2018 marks 50 years of Shiraz plantings on the Opera Block vineyard at Ballandean Estate, Queensland’s oldest family-owned and -operated winery.
Estate founder Angelo Puglisi had a vision to develop a viable and sustainable commercial wine industry in the Granite Belt region, and in 1968, he planted a block of Shiraz vines with his new wife Mary on his Ballandean farm, cementing the Puglisi winemaking future.
Mr Puglisi’s remarkable vinicultural legacy will be celebrated with a book launch, The Father of the Queensland Wine Industry – Angelo Puglisi, by Tom McSweeny. The biography will be launched on Friday 2 November 2018 at the Stanthorpe Art Gallery at 6pm.
In a nation where most producers pulled up their vines in the late eighties at government behest, this is a remarkable achievement, and testament to the vision of Angelo and Mary Puglisi, pioneers of the wine industry in Queensland.
“Our cool climate Shiraz is a vinicultural jewel. Most Shiraz vines in Australia are under 15 years old—and the older the vines, the lower the yield and more luscious the fruit,” said Angelo Puglisi.
“I am excited to announce the pre-release of our 50th Anniversary 2018 Opera Block Shiraz at our vineyard party on November 10. 2018 was an exceptionally low-yielding year—we have produced only 150 dozen of the Opera Block Shiraz for this vintage. The long ripening season and cold nights have delivered a delicate cool climate Shiraz, intense purple with concentrated berry fruits. We will be bottling this beauty in 2019.”
Angelo’s decision to convert from table grapes to wine grapes was brave and he and Mary worked hard to produce wines of quality and create a market for their Granite Belt grown wines. Those first vines have been lovingly nurtured over the years and now produce the award-winning Opera Block Shiraz—refined, elegant with intense fruit typical of a cool climate profile.
“Mum and Dad were real pioneers, and they dreamed of a Queensland wine industry at such a young age, at just 25 (Angelo) and 19 years (Mary) of age. . Up until the Puglisi’s 1968 Shiraz planting, wine in Queensland was mainly a by-product of table grape production by a few European families who were selling the grapes to market and using the leftovers to make wine. A far cry from the wine grapes of today!
“Visionaries from the start, the Puglisis visualised opening a cellar door and being the catalyst for Queensland’s Barossa and Hunter Valley on the Granite Belt. They knew that wine tourism would follow once there was wine to sell and some more cellar doors in the region. When they opened the cellar door four years after planting the Shiraz, there were only 300 wineries in Australia—now there is over 3300!
“We have been here a long time, since 1932. The 50 years of Shiraz gives legitimacy to the entire Queensland wine industry. I always say that Mum married the Queensland wine industry when she married Dad. Not only are we celebrating 50 years of Shiraz, the Puglisis are celebrating a golden wedding anniversary too, 50 years strong!” says Robyn Puglisi-Henderson, daughter of Angelo and Mary Puglisi.
What’s great about cool climate Shiraz?
First and foremost, it expresses the terroir – the sense of place with the wines, which you don’t always see in warmer climates.
Shiraz grown in warmer climates such as the Barossa ripens more easily, so the wines will typically feature riper fruit flavours, like blackberry and plum, with a lush profile. Cool climate Shiraz wines are more likely to showcase red fruit notes, a peppery, spicy side and a leaner frame. They are gracious, elegant, lower in alcohol and diverse, making cool climate Shiraz an excellent food-matching wine.
Ballandean Estate’s award-winning single vineyard premium Shiraz is sourced from the Opera Block’s oldest vines, planted in 1968, some of the oldest in Australia. Winemaker Dylan Rhymer has delivered a delicate balance of fruit and French oak in the 2015 vintage. This Shiraz is an eloquent demonstration of the Granite Belt’s terroir, boasting ripe berry and cassis aromas. On the palate, intense blackcurrant, light pepper and spices combine with medium tannins for palate structure and a smooth, lingering finish. Aged for 12 to 15 months in air dried French oak barriques; this wine is one of our most consistent award winners.
Australian Shiraz – a survival story
Australia can lay proud claim to the some of the oldest commercial Shiraz vines in the world. We owe this extraordinary vine heritage to our isolated location and quarantine law, as most of the world suffered the ravages of phylloxera, the vine eating louse, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,
However in the late sixties, the Australian market turned from sweet fortified ports towards table wines—especially Chardonnay. As late as 1989, the Australian government was still paying growers to uproot old Shiraz vines—a travesty! Sadly, many growers unable to sell their Shiraz crops once the taste for sweet fortified ports lapsed in the early seventies lapsed crops would pull up the old vines and replace them with white grapes.
Most Shiraz vines in Australia are young, barely teenagers, with the exception of a few in the warm climate of the Barossa Valley, where a few families with foresight maintained some vines in a time of flux. Did you know that Yalumba was known as the Oporto of Australia? Or that the backbone of Penfold’s Grange is made up of old vine shiraz?