◆ Tell me a little about Elderton’s background and evolutionElderton is a second generation family company. Looking to set up home n Australia after spending time in Saudi Arabia, my parents Neil and Lorraine bought the Elderton homestead in the heart of Nuriootpa in 1979. It really was the result of a complete coincidence. Our family was from Gippsland in Victoria and my grandfather happened to be in the Barossa for a funeral and heard about the house.Built in 1918, it was originally the Tolley homestead, one of Australia’s most famous winemaking names. The homestead vineyard was planted in1894 by the Scholz family, and Alfred Tolley and his son Sam Elder-ton Tolley grew fruit for their company Tolley, Scott &Tolley, mainly for fortified wine production. When the Barossa fell out of favour in the 70s as no-one wanted the wines they produced, the vineyard with these extreme-ly old Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vines became derelict. After years of no interest, the real estate agent eventually offered my parents the 72-acre (29 hectare) vineyard as a bonus for buying the home stead.Three years later, after restoring the vineyard, Elderton Wines was born in 1982,named after Sam Elderton Tolley. The first vintage of Command Shiraz followed in1984. My father passed away in 1997, and my brother Allister and I took overrunning the Elderton business in 2003. We are very proud of what we have accom-plished in the years since then. We built our own winery in beautiful 80-year old heritage sheds on a Penfolds site, which we converted into a very modern winery. We purchased an established vineyard in Craneford in Eden Valley in 2007, and another in Greenock in 2010. All up we have 65 hectares of vineyards, and we believe they are among the best sites in the Barossa.More recently, in 2017 we opened one of Australia’s most distinctive cellar doors in the old family homestead. It enables us to offer experiences that we haven’t been able to in the past, for visitors to enjoy and better understand the Elderton heritage and history. Visitors come in and see the 100-year old homestead and cellar door, the 125-year old Command Shiraz vineyard, then taste the wine son-site, so it really wows them. It also has four private tasting rooms, be spoke dining, lawn tennis, and even a 20-meter swimming pool. Last year we won an award from the Great Wine Capitals of the World for the Best Wine Tourism Services in South Australia, which is great for a small company. The number of visitors has passed expectations, so we are very happy.This year, my wife Julie Ashmead, an accomplished winemaker in her own right, is taking over as chief winemaker from our winemaker for the last 16 years, Richard Langford, who moved on to another Barossa winery. Julie has made wine in Napa, Saint-Emilion, Marlborough, and Chile, was head winemaker at Turkey Flats, and is also the winemaker at her family company Campbells in Rutherglen. She will be the winemaker at both Elderton and Campbells. My brother’s wife Rebecca works in the business as well, in charge of export and production. We all get on very, very well, and are building a business not for us, but for our children’s children.There are three things to running a wine business, and you have do each of them very well. You have to grow grapes very well, to make wine very well, and to run the business of selling wine very well. If you can’t do that you are going to struggle. As well as being environmentally sustainable, we have to be financially sustainable.From left: Cameron Ashmead, Brock Harrison (winemaker), Julie Ashmead and Allister Ashmead◆ What makes Elderton special in the Barossa?Elderton is unique for a winery of our size in that we basically do everything ourselves. We run all our own vineyards whereas others have contract growers. Controlling the grape growing enables us to control the quality, so that we know exactly what is going on. The only thing we don’t do is bottle ourselves because it is labour intensive and requires more staff. We have our own vineyard staff whichworks out really well, but when we have a very small vintage it can make usnervous (about the wages) .We are a leader in environmental sustainability, in the winery and the vineyard. We put in place a large solar panel array in 2010, and doubled it in 2014. We are self-sufficient in water 11 months of the year, harvesting rain water from the roofs of the winery buildings.How different are the vineyards and the fruit they produce?We have three established vineyards on very different sites with different micro-climates and soil. Nuriootpa and Greenock are approximately 15 kilometers apart, Eden Valley is 25 kilometers away. Nuriootpa is about 200 meters above sea level , with red-brown alluvial soils, and very low production in the last few years, approximately 1.5 tons per acre, but the fruit has amazing concentration.Greenock is at about 320 meters altitude and generally more rocky, with more ironstone and sand and produces around 2 tons per acre, which is still tiny. Eden Valley is higher altitude and cooler, and overall the vines are a bit younger and produce 2.5 tons per acre. With the drive to sustainability and the inputs that we are putting into the vineyard, we expect even with the older vineyards that we can increase the yields if we get relatively normal rainfalls. The last few years rainfall has been below average, down a third in 2018, but this year it is on track for a normal year.In tasting the wines, Greenock wines tend to have a little bit of everything, so a little more colour and tannin, whereas Nuriootpa provides the backbone for the wines, the mid-palate. Our Estate Shiraz and Cabernet are generally a blend of all three vineyards, with the addition of Eden Valley which provides finesse and elegance, because it has more skeletal soils. We blend to make the most complete wine that we can.What distinguishes the classic single vineyard wines?The Command Shiraz will always be our most famous and best wine. It is always single vineyard exclusively from our 1894 vineyard, and we have been making it since 1984. There are only 3 