In conversation with Stuart Angas
from Hutton Vale Farm
Australia’s best kept secret & one of the
regions most historic families.
With seven generations of your family having roots in the Barossa, it seems as if you are part of the region’s history. How did it all begin for the Angas family in Australia? What has been the journey from the first settlers to winemakers?
South Australia was settled on a vision of free settlement with careful thought around planning of the built form for townships and how they relate to each other. The foundation values were of religious freedom, education, health, food production and a caring society. George Fife Angas (GFA) was Chairman of the London based South Australian Company, leading the charge to deliver settlement of South Australia in the early 1830s. It was not all smooth running. GFA was vigorous in his commitment to this vision, sending his son John Howard Angas (JHA) to South Australia in 1843 to deliver on his vision. Ultimately, GFA had to sell all he owned in England to meet his commitments to South Australia and moved there in 1851.
His land purchase in South Australia was extensive, he sponsored persecuted Lutherans from Silesia (now part of Germany) free passage to South Australia. Many settled on his land, eventually leasing or purchasing from him in their own right.
His son John Howard Angas was outstanding in delivering his father’s vision and using the wealth of income from agriculture and land sales for building the new colony, with schools, hospitals, churches and societies helping those in need. He also travelled the world collecting the best horticultural and stud breeding material for agriculture. His access to the Busby vine material contributed to the Barossa vineyards. While much of GFA & JHA’s work was done in Adelaide, they both chose to settle in the Barossa close to a town named in their honour, Angaston.
Closer to present day our journey to becoming wine producers really began in the late 1980s when a good friend; John Duval (then Penfolds Grange winemaker) encouraged us to recognise the quality of our fruit and helped us make one barrel of Shiraz, he was right and the rest has grown from there.
Given your ancestry, you must have a deep understanding of the culture. Is there anything that you feel is unique about the Barossa culture?
For 1,000s of years, before European settlement, the landscape was cared for by the Peramangk Aboriginal people with soils recognised as some of the oldest in the world. European settlement brought quite a change. Both the English and Silesian (German) migrants brought their own culture. This culture is evident today in the buildings, vineyards, wines and the longest continuous food culture in Australia. Much of our landscape reflects a mixed farm with stone buildings, wood ovens and smoke houses.
Hutton Vale Farm is not only a vineyard but also a working farm. Can you tell us about the whole farm? What else do you grow or rear there and what farming methods do you promote?
Hutton Vale Farm has been a mixed working farm since 1843. While there has been changes in the mix over the 176 years, some things have also continued. Our focus is to farm with the lightest footprint to the soil, with everything we do weaving together for the strength of the whole farm. Cereal crops producing straw mulch for the vineyard, sheep grazing in the vineyards in winter for no spraying weeds and grasses, a permaculture orchard for our poultry (chooks) to graze and deliver eggs for the farm kitchen.
Our Merino sheep have always played a part and are as generational as the family, with their mothers, grand-mothers and great grandmothers being born on Hutton Vale Farm, contributing to a natural genetic vigour. A small selection from the 100% Merino wool is knitted into beautiful woollen throws
and the rest is sold to specialist buyers. Our prime lambs are given the most natural caring life before paying the ultimate price and delivered to high quality restaurants respecting a no wastage approach to all parts of the animal.
Most impressive! As one of Australia’s oldest remaining working farms - do you hope for your children or grandchildren to continue running the estate?
Currently we have two of the seventhgeneration stepping up to running the farm business and three little eighth generation living on the farm. So there is opportunity, for which we take great care to plan together.
Clearly, family life is central at Hutton Vale Farm. Is everyone part of the day-to-day running of the estate and involved with the Harvest?
The whole family is very important. Being part of Hutton Vale Farm business is about desire and commitment. As luck would have it, the seventh generation have good energy and passion, while complimenting the current strengths and gaps to take us into a strong future. Harvest time is always exciting and naturally busy, all hands on deck as everyone is involved somehow, there is no escaping harvest time!
Do you have a strong philosophy with regards to what you’re trying to achieve at that farm, whether it’s growing food or producing wine?
