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!
With its huge rise in popularity in recent years, most Australian white wine drinkers have included Sauvignon Blanc in their wine repertoire. There is a lot to learn about this variety which can produce very varied characteristics with a careful winemaking hand.
Here are some facts about one of our favourite varieties you may not know:
Looking for foods that pair beautifully with Sauvignon Blanc? Easy, if a squeeze of lemon would enhance the dish, you'll be onto a winner serving them together.
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 to France until the mid-1970's.
Luckily then, a French agronomist Michel Aimé Pouget had introduced the variety to South America in the mid-1800s, 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 southwest 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 Australia, 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 to increase from 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 2021 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, a 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 to The Islander Estate’s Vineyards' Malbec
The Independence Malbec from our Flagship range has just been rated as one of the best in the country, with both the 2015 & yet to be released 2016 vintages receiving 96/100 point ratings by The Australian Wine Companion team. Pop this one away and try not to think about it for a few years – it will pay off.
Spring may be when the vineyard bursts from dormancy back to life, but Summer is when things begin to get exciting, giving us a glimpse towards the potential of the next vintage.
Summer is the season that can make or break vintage. The climate on Kangaroo Island in early summer can still be variable. Optimum conditions for a good vintage are warm, dry days with mild winds. Excessive rain, wine or humidity can all spell disaster.
As flowering begins to end, the fertilised flowers start to develop a seed and grape berry to protect the seed. This stage is critical as it determines the potential crop yield.
Now is the time we begin to get a good idea of bunch development and quality on the vine with an insight into how vintage may shape up if the weather remains at optimum conditions.
At this stage of the growing season when we pray for warm sunny days, moderate frost-free nights, gentle breezes and little or no rain.
During January, the tiny bunches of grapes go through a rapid period of growth. Once they reach around half their final size, they enter the stage of véraison, usually around 40 – 50 days after fruit set. However, the grapes remain hard, have very little sugar & are high in organic acids.
Throughout véraison the berries begin to ripen, turning from green and begin to turn purple, red and golden. This tipping point is when the vine begins to turn its energy away from vine growth concentrating on developing sweetness in the grapes.If necessary, leaf thinning is undertaken to allow the grapes more access to light & increase airflow to minimise disease risk.
After véraison the grapes swell & fill with water. During this ripening period, sugar levels rise & acid levels drop. Colour pigments, flavour compounds & tannins develop. Watering stops to induce mild water stress, inhibit shoot growth & encourage concentrated character in the ripening grapes.
A close eye is kept on the vineyard & when flocks of marauding birds arrive, nets are installed across the vineyard to protect the crop. Once nets are on, vintage is only a matter of weeks away.
Many regions begin vintage in February, however in the cooler conditions on Kangaroo Island, wine vintage traditionally begins a few weeks after other South Australian regions, often in March.
Thanks to the influence of the Southern Ocean & its prevailing south-easterly breezes, Kangaroo Island has a maritime environment significantly different to the rest of Australia, even to nearby McLaren Vale. These ocean breezes mean an even climate without extremes. They cool the vineyards in summer and keep it a few degrees warmer and wetter during winter, offering some protection from disease and frosts caused by extreme cold.
The reliable annual growth rhythm of a vineyard is a reminder that nature will continue, no matter what variation or disasters might occur in a single year.
Kangaroo Island’s native vegetation is perennially green. Its grasslands & crops thrive in winter, becoming a dry Mediterranean landscape in summer. Conversely, our vineyard works on an opposite calendar, becoming dormant in winter & bursting to life in Spring as much of the Island begins to dry and turn brown and is at its most productive at the end of a long dry summer.
Budburst is the first sign of life in the dormant vines. The roots and wood of the vine release a surge of energy, the sap rises, and the buds begin to break through.
The woolly buds are extremely delicate during this time, so viticulturalist's prey for Spring frost to stay away. Luckily, our vineyard favours elevation & ocean breezes which largely protect cold air from settling & becoming frost.
