the Kanmantoo Vineyard range: Chardonnay, Shiraz and Merlot in the Red Loam series; the prestige Quartz Series includes the above-mentioned blend and a straight Cabernet.

While no vintages or prices are listed, Auzzie Food and Beverage can also supply wine from all our premium regions.

“Our lead time for production is 6-8 weeks,” the group claims. Which led me to wonder why they’d bother to wait 150 years for the Kanmantoo appellation to bloom to its current lustre.

“Auzzie has built up a strong network with different wineries in different regions from entry level to premium wines. We are located in the wine capital city – Adelaide. The professional wine makers make suitably styled wines for Chinese palates. We are able to provide all the export documents required by Chinese custom … Sourcing directly from 5 star wineries service, e.g. Penfolds.”

Peter Gago, chief winemaker at Penfolds, had not heard of this remarkable endeavour when I asked yesterday. Alexander Wells, owner of the only vineyard at Kanmantoo, which stretches to one whole acre of hobby Shiraz, had called me to ask if I’d heard of it. His property is the original Kanmantoo Pastoral Company run established by Colonel Light’s friend, Charles Burney Young, who planted vines there at the dawn of the colony, as I wrote here in January last year, and to a further extent on many occasions on my blog.

Not only does the Auzzie website’s Chinglese text somehow bear an uncanny reflection of that article, but without asking his permission, the same mob’s used two of Milton Wordley’s photographs: one of the Hill of Grace vineyard, which is always handy.

The image in its Kanmantoo Vineyard product range is another Milton shot, this time of Doug Govan’s Rudderless Vineyard at his Victory pub on Sellicks Hill in McLaren Vale (see image at top). At least it has some pretty blue seawater in the background.

The only water at Kanmantoo is the precious Murray water the Hillgrove mine’s snuck in through its brand new taxpayer-funded pipe.

Speaking of the ocean, the website’s Adelaide photograph looks like somewhere in the Seychelles.

Their contact info turned out to lead directly to Mitchell’s winery in Clare. The Mitchells have asked them to remove this, having never heard of them.

“The images of mine were shot for the South Australian Wine Industry Association,” Milton says, “with the licence stating the images were only to be used by SAWIA to promote the various SA regions and not to be used by the SAWIA member wineries for their own promotion without further payment or my permission from both SAWIA or me.”

Among other services and produce, this bold Auzzie outfit offers “value added service to do investment, immigration and student visas”, as well as wagyu beef. It’s also selling the Mount Lofty Golf Course, which you might be surprised to know includes an old perfume factory, a handy adjunct to this mob’s “highest standard and quality healthcare products”.

Personally, I’m really pissed off that they didn’t ask a bloke of my experience to write a speech and launch their rekindled Kanmantoo appellation, having grown up there, playing as a kid in the old winery and all.

The Youngs’ internationally-famous vineyards were uprooted in the 1930s, just by the way. They were dying of, well, die-back.

Other than Alex’s lonely acre, the only other thing there’s the bloody great open pit where, for the moment at least, Hillgrove somehow mines copper and raises dust.

Now there’s an opportunity. Copper’s on the nose and there are no rubies to my knowledge, but they got plenty of garnets.

In closing, I should say the Lehmanns and I made it home with our jaws well-worked but intact and not one dog, camel, emu or ‘roo wasted.

And that Penwortham link? Obvious. Penwortham’s the closest village to Mitchell’s.

If Auzzie Food and Beverage Export Group really want a brand with some provenance, they should consider the magnificent opportunities available in Gulnare Estate. Gulnare’s near the Flinders. And the press kit, brochure text and back label’s all up there above, waiting to be Chinglished.

Sure beats planting a friggin’ vineyard.

Make a comment View comment guidelines

Local News Matters

Media diversity is under threat in Australia – nowhere more so than in South Australia. The state needs more than one voice to guide it forward and you can help with a donation of any size to InDaily. Your contribution goes directly to helping our journalists uncover the facts. Please click below to help InDaily continue to uncover the facts.

Donate today
Powered by PressPatron


1 Show comments Hide comments
Will my comment be published? Read the guidelines.

More Wine stories

Loading next article