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IN PURSUIT OF PERFECTION

by / Comments Off on IN PURSUIT OF PERFECTION / 20 View / May 15, 2022

WITH A DEDICATION TO QUALITY AND INNOVATION PARACOMBE WINES IS LEADING THE PACK

"Paracombe Wines was officially launched in 1992 just before their daughter was due to be born. The brand and the winery have been growing ever since, with vineyard expansions, designing and building a state-of-the-art winery, underground cellars and stunning cellar door."

DAN TRAUCKI

NESTLED in the picturesque Adelaide Hills atop a 1.7-billion-year-old plateau at 425 metres above sea level, Paracombe Wines is somewhat different to most wineries. It started as a result of tragedy, when a brave young couple, Paul and Kathy Drogemuller, bought a burnt-out dairy farm following the devastating 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires. With no viticultural experience they were talked into planting vines on their new property by Andrew Garrett.
In the mid-1980s the South Australian Government sponsored a “vine pull” scheme in order to reduce the amount of grape vines in the state, due to a wine glut at the time. While most people were ripping out grape vines left, right and centre including some of the oldest vines in the state, the Drogemuller’s were busy planting their vineyard.
Right from the word “go” Paul and Kathy have approached things differently to the average Australian winery, because Paul always thinks “outside the square”. At a time when most Australian wine drinkers had not even heard of chardonnay (the first Aussie chardonnay release being the Tyrrells 1976 Vat 47 Pinot Chardonnay), they planted chardonnay, along with pinot noir, sauvignon blanc (again unheard of at the time), as well as cabernet franc (a totally unheard of “minor” Bordeaux red variety). When the vines were mature enough, they made their first wines in second hand milk tanks, using a homemade basket press housed in an old tin shed.
Paracombe Wines was officially launched in 1992 just before their daughter was due to be born. The brand and the winery have been growing ever since, with vineyard expansions, designing and building a state-of-the-art winery, underground cellars and stunning cellar door. This progress and development had to be done very carefully and sensitive to the environment with Paracombe being in the South Australian Government’s “Water Catchment Region Zone 1” – which is highly regulated and controlled.
As a result of forward thinking, emerging varieties have been very much in the forefront of the development of the Paracombe wine range.
Today they are still “doing it differently” with innovative wines such as the Paracombe NV “A Trio of Pinot”, a unique and exciting sparkling wine made from pinot gris, pinot noir and the much rarer pinot blanc.
They also produce the typical wines that the Adelaide Hills are renowned for – riesling, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. Currently they produce five different styled shiraz wines including the flagship, Somerville Shiraz, as well as a shiraz viognier.
In addition, they make an increasing number of exciting emerging variety wines. The current range in white wines consists of pinot gris; the very rare and sensational pinot blanc (which only has, so far, a dozen producers in Australia); they are also one of the first ten producers of pecorino (Italian white variety) in Australia, viognier and their outstanding unique Grüner V5 (a superb blend of the Austrian native grüner veltliner with riesling, pinot gris, gewürztraminer and a dollop of pinot blanc).
In the red emerging varieties they have tempranillo plus a Reserve Tempranillo; montepulciano with a Reserve version as well; nebbiolo and its Reserve companion; malbec, as well as the cabernet franc from the originally planted vines which are coming up to being forty-years-old.
Another point of difference from most wineries is the fact that Paracombe Wines do not release their wines until they believe that they are ready for drinking. They have refused to bow to cash-flow, and instead cellar their wines underground until they believe the wine is at its best, so that people get a chance to see the variety at its peak. This ideology coupled with the cool-climate ageability of the wines means that the most current of the wines are several years old when they are first released.
Thus, the current release of the fantastic, Paracombe “The Reuben” (their Bordeaux blend wine with a smidge of shiraz added) is 2015 – seven-years-old in an age where even Penfolds Grange is released at four-years-old. Also the current release of their limited release flagship wine, Paracombe Somerville Shiraz, is the 2013 vintage, which is quite amazing and demonstrating their utter commitment to offering quality wines which are ready to be enjoyed at their best.
By the way, the Somerville wine story is interesting in that it started when James ‘Jas’ Somerville was the first person to plant shiraz vines in the district in 1903. In 1997, the Drogemuller’s carefully transplanted these historic vines to their family vineyard where they have thrived and continue to provide top quality grapes for their fantastic flagship wine.
The quality of Paracombe Wines is not only recognised by their legion of regular customers, but also by the industry. In 2021, Paracombe were voted the “Best Producer over 100 Tonnes” at the Adelaide Hills Wine Show. Their wines also regularly score well in the various Winestate tastings that they enter from time to time, including in this issue scooping the pool with equal top in category, five stars/98 points for both their Somerville Shiraz 2013 and for the MacGillivray Shiraz 2013.
Being environmentally aware and friendly, the Drogemullers have sought to minimize their footprint upon the land by taking steps to make their operations as sustainable as they can. To this end they have installed a solar panel system on the winery roof as well as setting up a water recycling program, to minimize winery inputs. The office, cellar door and function room are built of the highly energy efficient Eco Wall panels (concrete covered recycled polystyrene).
In the vineyard, this philosophy means that the vines are all hand pruned, reducing the yield and the carbon footprint, in addition to which they use organic based fertilisers and composts while slashing the mid-row grasses as mulch directly under the vines to promote soil worm activity and water retention.
Paracombe wines is a total family affair, with son Ben being the logistics and distribution manager, and daughter Sarah the customer relationship and events manager.
As Paul said, “We must keep looking forward all the time as the world goes changing. We can’t get complacent and become a ‘me too’ operation.” The family commitment, the constant striving along with the use of new emerging grape varieties makes the Paracombe Wines’ future positive and very exciting.