Three factors impact the arrival of budburst. Firstly, the air temperature dictates the timing and pace of bud formation. Secondly, the variety, with each variety classified as early, mid, or late budding. Early budding varieties like Chardonnay tend to be more frost tolerant and often early ripening. Finally, the temperature of the soil plays a role in bud development.
Once budburst is underway, growth starts to speed up, with shoots growing and leaves forming almost before our eyes.
Shoots are initially fuelled by the carbohydrate reserves fed up from the roots, but as leaves start to unfurl and mature, photosynthesis kicks into gear.
At this early stage of the growing season, it's important to ensure the vines have a good supply of water and nutrients, employing organic principles.
Our vineyard team gets busy thinning shoots, to ensure we have optimal selections and training the shoots where needed. Shoot thinning ensures the vine is concentrating its energy into the shoots selected for fruit production in line with our high-density, low-yield growing principles.
Next, flower buds will begin to form on the new growth in tiny clusters also known as inflorescence. Also known as ‘perfect flowers’, the grapevine flowers self-pollinate, bees are not required!
This is the time of the growing season when we pray for warm sunny days, moderate frost-free nights, gentle breezes and little or no rain.
These are the conditions for maximum self-pollination and pave the way for fruit set, the formation of tiny bunches of fledgeling grapes.
Once fruit-set is complete, grapes begin to form and this provides us with the first indication of the vintage to come.
Fruit-set provides us with the vintage potential but there are challenges to come as Summer approaches!
Chardonnay’s birthplace is the Burgundy region of France, in a small village of the same name. Chardon being the French name for a thistle, chardonnay’s name originates from “place of thistles”. Believed to be from the Noirien family of grapes, chardonnay is descended from Pinot Noir and the ancient variety Gouais Blanc.
In Burgundy, where chardonnay is known simply as white Burgundy, it is the most prized white grape variety, seen as truly capturing the region’s incredible terroir. Although it originated in France, chardonnay is now grown in almost every wine region on Earth, mostly because of its ability to adapt to different environments and grow almost anywhere.
Chardonnay was first bought to Australia by James Busby (widely known as the ‘father of Australian wine’) who planted the first cuttings to Australia in the 1830s. It didn’t become a core Australian variety for almost a hundred years, but by the 1980’s chardonnay became on of the most recognised Australian white wine varieties; flourishing in our climate and mainly produced in robust, rich, ripe and buttery styles.
Over the next several decades Australian wine consumers palates changed as they moved towards the zesty, higher acidity alternatives like Marlborough sauvignon blanc. Australian winemakers began to adapt, taking advantage of chardonnay's ability to take on many different characters guided by the winemaker’s technique.
Today chardonnay accounts for more than half of Australia’s white wine production, having a renaissance in a more lighter style closer to the Chablis style of France. This contemporary style has inspired The Islander Estate Vineyard’s The White Chardonnay.
Located in the Burgundy region of France (also famous for Pinot Noir), the Chablis appellation lies in the north, alongside the River Serein with the best vineyards planted along the south facing slopes. Chardonnay here is all about the terroir.
Forget all your preconceptions of oaky, buttery Chardonnay. The Chablis style is entirely different, some say this style is the purest form of Chadonnay, fermented in steel, usually with little or no oak so the Chardonna grapes' taste and arome can shine. The Chablis wine style is dry, lean, light-bodied with higher acidity and green apple, citrus and minteral notes.
At our Tasting Room two of our most common guests comments are "I don't usually really like chardonnay but this is really nice" or "Sauvignon Blanc is my go-to white wine, but this is really delicious".
Chardonnay is the main component of most champagne’s (blended with its mother variety, Pinot Noir as it is in our Petiyante sparkling). And if you’re a fan of Blanc de Blancs you’re drinking a champagne made entirely of chardonnay.
Our The White Chardonnay is designed for everyday drinking, we think it makes a phenomenal sunset glass of wine with friends or with a simple soft cheese, but there are loads of cool weather matches with chardonnay. Simply, chardonnay prefers subtle spices and creamy or buttery flavours with seafood, chicken or even port. Try it with a few of these classic Autumn dishes:
Classic Roast Chicken
|Garlic Prawns||Vegetable Soups|
Contemporary unoaked styles just like our The White Chardonnay is made in an everyday drink now style but can happily hang out in your wine rack for two years. More heavily oaked examples offer more cellaring potential.
