Wine from the Garden of Eden
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Justinian in Wendler on Wine

Justinian wine reviewer Gabriel Wendler managed to secure seven bottles from the Eden Valley in South Australia - riesling and shiraz ... Tasting with Cameron Jackson ... Geography, history and viticulture ... Splendid triumph of vin de garage 

Dr Samuel Johnson, lexicographer and colossus of the Augustan Age, was convinced "there is nothing that has yet been contrived by man by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn".

Although the Eden Valley Wine Centre in Angaston, South Australia is neither "tavern" nor "inn" wine available there will afford the wine aficionado "much happiness".

The proprietor of the Wine Centre is the clever and indefatigable Karina Kroehn.

A few years ago she realised that small Eden Valley winemakers required a knowledgeable and enthusiastic voice to promote  their remarkable wines.

 Kroehn's idea was to "bring together the region's most impressive wines under one roof - a combined cellar door". 

"I have a love for Eden Valley and it's great to see such classy wines getting the exposure they deserve," she told me. 

Curiously, the appellation "Eden Valley" is a misnomer as it is not actually a valley but part of the Barossa Ranges.

Controversially some wine commentators define the Eden Valley as part of the wider Adelaide Hills region, encompassing all the land from Keyneton through the Eden Valley to Clarendon in the south, i.e. viticultural extremities of the Barossa Valley and the Southern Vales.

From 1851 until the outbreak of the WW1 - when many German names in the Barossa and  Adelaide were changed - the Eden Valley region was part of the Hundred of North Rhine and settled by Lutheran immigrants from Germany.

The actual valley in the area is Flaxmans Valley named after Charles Flaxman, a colonial land speculator who was instrumental in surveying, selecting and purchasing the 321 sq kms that came to be known as the "Rhine District".

The hamlet of Keyneton was named after Joseph Keyneton a magistrate and farmer who, in 1842, took up a lease of land in Eden Valley. 

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The Wine Centre showcases the following labels: Eden Hall, Eden Springs, Eden Valley Wines, Heathvale, Hutton Vale, Radford, Poonawatta, Flaxman, Dandelion, Torzi Mathews, and Wroxton – a corpus of astonishingly well crafted wines. 

The line-up from Eden Valley

It represents a revival of a once thriving nineteenth century cottage wine industry in the Keynton-Eden Valley area and, in a sense, Australian vins de garage.

The wine philosophy of the garagistes commenced in Bordeaux, in particular, Pomerol and St Emilion in about 1989. The description vin de garage, "garage wine" was invented by French wine critics Nicholas Baby and Michel Bettane.

Vin de garage  is, of course, not made in a corrugated iron garage. The colloquial description refers to wines of special quality made in small quantities by passionate artisan winemakers.

In France  the pioneers of this  movement were Le Pin, Valandraud, La Gomerie, and Lusseau. 

The vinification mission of the garagistes is the creation of a wine style that is mellifluous with corpulent mouth feel.

There is no compromise concerning the quality of fruit that finds its way, where possible, into 100 percent new oak barriques.

Unlike French vins de garage Eden Valley cottage wines are not exorbitantly priced and marvellous value for money. Wine consumers should give them the attention they most certainly deserve.

The Eden Valley wines are available online.  

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My colleague Cameron Jackson and I made the following tasting notes ... 

Eden Hall 2004 Riesling. From the outstanding 2004 vintage. Made by Christa Deans using fruit from the historic Avon Brae property. We thought this an outstanding wine. Jackson detected intense ruby grapefruit at the mid-palate. Its structure was excellent. It was in balance and had a long, robust satisfying finish. Superb - 95 points.

Radford -Quartz Garden - Riesling 2010. Picked off one of the oldest Riesling vineyards in the Eden Valley. Its colour was clear and brilliant. Jackson noticed a hint of capsicum. We agreed it had an attractive full dry and direct style with washes of citrus on the finish. We thought it was, in a sense, a youthful rendition of the 2004 Eden Hall. We gave it 94 points. 

Eden Valley Wines - The Saviours - Shiraz 2005. This wine was a co-operative effort involving a number of Eden Valley winemaking families. The wine reflected brambly fruits accompanied by vanilla oak. I detected a hint of mint and bitter Swiss chocolate. Jackson gave it 90 points. I gave it 91. 

Eden Valley - Tin Shed - 2005. Commenced in 1997 by  Chef Peter Clarke and winemaker Andrew Wardlaw. Small production of concentrated powerful red wines. We both thought this a remarkable wine. Raisins, chocolate and dark berry fruits reflecting very ripe grapes. Incredibly its 16.8 percent alcohol was not intrusive. Jackson thought it challenged the edge of excess, but magically avoided it. We thought it in balance and was drinking superbly. A benevolent dictator of a wine - 95 points. Incidentally we surmised Robert Parker Jr would have given this wine 97 points!

Radford - Spice Bush - Shiraz 2008. We thought this wine had vibrant colour and faintly floral nose. We thought it a bit short on grip, mouth feel and length, however its insinuation of liquorice and dark fruits on the palate gave it a certain attractiveness. Jackson gave it 91. I gave it 90 points. 

Poonawatta  - The Four Corners - Eden Shiraz 2009. Andrew Holt created the Poonawatta Estate label in 2002. We wondered whether the name Poonawatta may have been slightly changed from Poonawurta, which was the name of a copper mining company that operated in the Kyneton area in the mid-nineteenth century. His family hold the iconic 1880 vineyard, which is one Australia's oldest for shiraz grapes. The Four Corners was sourced from the best vineyards in the four corners of the Eden Valley. 

We were surprised this wine did not deliver as much as we hoped. Jackson found it slightly thin at its rim. The initial announcement of blackberry fruit tones suddenly slipped away. Jackson gave it 91 points. I gave it 92.

Torzi  Mathews Schist Rock Shiraz 2010. We thought this was a stand-out wine. Astonishing value at $18 a bottle! Jackson summed it up well as a, "wine that is all about purity and excellence but not lacking power with precise finish to match". 94 points.

Gabriel Wendler

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