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‘Garagiste’ sets up in Barossa

Bordeaux 'garagiste' Jonathan Maltus is set to make the first Australian garage wine – in the Barossa Valley.

The owner of St Emilion Château Teyssier, from where he produces the highly-rated Le Dôme and Château Laforge wines in restricted quantities, has bought three parcels of land in the Barossa and Eden Valleys. One of the parcels formerly went into Penfold’s Grange.

Maltus is going to produce two wines – Exile and Emigré – in a determinedly French style.

‘Wine-making will be non-interventionist and mainly French in approach,’ the company says.

‘This will be the first garage wine in Australia,’ Maltus told decanter.com, but added he didn’t set much store by such terms and ‘just wanted to make great wine.’

The three parcels – from the Schiller, Lange and Gunyah vineyards – grow the most venerable of Australian vines, with 100-year-old Mourvèdre and Grenache, and Shiraz planted in the 1930s. Eric Lange, according to Maltus, thought long and hard before releasing grapes which were previously allocated to Grange.

No expense will be spared. In a brand-new 1850s-style winery, Maltus and Neil Whyte (his fellow Le Dôme and Château Laforge winemaker) are making wine in new French oak, with half the wine going into a further set of new barrels.

All equipment has been shipped from France. ‘We sent over four containers of wooden vats, 100 barrels, thermometers, pipettes, the triage table,’ Maltus said. ‘We shipped an entire winery.’

He stressed this was not in any way because he distrusted Aussie gear or skills – it was simply that it was difficult to buy the sort of equipment he was used to locally. ‘They did think we were a bit mad, though,’ he added.

The search for suitable land has not been easy – it took Barossa grower Peter Smith over a year to find the right parcels. And Maltus had not always set his heart on Australia. ‘I wanted a southern hemisphere vintage,’ he said. ‘I looked at South Africa – because my wife, Lyn, and I are from Africa, but the Barossa is where it’s happening – it’s like 96 was in St Emilion.’

There will be 1000 cases of the first wine, Exile, and 2000 cases of Emigré. The wine will be available in 2003.

Written by Adam Lechmere18 April 2002

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