The grapes in Chalk Hill wines are primarily sourced from six family-owned vineyards in the McLaren Vale district, 40 kilometres south of Adelaide in South Australia. McLaren Vale’s Mediterranean type climate of cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers provides perfect growing conditions for premium grapes.
Each vineyard has a different soil type and topography, providing unique growing environments for the grapes. We take these unique factors and combine them with expert viticultural management to produce grapes of distinct character and appeal that make our wines so sought after.
Chalk Hill Organic Vineyard
Chalk Hill vineyard is a certified organic vineyard that was first planted in 1969 with Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, and more recently with additions of Sangiovese and Barbera. Each variety has been matched to the soil types occurring across the vineyard. Pictured here is Creek Block, where old Shiraz vines grow in deep alluvial loam next to the majestic River Red Gums on the banks of Peddler’s Creek. This block produces spicy fruit with thick, leathery skins that are great for flavour and colour extraction. Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Barbera are planted at the top of the hill in the shallow ironstone sand. In these soils the grapevines have to work hard. They produce small berries with a very intense colour and flavour profile – a desirable result of the tough but sought-after growing conditions.
Our Gateway vineyard is the first you see upon entering the McLaren Vale region from the north. First planted in 2000 with Shiraz grapes, this is one of our smallest vineyards at 13.9 acres (5.6 hectares). Shallow red tertiary sandstone sits on a limestone cap, similar to the famous Terra Rossa soils of the Coonawarra. These shallow soils, along with constant wind, provide a natural constraint on the vigour of the Shiraz vines, resulting in intensely purple grapes with silky tannins and strong berry flavours.
Wrights is our most recent vineyard addition and potentially the most outstanding of them all. The vineyard was acquired from the Wright family in 2008 and is now partly planted with experimental clones of Barbera, Malbec, heirloom Shiraz clones and the grape variety mistakenly identified as Albariño. Around two-thirds of the vineyard is yet to be planted and we are conducting investigations into the suitability of emerging varieties such as Touriga Nacionale, Arinto and Nebbiolo. We have also fenced off large tracts for habitat restoration with local native trees and plants.
Slate Creek, the home vineyard, lies on the northern edge of the Willunga township and is the southernmost of our six vineyards. The vineyard dates back to 1897 when the first Grenache grapes were planted, and these vines still produce fruit today. Willunga sits at the base of the Sellicks Hill Range, where, during summer, cool evening breezes blow through the vineyard, helping to stop mildew from taking hold. The small but permanently flowing creek running through the property is not used as a water source, but provides another site for our native tree revegetation project.
Established on the hills at the northern end of McLaren Vale, this vineyard of Shiraz and Viognier produces outstanding wines of great intensity and elegance. When the old apricot orchard was offered for sale by a member of the Oliver Family, Jock and Tom went cap in hand to the bank. This rare strip of land ran southwards from Seaview Road to some pedigree Grange vineyards. The soils are classic weathered sandstone on the northern face and deep sandy loams over weathered sandstone on the southern slope. These two rare soils and unique aspects make the vineyard one of the most prized patches of grapes in the country. As part of our ongoing search for better wine, the vineyard contains the largest high-density rootstock trial in the country, focussing on low and medium vigour rootstock, high density plantings and clones.
Wit’s End Organic Vineyard
Wits’ End is a certified organic vineyard, straddling the plain between the townships of McLaren Vale and Willunga. It is planted to Shiraz and Chardonnay and has two distinct soil types. On the southern side, the soil is a red Urrbrae loam scattered with flat-washed pebbles. It produces bright red fruit with dominant blackberry and raspberry flavours. In winter, the wet clay on the northern side sticks to everyone and everything it touches, making the vineyard largely inaccessible and vineyard management challenging. It can drive us to our wits’ end! In summer, the clay dries and shrinks, forming large, deep cracks that allow organic matter and topsoil to fall in, giving rise to its name of self-mulching clay. Fruit grown in this soil is dark purple with thick skins, resulting in wines with liquorice characteristics and an aroma of violets.