Saturday, 24 February 2018

Behind the Brand - Schild Estate

90 Year old bush vine Grenache vineyard
With a twinkle in her eye as she shares her family’s story, you can’t help but embrace the passion Judy Watson has for those that came before her and what she and her siblings have accomplished since.

Judy, Schild Estate’s Family Proprietor and Brand Ambassador, has the room in the palm of her hand. “Schild Estate celebrated 150 years in 2016,” she says with an infectious grin. 1866 was the year her great great grandparents arrived. The more she talks, the more the transformation of the brand since those embryonic days seems to be nothing but impressive.

As the night starts to build some momentum, Judy thrusts a glass of ‘Barossa Berocca’ into my hand, a cute term used by Barossa locals for sparkling shiraz. Traditionally consumed in Australia on Christmas day, delicious sparkling shiraz wines like these have far more appeal than to be pigeon holed for one day out of 365. A versatile drink, it can be partnered with a range of foods, enjoyed as an aperitif, or even to cap the night off with some chocolate. Tonight, it was the party starter.
Schild Estate sits on the southern end of the Barossa in Lyndoch. To give some perspective on the region, Judy gets animated using a range of gestures telling us that, “The Barossa is like a funnel – 25km wide at one end, 8km at the other. Night temperatures drop from gully breezes which keeps the southern end cool. This cooling assists flavour intensity.”

Judy’s heart beats red. Barossa shiraz red but she does love grenache. And why wouldn’t you with its soft, fine fruit and spicy kiss. Time goes on and she hands me another a glass - Edgar Reserve grenache 2014. Coming off 100-year-old dry grown bush vines which sit 340 metres above. It’s a delicate yet generous wine. Excitedly, she tells me that Schild Estate only produced their first Rosé in 2017, 100% grenache no less.

The history lesson continues... In 1952 Judy’s grandfather Ben Schild moved to the Barossa with wife Alma. Living in primitive conditions with eight children, the struggle was real. Tragedy struck soon after and Judy’s father Ed took over the vineyard in 1955 as a 15-year-old. Years later Ed married Lorraine and they had four children – Judy, Michael and twin sisters one of which is Leanne who is the export and logistics manager. Mick is a character. Facial hair is trendy now but Mick was ahead of the curve before hipster was cool – his tash is a killer. He oversees all operations in the vineyard as chief viticulturalist - skills he is now sharing with his teenage son, the next generation.

Nothing is ever dull in Judy’s presence and things take another turn when she starts talking about the Moorooroo vineyard. The name Moorooroo means ‘meeting of two rivers’ – Jacob’s Creek and the North Para River. Like a prized child, you can’t help but feel the passion in her voice as she details what this patch of Barossa dirt means to her and her family.

Moorooroo Vineyard
Having personally walked among the vines of this historic site, it’s incredible to think that some of these 171-year-old vines are capable of producing fruit. But they do and it’s phenomenal!
Listed in the Ancestor category of Barossa vines due to their longevity beyond 125 years, the family treats the vineyard as a custodian. Originally, 16 rows were planted by Johan and William Jacob in 1847 - South Australia was only eleven years young at the time. But with all the rich history the Schild’s have surrounded themselves by, their ultimate goal is to preserve these vines and all their vineyards for the next generation. The continued link back to the family and their values is adorable.
A golden opportunity presented itself and in 1984, the Schild family were able to purchase the vineyard back off the Grant family. The family couldn’t believe their luck when the land popped up on the market – you can imagine it was snapped up very quickly without hesitation.

What makes the Moorooroo vineyard even more remarkable is that it was destined to be levelled during the vine pull scheme in 1984. Vines were plucked from the ground left, right and centre. But all of a sudden the tractor broke down. And that was that. Four rows and 200 vines of history were preserved by mechanical error. One could suggest it was fate. Producing roughly 200 dozen each year now, the $100 price tag for Shiraz off 171 years old vines seems awfully cheap.

As we sipped on the 2005, 2009 and 2013 vintages, the quality of the wine was most impressive. Made for the long haul, the 2005 possesses gorgeous cherry ripe, coconut husk, mocha and dark plum fruit all beautifully balanced. Coffeed oak, fruit sweetness and fine baking spices ooze deliciousness in the 2009 whilst the 2013 is slowly beginning to unfurl to show its beauty.

Today, Schild Estate is far from a small operation crushing 1000 tonnes per annum with the luxury of picking the eyes out of 500 acres. These third generation producers celebrate 20 years of wine production this year. It’s hard to believe the family were only growers prior to 1997.

For the first 13 years the wines were contract made before Scott Hazeldine came on board in 2010 to oversee operations in the winery as Chief Winemaker. With exports to the United States, Canada and various European destinations, you could say things continue to go from strength to strength.

Move to the boardroom and the business side has also demonstrated how progressive Schild Estate is with the board now predominately female operated. Not many Australian wineries can boast that in 2018.

Schild Estate. A family rich in history as rich as the Barossa dirt on which they toil.

Moorooroo Shiraz 2013
Edgar Schild Reserve Grenache 2014
Ben Schild Shiraz 2014
Sparkling Shiraz 2016

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