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!
"A 60/40% blend from South Australia; hand-picked, destemmed, pumped to tank for settling, the semillon fermented in new French puncheons, the sauvignon blanc tank fermented, both parts using cultured yeast; matured for 12 months in barrel and tank, no mlf. Absolutely awash with flavour, ranging from citrus to exotic tropical notes. Yale Norris winemaker." Reviewed by: James Halliday, August 2023
“Machine-harvested, hand-sorted; very good colour. Fragrant bouquet and a complex, medium-bodied palate with cherry all-sorts: red, black and spiced. Overall a very good wine. Finely milled tannins the icing on the cake.” Reviewed by: James Halliday, July 2023
"Hand-picked Kangaroo Island fruit, destemmed, pumped to tank for 24-hour skin contact. A counter-intuitive wine, with Old World experience. Despite fearing the worst, it isn't phenolic, perhaps the cultured yeast is the sauvignon blanc clone isolated, not genetically manipulated. It's a wine with superior mouthfeel. Yale Norris winemaker." Reviewed by: James Halliday, July 2023
"Ultra-pale partridge eye. Jacques Lurton had primary responsibility for this wine, underlining the skilled balance between wild strawberries and forest nuances sneaking up to a mouth-cleansing finish. Ideal for Chinese cuisine."
Reviewed by: James Halliday, June 2023
“30% extended maceration post mechanical harvest late April. Matured 5 months in French puncheons (30% new). The crimson-magenta hue is striking. Positively juicy, with black cherry and plum fruit; tannin extract minimal. Altogether unusual wine, and it would be interesting to buy 6 or so bottles and track its development over the next 5 years or more.” Reviewed by: James Halliday, December 2021
"A playful sparkling in name and deed - Petiyante is a nod to the French word for bubbly. Lemon tart, baked apples, white florals and citrus zest is a good representation of the island's cooler climate. Bright on entry, the grapefruit and sherbety lift melds well with a sense of fresh-baked bread. Fine and steely."
Reviewed by: Jenni Port, February 2020
"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." Reviewed by: Jenni Port, February 2020
"Estate-grown bush vines, hand picked and sorted, berry by berry. Wild fermented in 1000L ceramic eggs; left on skins for 8 weeks for conclusion of mlf, thence matured in French demis (25% new) for 24 months. Still holding a crimson edge to the hue, it is a beautifully made wine with silky tannins and fruit freshness, the oak playing a nigh-on unseen hand. One glass insists on another."
Reviewed: James Halliday, December 2021
"Hand-picked, destemmed into demi-muids for wild fermentation, 20% skins return, maceration continued until mlf complete, the wine drained and the skins and stems passed through the hand basket press, matured for 2 years on lees in demi-muids. Jacques Lurton has always loved cabernet franc, and this spicy red-fruited wine, plus its diamond dust tannins, shows why." Reviewed by: James Halliday, February 2019
"Organically managed estate bush vines, hand picked, destemmed and and whole-berry table-sorted. Wild-yeast fermentation in used 600L demis, mlf completed before the must is basket pressed and gravity racked to new 600L French demis for 24 months' maturation. The quality of the oak is clearly good and is still to pull its head in, but will certainly do so as part of a long future. It's an elegant wine and already attractive, with more in store as the oak diminishes.”vReviewed by: James Halliday, December 2021
"Hand-picked bushvine vineyard, destemmed into demi-muids for wild fermentation and extended maceration on skins until mlf completed, the juice run off and the skins pressed in a hand-operated basket press, blended after 2 years in demi-muids. An extremely complex and powerful wine with black fruits, spices, oak, tannins, earth and sea spray moulded into a single flame of flavour."
Reviewed by: James Halliday, February 2019
"Hand-picked fruit, destemmed, table-sorted then barrel fermented in seasoned 600L demi-muids; left 5 weeks on skins, matured 24 months in new 600L demis. Deep crimson-purple hue, showing no sign of age. An alluring, expressive bouquet with licorice, polished leather, eastern spices, dried plum and earth all calling out. The palate tucks in behind that array, giving substance and cedary oak tannins on the long, perfectly balanced finish.”
Reviewed by: James Halliday, December 2021
Kangaroo Island experienced a wet winter in 2021, followed by a challenging flowering during November. These same conditions were experienced across much of South Australia, resulting in widespread lower fruit-set.
As always in viticulture, every challenge has a silver lining. As a result of the below-average flowering, our vines concentrated their energy on a smaller amount of fruit. Summer 2021/2022 has been mild, creating a long slow ripening period resulting in red varieties with an outstanding balance of fruit & acidity.
Harvest kicked off on the 10th of March with a small crew hand-picking an excellent crop of Sauvignon Blanc at the Haines vineyard. Over the next 5 weeks, we processed around 70 tonnes of grapes concluding with a hand-pick of our signature variety Cabernet Franc on the 14th of April. We celebrated our first harvest from our Kohinoor Hills vineyard with two volunteer picking days where we were joined by friends, community members & loyal customers.
It was exciting & energising to be harvesting from our estate just two years post bushfire. Our yield was small compared to pre-bushfire levels, but we are confident our recovery rate will improve significantly over the next two years.
As always in a small wine business, vintage means all hands on deck. The entire Norris family jumped in for long days & even longer nights. Yale's son Wynn became the #1 vintage hand. A next-generation winemaker in the making! And it was wonderful to have Jacques' wife Natalie Lurton join our picking team.
