Wines to bring joy into your everyday
Rising from the Barossa floor, the Eden Valley’s bushy ridges and rolling hills are dotted with a series of vineyards, continuing all the way up to the cooler reaches of some 500m. There’s a notable attention to detail around the mostly older vines, yes, but it’s the rocky, shallow sites and their ancient soils, from loamy sand to clay to quartzite gravel, along with the higher elevation, that make them such a premium growing region. Perfect, in fact, for winemakers looking for a variety of fruit profiles and better acid retention, for balance, finesse and complexity.
Around three-quarters of the grapes that end up in Head Wines' bottles are sourced from a carefully chosen selection of these elevated Eden Valley sites. Alex Head follows a traditional négociant model, an old practice where the winemaker does not grow their own grapes, instead working with a number of small growers.
All of these vineyards are farmed sustainably using organic principles where possible; yields are controlled and grapes are hand-picked. Not being tied to his own vineyards has allowed Alex to spend years understanding the strengths and weaknesses of a number of sites, to pursue his house style, and to always give his customers greater value and choice.
Like the upper Rhone Valley, where Alex’s beloved Shiraz was cultivated by the Romans, and has been the only red grape grown there for thousands of years, the Barossa has a long and continuous history with the grape, along with Riesling, if only reaching back 170 or so years. The Barossa may boast Australia’s oldest vines, but Alex points out that they’ve survived not out of nostalgia, but because the vines have long yielded high quality and utterly distinctive grapes. He goes on to add "the site will always prevail". The Barossa’s various soils, climate and planting density is key in their longevity and superiority.
Since the beginning Head Wine’s focus has been on single site Rhone varietals and as far back as 2006, Alex started making whole bunch Shiraz, pushing for larger format oak and earlier bottlings. A whole tribe of new, young producers have over the last decade really pushed this boundary — figuratively, as well as literally into the region’s higher elevations. Alex started the Old Vine Grenache in old foudres in 2013 and won the trophy at the Barossa Wine Show. As Alex says with a smile, "...these styles are here to stay."
While there’s no denying the European influence — this shows in Alex’s preferences for elevage and in careful, gentle attention to maturation — he’s also adamant that his priority is to produce wines the way the fruit suggests or allows, adding, "Ultimately, it’s Barossa fruit". In any case, this is slow winemaking and each parcel is made differently: decisions are usually made on the spot, there’s never a recipe.
Alex is keen to move further into single site wines but will always remain committed to the blends that go into his 'H' Series, surprisingly putting more time and effort into these than anything else he does. Why? "We’ll always want to ensure these will showcase Head Wine’s house style, both pleasing our regulars on a daily basis, while giving those new to Barossa wines, or wine in general, the confidence to eventually look to our 'Limited' editions and our special 'Icon' collections".
Reaching out to Head Wines’ customers is also an important part of future vintages. “We want to work on how our customers actually feel after drinking our wines — do they feel better from healthier grapes and lower alcohol wines? In the end, the decisions we make and everything we do is about creating wines worthy of sharing with family and friends."
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