We love sharing our wines and our favourite parts of our beautiful Kangaroo Island. Our blog shares our team's favourite ways to get the most from your visit when you're exploring Kangaroo Island. And of course we like to share the latest news and wine reviews with you too!
James Halliday is an unmatched authority in Australia on every aspect of the wine industry, a respected wine critic and vigneron with a career that spans almost 50 years. The annual Halliday Wine Companion is a guide to where to visit, what to taste, buy and cellar for Australian wine lovers.
We're proud to submit our wines each year for tasting and rating, it gives us a great feel for how our wines sit amongst the best in the country.
In the just-released 2021 Haliday Wine Companion we were excited to receive the highest possible Red 5-star winery rating and a range of new wines rated Gold and Silver from our premium Estate and everyday drinking Varietal ranges.
See the Halliday Wine Companion team's tasting notes and ratings below.
(Not yet released)
Semillon on Kangaroo Island clearly has a future. Wally White responds to the terroir with generosity, offering up an intriguing complexity that attacks all the senses. Eye-catching medium-deep yellow in hue. Aromas of honeysuckle, beeswax and baked pear. Waves of flavour ride the mouth, concentrated, intense with abiding texture and acidity. As a 2yo it comes across as developed, but the acidity ensures a long life.
Current Vintage 2018 Wally White: 95 GOLD
(Not yet released)
A brilliant purple sheen is an enticing introduction to this smart, young shiraz grenache. Softness is the key here together with a discreet, still emerging personality. It has a way to go. Pepper, spice, blackberries and red earth aromas. Deliciously ripe palate with dark cherry, black fruits and grenache violets and confection. Tannins are firm. Bottle age is a must.
Current Vintage 2019 Old Rowely: 95 GOLD
(Not yet released)
Archetypal viognier with the scent of honey-drizzled peaches and pears, orange blossom and fruit peel. Intoxicating stuff. Golden and creamy style with a slightly nutty demeanour that lasts to the finish, the apricot stone and dried fruit savouriness complete the textbook example. A wine of many parts and with many years ahead.
In so many ways, The Islander produces wines that are more European than Australian. Note the degree of savouriness in its wines, and the use of fruit as a conduit for complexity and not necessarily an end in itself. Sangiovese is such a wine. Fragrant with black cherries, capers, anise, bitter chocolate. It runs smooth across the palate, supple oak playing its part and imparting sweet mocha. Cherry pip, chalky tannins still melding.
From a winery founded by a Frenchman comes a wine made by an American and featuring a Spanish grape from an up-and-coming Aussie wine region, is it any wonder there is so much happening in this unusually savoury and complex tempranillo? Layer upon layer of black fruits, spice, vanilla oak with chocolate mocha overtones, saline brightness and sturdy tannin lines all adds up to an exciting wine. The charcuterie, smoked meat savouriness on the back palate adds a special touch.
(Not yet released)
Kangaroo Island's maritime climate is a dominating presence in the wines produced at The Islander. That, and the role of the native bush lands of old-growth eucalyptus and mallee. Both are evident here. Sea spray, red currant, raspberry and spice with an earthy savouriness, reveal a sense of place. A tad reductive on the palate, but it blows away with some swishing to reveal a savoury-infused palate, charcuterie and game with a rising pepper imprint. A complex lovely just starting out.
Current Vintage 2018 Bark Hut Rd: 95 GOLD
Jacques Lurton's relationship with James Halliday goes back to his first experiences in Australia as a young winemaker learning new world winemaking techniques in the freedom of the Aussie wine industry.
In this month's Wine Companion magazine, James reflects on the journey that led Jacques to select Kangaroo Island as the location for his only Australian wine business, with a vision to showcase the true potential that the region offers. And how our vision remains just as strong after the devastating fires of 2020.
Three of James Halliday's favourite Islander Estate Vineyards wines have received scores of 95 points in his Wine Companion magazine feature. All fantastic cool weather wines to feature in your wine cellar at this time of year.
2018 Wally White
Waves of flavour ride the mouth, concentrated, intense with abiding texture and acidity. As a 2yo it comes across as developed, but the acidity ensures a long life. Drink to 2027."
2019 Old Rowley
2019 The Sangiovese
Seasons rains have broken across the region bringing green pasture grasses back into the parched and burned fields. Areas of native bush devastated by the fires have spurred regeneration, bringing a ground level blanket of green amongst the burnt treetops.
