Spirit of the soil
by Lisa McIntosh
Wine lovers usually want to know about the vintage and where the grapes were grown before they buy a bottle – or a dozen. Troy Kalleske, from SA’s Barossa Valley, believes making wines with a natural, minimalist approach is the way to capture the truest essence of the vineyard in every bottle.
The Kalleske family has been farming and growing grapes at Moppa, near Greenock, in the north-western Barossa Valley since 1853.
The sixth generation of the family is now working with the earth to yield the best quality crops and livestock they can while caring for the environment.
There have been vines on their 200 hectare property since their forefathers bought it. However the Kalleskes, who are members at Greenock Lutheran Church and part of the Lutheran Winemakers collective, have only been making their own wine since 2002, with the first release in 2004.
In that time the small-to-medium winery business has built a big reputation, winning a string of gold medals and awards at national and international wine shows, including the trophy for Australia’s best red wine at the 2012 London International Wine Challenge. They also took out the gold award at last year’s national Banksia Sustainability Awards, as well as the Small Business gong at the 2015 Telstra South Australian Business Awards.
Their point of difference from many others in this world-renowned wine region, is that their grapes are grown organically and biodynamically and the winery is also certified biodynamic/organic.
The farm also produces oats for the biodynamic market, as well as running beef cattle and sheep, with the same principles by Kym Kalleske, his father John and his mother Lorraine.
John and Lorraine’s winemaker son Troy explains that organic viticulture and farming does not use chemical sprays to control weeds or pests, nor synthetic fertilisers for growth. Weeds are controlled mechanically and growth is promoted by composts and natural fertilisers. Biodynamic practices build further on organic principles, making the health of the soil paramount. Special plant, mineral and animal preparations are added to the soil and the phases of the sun, moon, stars and planets are taken into account.
These philosophies flow right through the wine production – the Kalleskes use the native yeast on the grape for fermentation and use minimal additives, with sulphur at a maximum of half the rate in conventionally produced wine.
The Kalleske property is also self-sufficient in terms of electricity, with solar panels generating power for the whole farm. They use rainwater for the winery, which is captured on site, and they turn to evaporative cooling in the wine production process rather than the refrigerated chilling systems that many other wineries use.
The Kalleskes began organic practices on the whole farm in the mid-1980s. It has been certified organic since the late 1990s and then went biodynamic in the early 2000s.
‘We have always done the vineyard organically, but we did use chemicals on the farm’, John explains. ‘I got to the point where I just didn’t like farming that way. I just didn’t feel it was in harmony with nature and our Christian faith. When we are out there working in the vineyard especially, you feel in touch with God, in touch with nature and it’s a good feeling.’