Priced for everyday drinking, now is great time to get your hands on The White. Order a case, pay for 11 and we'll add the 12th on us. Click on the image below to add some to your shopping cart now.
Our owner Jacques Lurton introduced the SoFar SoGood range around 4 years ago. After he found himself developing a reaction to the sulphites we find in many everyday foods and drinks. Chatting to friends and customers, he identified a growing trend in seeking out products with less preservatives and decided that his vineyard on Kangaroo Island was the ideal place to trial a no-added preservative wine range.
A small amount sulphur dioxide is released naturally by the grapes during fermentation (nature’s own preservative) so all wine contains trace amounts of naturally produced preservative.
Wines labelled preservative free mean the winemaker has not added any preservatives during the winemaking process.
Wines generally contained sulphur dioxide (SO2), or you may see “sulphites added” on the label, this can mean S02 or HS03 (bisulphites) and H2SO3 (sulphurous acid). In Australia strict restrictions on the amount of sulphites are in place and where they exist in the wine labelling laws require it to be declared. This is not the case with wines from many countries outside Australia.
You will find these same preservatives in higher concentrations in many supermarket products including dried fruit, jams, candy, processed meats and many packaged foods. So if you react to these foods it may be an indication of a sulphite sensitivity.
Sulphites have been used in wine since the early 1900s to help preserve the wine and slow down the deterioration process. It is used to get the wine into the bottle and to the drinker in the best condition.
Generally low or preservative free wines require pristine grapes in the best possible condition, handled carefully in the winery. Less faults with the grapes mean less (or no) sulphites are required.
Lots of guests our feel they can drink more of our preservative free wines without getting a hangover. Science indicates this is not the case but people with asthma are thought to be more likely to have a sulphite sensitivity and if you feel you react to any of other foods listed above it may be worthwhile giving a preservative free wine a try.
The goal in producing preservative free wines is to use the utmost care and keep intervention to a minimum. For our SoFar SoGood range, nature does much of the winemaking with the winemaker playing supervisor.
The first step is to start with pristine grapes free of disease or bird damage. Then the grapes are handled carefully in the winery, kept cool and away from air as much as possible.
At The Islander Estate Vineyard, we pick by hand, destem and send the wine to tanks for ferment (by wild yeast for our Shiraz). We use temperature control and soft extraction during ferment phase, pressing the skins off early.
As soon as fermentation is complete, the wine is clarified, filtered and into the bottle within around 8 weeks of picking (even earlier for our preservative free Sauvignon Blanc).
Our SoFar SoGood range is designed to be enjoyed young as are most preservative free wines.
Because of the minimal intervention approach, we find our preservative free wines tend to tell a pure story of the fruit and vineyard. They are easy drinking, vibrant and packed with fruit flavours.
As well as people with sulphite allergies, we find the SoFar SoGood range appeals to wine lovers who enjoy fruit forward and well balanced but less tannic or structured wines (think Pinot Noir or Merlot lovers).
September/October: Inflorescence – Also known as 'Budburst' signals the official start of the new growing season.
November: Floraison – the buds begin to flower before producing tiny bunches.
Late November/December: Fruit set – now we begin to get a good idea of bunch development and quality on the vine with an insight into how vintage may shape up if the god’s are kind.
Late January: ‘Veraison' – the beginning of ripening where berries turn from green and begin to turn purple, red and golden. A tipping point when the vine begins to focus its energy on development sweetness in the grapes.
March to May: Harvest! Can begin from late February but most often in March. We will pick for six to eight weeks, checking the vineyard daily and hand-picking only what is perfectly ready. From early May, the focus of the winemaking crew turns away from the vineyard and into the winery.
June - September: Even as the grapes are harvested, the green foliage begins the yellow and leaves drop. As the weather turns cold, the vine withdraws its energy to the roots and returns to their dormant state. The vineyard slows but doesn’t stop as our pruning crew methodically work their way through the vineyard hand-pruning.