While there are still years of recovery ahead, the Island is collectively taking a deep breath at these signs of recovery.
A video this week by our great mate Craig Wickham of Exceptional Kangaroo Island was filmed in the Parndana Conservation park who borders and blends into The Islander Estate Vineyard’s property. Craig is an expert and offers a great update on the regeneration in the park.
The rebuild of the Islander Estate property continues and Winter offers no reprieve. At this time, our Estate begins to come to life with winter rains. Our fields are beginning to fill with pasture and our neighbours, both also impacted by the fires, have ewes beginning to drop lambs. So, rebuilding our boundary fencing has become the critical priority with over 1,000 fence posts to be individually replaced and rewired.
Yale has a reputation for being able to turn his hand to anything and working harder than anyone we know. And he’s been proving this in spades, taking on the weeks (or months) long task of refencing one day at a time with our farmer neighbours Fox and Colin, regardless of the weather. Luckily, our brand-new fence post digger is making the task a little easier.
We are liaising with the Glossy Black Recovery Project to begin replanting essential habitat on our property for these endangered birds. Hopefully several thousand trees will be planted though winter.
While the remainder of our property springs to life in Winter, in the vineyard we prepare for winter dormancy.
With the help of amazing volunteers from many organisations, we have placed the vineyard in the best position possible to hand over to Mother Nature during winter. We have seen reshooting across areas of the vineyard and vines producing tertiary fruit, however we will need to await Spring to gain a real indication of the vineyard recovery. We wait and watch.
Our 2019 vintage wines are now all in bottle and ready for release over the coming months. In addition to new vintages of all our established wine we’re excited to be introducing two brand new white wines and two red wines to our every growing varietal range.
Our Discoverer’s Wine Club members have already had a pre-release sample of some of these wines and we’ll announce release dates via our social media channels.
Malbec originated in Jacques' native Bordeaux (and also Cahors) where it primarily played a bit-part in classic Bordeaux blends, never really getting the chance to shine in the spotlight in France. In the late-19th century, phylloxera nearly destroyed the Malbec wine business. The vines eventually recovered, before being later hit by the deadly frosts in the mid-1950s. The variety struggled to return in France until the mid 1970's.
Luckily then, that a French agronomist Michel Aimé Pouget had introduced the variety South America in the mid-1800's, where the variety found its day in the sun in the hot high-altitude Argentinian climate around Mendoza. Malbec finally found its place centre stage as a single varietal, becoming the shining star of Argentinian wine.
In modern day wine, Malbec has travelled all over the world, but Argentina still produces 75% of the world's Malbec & Cahors in France’s south-west the second largest producer.
It found its way to Australia in 1860 where is grows particularly well in South Australia, production is still selective, Malbec represents less than 0.5% of Aussie grape and wine production. In Australia Malbec’s beginnings were as a blending grape, these days a small but growing number of producers are taking inspiration from South America and showing Malbec’s potential as a single varietal.
Jacques Lurton’s relationship with Malbec began in his native France where the variety originated, the love affair really took off when he spent extensive time in South America establishing vineyards in partnership with his brother Francois in Argentina & Chile, experiencing Malbec as the powerhouse of the wine industry there.
As a flying winemaker, he had also spent time in Austalia, seeing how well the variety transferred from the hot high-latitude climate of Argentina to South Australia’s moderate Mediterranean climate. When Jacques set up his own Australian business, The Islander Estate Vineyards on Kangaroo Island he had it planted to use as a blending wine with flagship varieties.
Those plans changed from almost the first vintage, when the quality of his Malbec on Kangaroo Island impressed Jacques so much, he saw it deserved to shine on its own. The Majestic Plough was born as the region’s only single variety Malbec.
The quality continued increase vintage to vintage. Jacques was determined to show the true potential of Malbec on Kangaroo Island, so in 2015 The Islander Estate's flagship wine range was joined by The Independence Malbec – rated as one of the country’s best single variety Malbecs (96 points James Halliday's 2020 Wine Companion).
The Islander Estate Vineyards is the only winery commercially producing Malbec on Kangaroo Island.
Often considered as an alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz, Malbec is a powerhouse wine in its own accord, the most structured and tannic wine we produce on Kangaroo Island.
