Barossa Valley, Australia
The Kaesler Vineyards were established in 1893. The family, sprung from Silesian pioneers who came to the Barossa Valley in the 1840s, took up 96 acres in 1891. They cleared the scrub and in 1893 planted out the entire holding with Shiraz, Grenache, Mataro (Mourvedre) and White Hermitage vines.
Some of the gnarled dry-grown Shiraz still remains and provides the backbone of the intense wines produced from the sandy loam of this prime viticultural block.
The Kaeslers and later owners did not make their own wine. Traditionally, they sold their grapes to the Seppelts. The exceptional Kaesler wines now being produced had their beginning in 1997 when a young winemaker at Cellarmaster just a few hundred metres away at Dorrien noticed the power and intensity of the fruit.
Searching the world for excellence
The present range of Kaesler Wines springs from a worldwide search for a property to produce the best possible grapes for red wine.
Winemaker Reid Bosward and his co-owners, a group of international wine lovers, searched areas such as America's Napa Valley, the south of France, Marlborough in New Zealand and other parts of Australia before deciding to buy into the Barossa.
"No other area can produce the intensity of flavor that we have in the Barossa," says Reid.
The search began through a chance meeting - and the love of great wine.
In 1994, Reid and his now wife Bindy were at Chateau La Louviere at Pessac in the Graves district. They were joined for a weekend by one of Bindy's friends, Julie Fraser, and her husband, Edourd Peter, a Swiss banker.
At dinner in a Bordeaux restaurant (helped by three bottles of 1985 Chateau Mouton Rothchild), Edourd asked Reid how much it would cost to set up a winery in Australia. Reid said a million dollars, which to him then sounded a lot of money. "Ed just raised an eyebrow and said: 'If you see anything in Australia you think would be a good buy, give me a call'."
That thought stayed with Reid as he returned to Australia to make wine for Brian McGuigan in the Hunter.
In 1997, Reid came to the Barossa Valley to make wine for Cellarmaster. This was an enormous experience. "At Cellarmaster, with all its demands for varieties and levels of quality, you had to make 20 times as many decisions as you would have to in other places," he said.
This added to Reid's confidence - and confirmed the knowledge that the real secret of great wine is always in the vineyard.
Reid first saw fruit from Kaesler's in 1997 when Toby Heuppauff sent it to Cellarmaster under an arrangement for some to go back to be sold under a Kaesler label. The fruit impressed him.
In 1998, he was so overwhelmed by the intensity of the old vine Shiraz that he made a special batch he called "Old Bastard". It was up there in the Grange and Hill of Grace class, but with its own distinctions, its own secrets.
Clearly, here was his vineyard, but was it for sale? By sheer chance again, it was.
Edourd Peter and his colleagues - an American, a Swiss and a German - with Reid made the purchase from Toby Heuppauff in November 1999.
But, with less than 30 acres, it was not big enough to justify building a winery. They not only needed more land, to meet their ambitions, they needed top grape-growing land. This in the tightly and mainly family held Barossa Valley was a formidable task.
Chance came again. Barry Matthew, the man who owned the property next door, decided to sell out and retire. Not only was this some of the best land in the valley and producing sumptuous wine grapes, it brought together 60 of the original Kaesler acres from 1893.
Kaesler now and the future
The first vineyard the winelovers bought comprised the buildings and 26.3 acres of vines - eight acres of Shiraz, 5-1/2 acres of Grenache, 2-1/2 acres of Mataro, eight acres of Semillon and just over two acres of Cabernet Sauvignon.
The 2000 vintage was difficult throughout the valley. Kaesler's got only 19.6 tonnes off the 26.3 acres - "but it was good stuff."
In 2001, they added the vintage from the neighbouring 28.5 acres they bought later in the year. This new area had six acres of Shiraz, eight acres of Grenache, six of Semillon, some Riesling - "and we planted some Voignier." This was a variety Reid had noted in France as a straight white wine and as a fascinating blend with Shiraz.
The old vine material was there. Led by 3.7 acres of 1893 Shiraz, more than 70% of the red wine vines on the combined vineyard were 40 or more years old. The Shiraz thrived on the sandy loam over clay. The Grenache was on the rockier patches, restricting the crop from this prolific producer.
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