Brett Grocke is a fifth-generation Barossa grape grower, but a very unusual one.
His day job, as it were, is tending/managing 14 vineyards in the Barossa Valley, and consulting to numerous grape growers and wineries across South Australia. Unusual? It’s the core beliefs and practices that underlie his night-time occupation as owner and sole employee of Eperosa, his micro winemaking business which produces 800 dozen bottles of wine a year.
Four of his five 2013 vintage wines on sale have alcohol levels between 13% and 13.5%. “It’s harder to make shiraz at 13.5% than 15.5%; you have to start with grapes in perfect condition, picked while the berries are still firm, and with good levels of natural acidity.
“Attention to detail is essential from start to finish,” he says. “If I made wines using my head, not my heart, I would buy grapes from 100-year-old vines ripened to the point where the consequent alcohol is 15.5% — and make much more money.”
He also confesses that he dislikes raisins so much he picks them out of his breakfast muesli. Grocke makes his wines in a shed in Tanunda; “handcrafted” is a word beloved of PR blatherers, but in his case everything is done by hand and muscle.
In 2013 he entered a 50/50 partnership with Rockford Wines in a 6.2ha property on Krondorf Road with 4ha of vines and a yet-to-be-built 50-tonne winery. When asked whether it was to be built with room to expand production, his answer was a swift and emphatic no. “I want to spend maximum time in the vineyards [he has a second precious 4.1ha vineyard with vines dating back to 1896] so I can literally tend each individual vine.”
Most Burgundian and Rhône Valley vignerons would give the same answer. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that in 2003 he was selected for the Barossa/Rhône Valley exchange program, a one-month study tour.
Eperosa Elevation Eden Valley Shiraz 2013
From three Eden Valley vineyards, open-fermented, foot-stomped, plunged, wild-fermented, on skins 14 days, new and used French oak 12+ months. 105 dozen made. A wine of rare purity and intensity that slowly but inexorably unrolls its tapestry of black fruits, beads of juice and fine-grained tannins. 13% alc; screwcap. 97 points; drink to 2053; $40
Eperosa LRC Greenock Barossa Valley Shiraz 2013
A single boundary row, open and wild yeast-fermented, in one French oak barrel, includes 1% of riesling and 0.5% of mataro, 33 dozen made. A miniature painting records this single row with a solitary riesling and a random scatter of mataro vines. A living treasure, picked at the perfect moment. 13.3% alc; cork. 96 points; drink to 2053; $45
Eperosa Synthesis Barossa Valley Mataro Grenache Shiraz 2013
47% Barossa Valley mataro, 45% Barossa Valley grenache and 8% Eden Valley shiraz; open-fermented for 14 days, matured in new and used French oak on full lees. Excellent colour; a vividly fragrant bouquet and equally expressive palate, supple, silky, endlessly satisfying. 200 dozen made. 13.2% alc; cork. 96 points; drink to 2033; $30