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Jeffrey Grosset had his lightbulb moment when he was 15 years old. His father brought home a bottle of Riesling to share with the family – and that was it, to put it in Jeff's own words, he was “gobsmacked”! So he enrolled at Roseworthy Agricultural College on his 16th birthday, and by the time he was 21 Jeff had completed both the Agriculture and Oenology courses. He cut his teeth at a winery in Australia before gaining more experience in Germany, which of course is where the Riesling is! Returning home he was a senior winemaker by the time he was 26, but it had always been his desire to be independent and do his own thing. In 1981 therefore he acquired an old milk depot in the town of Auburn in the Clare Valley and founded Grosset Wines. Jeff has always been an innovator. His passion is Riesling and he fought to have this grape variety properly acknowledged and is actually almost solely responsible for the renaissance of Clare Valley Riesling. Bottle closures are also a strong concern. In 2000 together with a bunch of other Clare Valley winemakers, Jeff encouraged Australia and New Zealand wineries to make the switch to screwcaps, and the public, retailers and media to get behind this innovation and embrace the change. Jeff continues to privately fund research into this subject. Grosset farm four high altitude estate-owned vineyards in the Clare Valley, and some in the Adelaide Hills; they are A-grade certified organic and biodynamic for both vineyards and winery. The focus is on single vineyard wines and production is tiny.
At the 8 hectare Polish Hill Vineyard, three clones of Riesling, two German and one rare local clone are grown on silt and shallow shale soils over a thin crust of clay and gravel,
which overlies a bed of around 500 million years old of blue slate. Here powerful and persistently dry wines are produced.
The 6 hectare Springvale Vineyard at Watervale is planted with three clones of Riesling, one commonplace German, one rare German, and one local, on red loam over limestone. The vines here are deeply rooted on slate bedrock, which is atypical for the region and produces intense and lingering dry lime-flavoured wines.
Gaia Vineyard, planted at 560 metres above sea level, is the highest vineyard in the Clare Valley. It has just 2 hectares planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc on hard red rock, with rocky outcrops breaking through between the rows of vines. It is something of a miracle that any vines can grow in this harsh landscape at all, so Grosset named the site Gaia after the scientist James Lovelock's theory of symbiosis.
The Rockwood vineyard in the Watervale sub-region is in a mini-valley, planted with Riesling, Fiano, Nero d'Avola and Shiraz, on poor orange-red loam soils over hard rock. The Alea Riesling, Apiana Fiano, and Neus Shiraz/Nero d'Avola blend come from here.
In the vineyards in the Adelaide Hills, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are grown in the Piccadilly Valley, the second coldest place in South Australia.
The uniqueness of each vineyard site results in a stunning portfolio of wines. Jeff designed his own winery where the wines are made with meticulous attention to detail. All the grapes are hand-picked at optimum ripeness, and there is a minimal intervention approach in the cellar. The wines are neither filtered nor fined, and are both vegetarian and vegan friendly. Grosset's Rieslings are iconic, but their red wines too are utterly beguiling.