Malbec is a thick-skinned, purple grape variety with an inky red hue. On Kangaroo Island the vines are low yielding and always the first red variety to be picked at vintage.
In the glass, it has an intense deep red colour, magenta-tinged at the rim. On the nose you’ll find savoury aromas of leather, tobacco, blackberry, dried herbs and spices with plenty of toasty oak.
In the mouth expect big, juicy and plush flavours of dark fruit with a robust structure and moderately firm tannins with natural acidity and a longer finish than you expect from overseas examples.
Malbec loves a lean protein like a good quality steak barbecued over coals (even better with a herb or chimichurri sauce on the side), roast lamb with robust stuffing, roast game like duck or pheasant.
It also loves hard or blue cheeses and sits beautifully alongside charcuterie.
Malbec has great cellaring potential 15+ years if you have the patience!
Get up close The Islander Estate’s Malbec
Devastatingly, the January fire which impacted our Kangaroo Island vineyard has put a stop to our Malbec production for now. Our Majestic Plough is always a small production which sells out before the next vintage is released and we’re down to the last small batch of 2016 Majestic Plough, so grab some now to lay down as we are down to the very last of our stocks.
The Independence Malbec from our Flagship range has just been rated as one of the best in the country by James Halliday with a 96pt rating in the 2020 Wine Companion. Pop this one away and try not to think about it for a few years – it will pay off.
For wine lovers, there are many wonderful styles of cellar doors to experience.
When we took the leap to open our Tasting Room it was with a clear vision. We wanted it to be rustic, intimate, simple & most importantly, unassuming. Just time spent chatting with our guests about wine. Sharing stories. Sharing passions. Letting the wine speak for itself.
We want our guests to leave feeling they’ve connected and perhaps learned something new in their personal wine journey.
We can’t wait to start welcoming you back. Many thanks to Gourmet Traveller WINE for the work they do recognising small wineries in these tough times. You've added a smile to our dial.
Having spent the last month on Kangaroo Island assisting the vineyard recovery and crafting wines for bottling, Jacques shares this message of thanks and committment to the region.
The initial 6 weeks following the fire focussed on clean-up of the Estate and ensuring all areas are safe. It has lifted the spirits of our team to have the ruins of the vineyard manager's house and equipment sheds removed, all unsafe trees removed and the cleanup complete.
In more recent weeks we have shifted our focus to preparing the vineyard for potential regeneration. As a first step, amazing local volunteers spent countless hours manually removing the vineyard wiring and irrigation to prepare for the next phase.
They were followed by the incredible organisation that is Team Rubicon Australia, an international disaster response nonprofit that unites the skills and experiences of military veterans and first responders to provide relief to communities in need such as ours.
Working together in military unit style organisation, the team undertook the back-breaking task of cutting the vines thoughout the vineyard to just a few inches above the ground. By removing the burnt cordon and trunks, we allow the roots to focus all its energy on producing shoots for regrowth.
We have such gratitude for the many volunteers whose passion for our business continues to drive us towards recovery.
It will be Spring before we have a firm understanding of the areas of the vineyard that have produced shoots and survived the cold of winter, so we are largely in Mother Natures hands until September. However we see new promise in the vineyard each day.
Jacques has been back on the Kangaroo Island Estate he loves for the past month. In addition to assisting with the work in the vineyard Jacques has been tending to our wines in barrel and tank.
We are pleased to advise that our total wine stock loss was restricted to only 3 barrels (now part of a secret new product development).
All other wines were protected via the action of our team prior to the fires. With blending and bottling of a number of our 2019 vintage releases complete, we are excited to advise a number new wines are in pipeline and we look forward to releasing these over coming months.
Our Discoverer's Wine Club members will have exclusive access to new releases in the April wine club packs and there's still time to join.
For the safety of our staff, families, community & visitors our Tasting Room has closed as of 23rd March. However we welcome pickup orders & we are offering a local delivery service to your doorstep in many areas of Kangaroo Island.
To arrange a pickup order: Simply order online & select the PickUp tab in the checkout screen. We will contact you to arrange a collection time for your order & pop your wine in your boot. You can also order via phone at our Tasting Room (08) 8553 9008.
Local Delivery: For orders of 12 bottles or more we offer a complimentary delivery service to the following locations: Cygnet River, Emu Bay, Kingscote, American River, Island Beach, Penneshaw & other Dudley Peninsula locations. Place your order online or via phone at the Tasting Room.
