My search for the best possible grapes in McLaren Vale led me to a family that shared my passion for great wine and great food, a family that shared my Italian heritage: the Lopresti family. Don Lopresti migrated to Australia from Calabria, Italy in 1966, with viticulture in his blood. He bought his first block of land in McLaren Vale in 1975, a 10 acre block near the coastal town of Aldinga in the southern end of the region. He planted Shiraz and Cabernet with his own hands over 30 years ago recognising the potential of these varieties in this area. Now Don and his sons Michael and Joe are the owners and managers of over 200 acres of vineyards, mostly Shiraz and Cabernet but also Grenache, Vermentino and Sangiovese, and all very close to the original block. Don has followed family tradition passing on his intimate knowledge of the land to his sons, and together they produce grapes of outstanding quality that are the foundation of my wines.
The Lopresti vineyards are in the very southern end of the McLaren Vale region, sandwiched between the ocean and the nearby hills. This sub-region is known as the ‘Clay Plains of Aldinga’ by the locals. The ocean plays a huge role here, providing cool breezes that temper the hot summer days. But it is the soil here that gives the area its name with heavy, grey loams mixed with black ‘Biscay’ clay overlying ancient Ngaltinga formation clay, formed one million years ago in the Pleistocene age. Over winter, the only time it really rains in McLaren Vale, this soil holds onto moisture for a long time. When the new buds burst in spring, this high water content leads to strong and vigorous shoot growth. The mass of leaves produced provides critical shading for the developing grapes over our long and sometimes hot summer. By autumn, as the grapes are reaching the final stages of ripening, the rainfall is almost non-existent and the clay soil dries out completely; so much so that it actually cracks up, tearing the tiny roots of the vines and creating stress that in turn leads to immense concentration of flavour in the grapes. This combination is unique to our sub-region, and produces the deeply flavoured, full-bodied wines with soft tannin that we are famous for.