We have a very strong commitment to our land and lead with brave hearts and patient hands, indebted to all who have gone before us and respectful for those who are yet to come.
For the 7th generation, Cait and Stu’s approach to their roles is to ensure a healthy future for our farm and ultimately to remain a farm. We are excited by the chance to change and evolve, we are not stuck entirely in heavy tradition but we are committed to the philosophy of quality that has been a hallmark of Hutton Vale Farm since 1843.
How important is the food element to the estate? Do you have any advice to those wanting to grow their own food, to get the best out of their produce?
We grow food, fibre and wine, not commodities that will be processed for food and wine production. Working with the season and natural environment is the most honourable way to have a sustainable future and deliver the best quality mother nature will allow.
Can you tell us about some of the dishes you like to create? Anything that is typical of traditional Barossa cuisine?
The flavour of what we grow is central to what we cook, meaning keeping it simple prevails. Slow lamb roast, rubbed with home grown lemons and rosemary is a regular feature with seasonal salad or vegetables. Jan, who does most of the cooking, believes in a minimum of 7 vegetables accompanying any roast. She is also legendary for crispy lamb spare ribs served outdoors around a warm red gum fire. A Barossa winemakers favourite!
We’re fascinated to hear more about the Collingrove property. What can you tell us about it?
John Howard Angas built a home when he took a wife, Susanne Collins, naming it Collingrove honouring her surname.
Unlike his father GFA’s home; Lindsay Park, Collingrove was of more humble proportions. The importance of Collingrove was that it was the headquarters of a large proportion of South Australia’s agriculture lands being managed by JHA. The home is modest for the scale of business and visitors it hosted. A true reflection of the man himself.
Your relationship with the Henschke family began generations ago and you’ve been neighbours ever since. Are you close as families, getting together from time to time to share great food and wine?
The Henschkes reflect the very strong German (Silesian) history with the Angas Family a very strong English history. The Barossa settled with a healthy respect of German and English but they retained their own social entities. This has slowly changed over the last century or so.
Ronald Angas planted the Mount Edelstone vineyard in 1912. His son, Colin continued managing the vineyard and began working with Cyril Henschke, Stephen’s father, in the 1950s. Colin planted another vineyard with cuttings from the Mount Edelstone, in the 1960s. Colin sold the Mount Edelstone vineyard to Cyril Henschke in 1973
Mount Edelstone has continued with a single pedigree and a strong future, managed exceptionally well by the Henchkes.
Today we both have great food and wine to share as well as interests. Last month Stuart (Angas) flew Stephen (Henschke) interstate for a wine makers’ meeting. A few days later Andreas (Henschke) took Jan (Angas) for a quick lift off in a hot air balloon flight!
Tell us about the walks between the Hutton Vale Farm, Hill of Grace and Mount Edelstone vineyards.
Together our families host the little Barossa Camino on the first Sunday of May. We celebrate the effort of generations, our parish of settlements in Eden Valley most notably the Hill of Grace church and vineyard, before walking across the beautiful open landscape sharing stories. Hutton Vale Farm land connects the threevineyards, Hill of Grace, Hutton Vale and Mount Edelstone. The actual peak of Mt Edelstone alongside the vineyard, (hence the name) provides 360-degree views of the countryside and the backdrop for tasting the threewines. A short walk back to the farm buildings for lunch, sharing in everything we grow, warmth of families, new and old friends.
(We would be delighted for you to join us)
As you’ve already whet our appetite – tell us, what is typically served for lunch following the vineyard walk?
Local produce grown on the farm and by our neighbours. Smoked Roo with Quandong chutney, Silesian fowl soup with hand-made pasties, braised lamb with parsley dumplings, cauliflower and red onion cake, roasted root vegetables. Followed by the Gnadenberg Church ladies classic sweet slice selection. All with a background of local music. Last year Justine Henschke sang a few favourites!
We’re intrigued by the airfield in the middle of the vineyard. How did this come about?
