From the tasting team

Adelaide Hills: Coming of age

By Mike Bennie

12 Oct, 2023

Mike Bennie looks at the trio of producers changing the natural wine landscape in the Adelaide Hills.

Amongst the avant-garde sect of Adelaide Hills winemakers, often loosely referenced by the dynamism of younger generation producers of the Basket Range parish, there’s been a shift. While ebullient pet nats, hazy, textural whites, orange wines and portmanteau red-white chillable, ruddy looking offerings still draw gaze, a quiet revolution is occurring beyond this kaleidoscope of wines. 

A development in and amongst these creatively styled wine producers has seen a change-up where focus on vineyard sites and a finer wine paradigm mark a maturing of perspectives. While less-is-more winemaking still forms a mantra, the transformation has seen releases that depart from pop-and-pour vibes to wines of finesse, balance, length and complexity – hallmarks of upper tier expressions.

Gareth BeltonGentle Folk's Gareth Belton.

At the vanguard of this evolution are producers that at their onset, produced looser knit, expressive and free-wheeling wines. Gentle Folk, led by Gareth and Rainbo Belton, released wines with wild streaks in their early days, but with a focus on dedicated, organic farming of their own vines have shifted to producing wines of finesse that seem to better reflect the dedication of their work. 

The past several years has seen a brilliant array of pinot noir and chardonnay emerge from Gentle Folk’s suite of wines. Textural chardonnay imbued with savouriness, ethereal, pure-feeling pinot noir of structure and quiet power are the métier. The rise and rise of this producer is remarkable, but then again not so considering the detailed work in the vines and focused perspective on grander wines.

Mike BennieMike Bennie.

Basket Range Wines was established in the 1970s in the eponymous parish of the Adelaide Hills renowned for its sect of natural wine producers. While second generation vigneron Sholto Broderick initially produced a colourful array of experimental wines, a shift of lens has seen Sholto refocus on farming of the family vineyard and wines that speak of purity, elegance and refinement. Cabernet and merlot are the staples – beautifully rendered under his care. 

Indeed, while cabernet and merlot may not have a new-generation sex appeal, the wines derived from Sholto’s shift in consciousness vividly mesh thirst-quenching acidity with fine tannin, hit a medium weight mark and deliver drinkability in spades. For those seeking something for their big, fancy glasses, the wines similarly deliver. The two-speed nature of current releases is terrific and should be celebrated.

 Sholto BroderickSholto Broderick of Basket Range Wines.

Commune of Buttons is down the road from Basket Range Wine. Similarly established by ‘mum and dad’, the son, Jasper Button, drives the family business with dedicated nurturing of their amphitheatre-like vineyard wedged in amongst native bush.

Again, early releases from Commune of Buttons came with edginess and wild streaks, but saline, mineral-laced chardonnay, savoury, satiny pinot noir and gamay, perfumed syrah are revelations and vivid in their fine wine paradigm. The focus and respect for the family farm is writ large.

While there’s still plenty of joy in the variegated set of younger gen winemakers eschewing classical styling and opting in for wines of gluggability, it’s been a revelation to see the shift in this trio of producers hellbent on rewriting the script of ‘natural wine’ of the Adelaide Hills.

Image credit: Wine Australia/Andy Nowell.