vintages where we didn’t make it ‒ 1989, 1991, and2011. We have been making the Fifteen Shiraz (from fruit from the Greenock vineyard originally planted in 1915) since 2013, but only in very special vintages ‒2013, 2015 and a little bit in 2017 ‒ we tried to make it in other years and it didn’t work.Both the Command Shiraz and the Fifteen Shiraz are treated very similarly in the vineyard, low yield, high intervention, everything by hand. They are pruned, with about 25-30 buds per vine, and picked by hand. In the winery, the Command goes into oaken fermenters where it gets a cool fermentation around 20°C, with fermentation for a little over a week and then into American and French oak for 30months ‒ 80 per cent new and 20 per cent older, then bottled and held for 18months before release. It used to go into all new oak for 36 months but that is evolving.There aren’t many producers around the world who do things like this. Normally it goes into the bottle and straight to market. We like to bottle age the Command Shiraz. It is a big investment, but we have been doing this for almost 40 years, area mature company, and our overarching mission is excellence from Barossa Vineyards, so everything we can do to get a small uptick in quality we will do.The Fifteen Shiraz goes into 1500-liter French oak rotary fermenters where it stays on skins for approximately 6 weeks, then into exclusively French oak for around 14 months. The Merlot is something we absolutely love, the vineyards on average are about35 years of age. It’s a variety we push to the absolute limit to get fuller flavours showing, and generally it goes into second and third fill French oak for 9 through to 14 months depending on the vintage.Elderton from above◆ Classic Barossa style ‒ what is it and how is it evolving?Wines in the Barossa have generally evolved over the last 10 years, those big, alcoholic Parkerized wines have virtually disappeared, and Elderton never made them in the first place. Our magic number for alcohol is around 14.5 per cent, which we believe is the best level for showing fruit ripeness and having balance. At Elderton over the last 10 years we have evolved dramatically, it is all about balance ‒ I know it is an over-used word in the winemaking world ‒ the wine you enjoy has to have the four keys of fruit, acidity, tannin and oak singing in harmony, otherwise you are doing it wrong.For us it about having wines that are enjoyable to drink when you buy them, and also important for our top single vineyard sites if you want to cellar them for 30 years you can, and they will provide magical results. To achieve this in the vineyards we are being more pro-active, more intervention, more inputs, to get the best quality grapes.Everyone is trying to do this as well, but what is different at Elderton is that we have a more classical house style we are very proud of and our customers love, with less up-front juicy fruit, a lot more natural acidity, and the ability to age than most of our friends and compatriots, so they can be cellared really well. Whereas some of the newer winemakers in the Barossa love that juicy, jubey fruit which is fine on release at 18months, but sometimes don’t cellar as well as they should.Also we have older vine clones, in fact they are so old we don’t know what they are. But we don’t grow the newer clones which many people have planted recently that produce dark jubey fruit.Julie will evolve that style a little bit, and make the wines with even more concentration and longevity, and keep on working on one percent quality improvements. You can’t get significant increases in quality any more because standards are so high, so most of the improvements will come from the vineyards which we are working hard on at the moment.from Elderton Wines Facebook ◆ How has the Barossa changed over your time and where is it heading?If you look at the Barossa generally, we are so lucky because we probably have the biggest concentration of old vine vineyards anywhere in the world. Even after the vine pull scheme, we still have these amazing old sites. The Grange 1990 put the Barossa back on the map in 1995when it was named ‘Red Wine of the Year’ by Wine Spectator. If you look at the Barossa then compared to what it is today it has really changed.When we first started there were only about 30 producers where as today there are 180 producers in the Barossa. In those days there weren’t a lot of accommodation options nor were there a lot were dining options, but today there are 8 world class restaurants while there is only20,000 people living permanently in the region. It has the best of everything ‒ the country charm but also big city sophistication.Before the 1990s, every decade there were a couple of hundred hectares of vines planted, and then in the 1990s and the 2000s (Prime Minister) John Howard’s tax break meant there were thousands of hectares planted. So today there are approximately 14,000 hectares of vines in the Barossa (red 11,400ha / white 2260ha), and we produce between 40,000 and 80,000 tons of grapes per annum ‒ which represents between 2-4 per cent of Australia’s wines. So even though we are relatively famous we don’t make a lot of wine.Building on its reputation as Australia’s most famous wine region, the Barossa has a rosy future. With a tendency to reinvent itself over time, it is in a really good place at the moment. Business does go in cycles, right now grape prices and vineyard land are at record highs, and there is substantial overseas investment in the region which is positive. There are lots of smiles on people’s faces, which wasn’t the case 8-10 years ago.The Barossa Grape and Wine Association which is funded by over 550grape growers and 150 wine producers was established in 2008 with a remit from grape growers and winemakers to further the interest and future of the wine region. It has been very successful on numerous fronts from spreading best practices to pro-active marketing, so most other wine regions are trying to copy what the Barossa is doing. There is a lot of diversity in the Barossa ‒ some of the old Barossa Deutshes are 6th or 7th generation.