It is energising to have our winery close to full capacity again with delicious wines in concrete, steel & oak. While it is still early days, we are excited about our 2022 whites, including Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Viognier & Rose. In our red varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon is the early standout & we cannot wait to see how our Cabernet Franc develops in its first post-fire yield.
We are preparing to bottle & release several new wines in the coming months. We can't wait to share them with you.
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.
As part of Wine Australia’s US Market Entry Program, a range of our wines were recently reviewed by the Wine Enthusiast’s rating panel. Wines from around the world are tasted by the Wine Enthusiast’s expert tasting panel at their New York Office.
The tasting gives us the opportunity to test how our wines are received by USA wine experts, alongside some of the best from Australia & Europe.
We were really pleased to receive solid results. Our Estate wines were placed in the Highly recommended category, with one of scoring 93 points, a score awarded to less than 1% of all Australian wines tasted by the panel. Our everyday drinking varietal wines also scored in the good value, well-recommended category, exactly where we would place them. Check out the reviews & order a selection for your wine cellar.
Wine Enthusiast Rating Scale
|The pinnacle of quality
|A great achievement
|Very Good 87 - 89
|Often good value, well recommended
|Good 83 - 86
|Suitable for everyday consumption; often good value
|Can be employed in casual situations
Dark purple at the core, this supremely ripe wine’s nose bursts in aromas of cassis, oodles of menthol, Black Mission fig and Morello cherry. All at once sweet in fruit and savory in spice, this is a vibrant and slightly baroque wine in aromas and flavors. In structure, it is well-proportioned and seamless, leaving the taster to revel in the complex flavor dimensions. Creamy tannins are juxtaposed by roaring, refreshing acidity. The spicy finish recalls memories of walking through Istanbul’s Spice Market. Buckle up, this is quite a flavor ride. Drink now–2026.
This is an energetic, engaging wine with tremendous aromatic appeal and racy palate lift. The nose shows distinctly different aromas with black peppercorn popping up first, followed by a refreshing herbal lift. The palate gorges on popping-ripe blackberry and blueberry fruits. The tannins are strapping but well-placed and the acidity is marked and vibrant. The medium-plus body is nicely weighty with solid extraction but no heaviness. Lovely now, this should evolve nicely in the coming years. Drink now–2025.
Sultry on the nose, with graphite and game dominating the blackberry undertones, the palate follows in the same vein. This is definitely one to decant. The palate opens up with time in the glass. Black plums, Dr. Pepper soda and dried wildflowers create a whirlwind of flavor with a solid caramel tone on the medium finish. That finish is also just a touch warm, but if the wine is served at cellar temperature, it will be fine with a hearty meal. The midpalate is a bit cherubesque, but it is nicely framed by sassy acidity and sculpted tannins. Drink now–2024.
This is a snappy, youthful and delightfully intricate white. It shows classic Sauvignon Blanc aromatic markers of ripe yellow citrus and fresh green beans while offering a solidly ripe core balanced by roaring acidity. Hints of sweet and savory spice grace the pretty fruit on the medium finish, which is flecked with crushed slate. Lovely now, this should hold nicely in the bottle for a couple more years. Drink now–2024
This wine is rambunctious and inviting on the nose. Generous in floral perfume, it also reveals honeydew melon, green gauge plum and toasty baking spice. Nicely rounded on the midweight palate, the buttery undertones are a bit domineering for the reserved, lighter fruit flavors that finish with moderate length. Still, the pleasant mix of tropical fruit and sweet spice influence is an attractive profile that will appease a wide sphere of consumers. Drink now–2024.
This wine’s vivid aromas are a dance party for the nose. Sassy red and black cherries and plums pop out of the glass along with a spray of black peppercorns and an undercurrent of hard-stemmed herbs. The attack is a burst of perfectly ripened fruits with acidic verve and streamlined tannins. Nicely extracted but not unctuous, and neither cloying nor heavy, this shimmies across the palate with incredibly energetic, youthful fruit. Given the fairly fast finish, this crowd-pleaser is perfect for casual settings. Drink now–2024
A lot has happened in the world since January 2020. But for many on Kangaroo Island, recovery is still very real & will be for a long time to come.
Today, we take a look back at how far we've come with some images from immediately after the fire & today. It's only with the benefit of hindsight that we can see what an incredible journey it has been. What Mother Nature takes away, she gives back.
Huge credit to Yale Norris who has lived this disaster every single day, who believed we could recover & put in the immense work to help it happen. And to Jacques Lurton who is so committed to his business here.
Our vineyard is recovering in stages, full production is still a year or two away but come March we will be picking fruit - a major milestone.
Our gratitude to our many customers who have kept us in business & recovering with their support. You each have a hand in our recovery.
If you have a moment this week, jump online & purchase from a small business impacted by fire in your area. The world may have moved on, but they are still dealing with the impact & your support means the world.
Bring on Vintage 2022!
Aerial view of our Estate immediately after January 2020 fires & today.
Cabernet Franc vines January 2020 & January 2022
Bush vine Grenache January 2020 & January 2022 at The Islander Estate vineyards
Regrowth of the remnant native bush which overs almost 30 percent of our estate
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 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.
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(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 2018 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.
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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: 2017 Bark Hut Rd
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.