Our online orders are flowing freely with delivery Australia wide via Australia Post. Please note that new conditions mean that Australia Post will only leave orders on your doorstep, no signatures will be collected for proof of delivery. When ordering, please add a note letting us know a safe place where Australia Post can leave your wine.
We are currently preparing some extra special packs for our most valued customers, our Discoverer's Wine Club members. Our April wine packs are expected to be despatched early next week & will be delivered by Australia Post as usual. There is still time to join the club, sign up online by Friday 27th March.
View through the bush-vine Shiraz to the pine forest beyond before the 10th January 2020 fire.
The same bush-vine Shiraz view post fire.
Summer 2019/2020 has seen the most devastating fire season Kangaroo Island has even known. Major fires, sparked by dry lightening strikes, began burning on Kangaroo Island mid-December. On January 3rd storms sparked new bushfires on the western end of the Island, the extreme weather conditions created a firestorm which burnt approx 30% of the western end of the Island including the Flinders Chase National Park several wilderness areas. On January 10th strong winds fanning existing firegrounds caused a second firestorm which pushed the fires east and north to claim a total of 48% and over 210,000 hectres of the Island.
This second fire, fuelled by nearby commercial pine plantations and the stunning Parndana Conservation area bordering The Islander Estate Vineyards property, caused the loss of our entire 280-hectare property including the farm, 11-hectare vineyard, vineyard equipment, irrigation, offices, wine lab, sheds, housing and water sources. The destruction also claimed the property’s 80 hectares of pristine remnant native bush and 150 hectares of cropping land.
View from the vineyard gate across the property pre-fire The same view post-fire Former offices & wine lab Vineyard manager's residence
A first step currently underway is to remove damaged irrigation and wiring from the vines to clear the way for any live vines to be cut back at ground level to encouraging new shoots before winter.
Like most fire-impacted wine businesses, we will not have a 2020 vintage but within the next few months, we fully expect to have plans in place for vintage 2021 and beyond.
All of our wine stocks have been preserved and our business is operating as normal from a sales perspective.
Continued support from our customers is critical to providing the financial resources to keep our staff engaged and to begin building towards recovery.
We will be undertaking a bottling in the new few weeks, which will ensure we have a continued supply of the majority of our most popular wines.
Our cellar door at Cygnet River was unaffected by the fire and is operating at its regular hours, 6 days a week, noon to 5pm (closed Wed).
The Cygnet River Artisan Trail has been untouched by fire and is a fantastic place to spend an afternoon supporting local wine, spirit, food and art producers.
Our online sales are flowing smoothly, sending orders Australia wide to our many wonderful customers & supporters.
Our Discoverer's Wine Club continues to grow and provide our most valued customers with excellent value and access to our limited and new releases.
The Estate's cropping land merging with remnant native bush pre-fire Post fire in the same spot
Some significant steps have already been made towards recovery, and we could not have taken these without an immemse amount of support from so many sources, some official, some unofficial, from friends, from neighbours, from volunteers and from total strangers who have offered to assist us along the way.
Thanks to the Australian Defence Force personnel who undertook so much of the clean up and heavy work of tree felling immediately following the fire when we were still in shock. They continue to assist us today in the vineyard. To Blazeaid and their volunteers who are helping so many to reestablish critical fencing across the Island.
To our neighbours, friends and families too numerous to mention but you know who you are and we have immense gratitude for your support.
To the fellow winemakers who have stepped in to actively help us assess the vineyard and offer us their resources: Mike Brown and the Gemtree team, Toby Bekkers from Bekkers Wines, Martin, Adam, Murray and the Shaw and Smith team.
While it will take some time to determine the future of our vineyard, one thing is in no doubt. We are more passionate and determined than ever to produce unique wines which show the true potential of Kangaroo Island as an emerging wine region.
We know the recovery effort will be huge and it will take a number of years for our small team to return to full production, but like all Kangaroo Islander’s we are resilient and resourceful, so the only way to move is forward.
The support from our customers in the form of kind words, messages of support and orders spurs us forward. So please come visit us on Kangaroo Island, bring your friends and family, drop into our cellar door for a tasting, visit our neighbours on the intimate Cygnet River Artisan Trail. We look forward to welcoming you.