Our family has had a varying history associated with aviation, a handful of pilots and a few enthusiastic aviation friends along the way have helped. Stuart’s Great Uncle Bob learnt to fly in England with the Royal Air force at the beginning of WW2. He was shot down twice over enemy territory and was awarded a DFC. He returned after the war and settled at a neighbouring property. It was Uncle Bob who first landed in the paddock in a Tiger Moth. Stuart has gone on to be a commercial pilot and with that encouraged the upgrade of our paddock to an airfield! One end is indeed adjacent to the Mount Edelstone vineyard, whilst the other end stops short of the Hutton Vale Farm Shiraz vineyard. We cater for light to medium sized single or twin engine aircrafts on an ad-hoc basis but charter and private transfers are available for our guests too.
The Hutton Vale Farm vineyard has produced fruit that has gone into some of Barossa’s greatest wines. What can you tell us about the vineyard itself and what makes it produce fruit of such quality?
It all starts with the soil. Our vineyard is in the northern end of Eden Valley with rich chocolate loam over deeper clay. The clay tends to hold moisture and using mulch on the surface helps to keep soil temperature down on hot days. Being planted with no irrigation nearly 55 years ago the spacing between individual vines along the rows is larger. The rows run east to west either side of a natural creek bed. The width between the rows is wider than the norm and all sod sewn with a green pasture mix. The sheep graze this in winter, it is mown in late spring leaving a dry mat over summer to hold the soil. The vines fruit in balance with the season. They are not force fed with fertilizer or water. Cane pruned by hand on a single wire trellis. We aim for the canopy to be in balance with the vine, as well as the season to reduce heat stress while letting in enough light to allow a slow even ripening and to bring out the flavour. Mother nature is not always fully compliant with our desires, which we have to accept.
The vineyard is planted with cuttings that your Grandfather took from the Mount Edelstone vineyard that he planted. Are there many similarities between the Hutton Vale vineyard and Mount Edelstone vineyard?
While the two wines are made by different winemakers in different wineries, it is undeniable how similar the fruit profile is in the wines and it is always a privilege to taste the wines alongside each other.
Can you tell us a little about each of your wines?
Riesling: Our single block of Riesling was planted in the mid-1960s on a gentle slope alongside a natural watercourse. It is a relatively large block for a single variety and was established by fifth generation Colin Angas with great encouragement from Peter Lehman who was a fierce advocate for the Eden Valley’s ability to grow Riesling that could be amongst the best in the world.
Hutton Vale Farm Riesling is known for beautiful aromatics and citrus zing, whilst not sweet it is mouth wateringly moreish.
Grenache Mataro: Planted in 1968, it was originally 100% Grenache. When approximately 10% of the vines failed in the first year; they were replanted with vine stock that time revealed to actually be Mataro. A brilliant mistake of luck saw this blend born in the vineyard not in the winery, the grapes are grown together, harvested together, processed, fermented, aged and bottled together; a true vineyard blend.
A lighter style for the Barossa, it is sort of a “Barossa Pinot”, generally described as a wine, “greater than the sum of its parts”.
It is an excellent lunchtime wine, and if the sun goes down and you’re still enjoying it, so be it! Cellaring potential is good, 10-15 years.
Cabernet Sauvignon: This is a great example of a well-ripened variety. A more recent planting, (1998) by 6th and 7th generations during the children’s school holiday break (instead of holiday away!) and expanded Hutton Vale Farm.
Very low yields but delicious, mouth filling flavours. A mid-range between the Grenache Mataro and the Shiraz. More of a dinner wine although a hearty lunch on a cold day, red meat, baked vegetables, perfect accompaniment. Cellaring potential, 15-20 years.
Shiraz: Planted 1967 by Colin Angas, Our Shiraz has always been approachable even soon after bottling, but so much better if it can be put aside for a few years. We release our Shiraz at 4-5 years of age and recommend cellaring for as long as you like within reason, but we don’t think 25 years is out of the question. Probably longer.
It is a rich, full-bodied wine typical of high end Eden Valley Shiraz, a well-balanced restrained wine with elegance that truly speaks to the sense of place from which it came.
Do your farming values carry over to your winemaking? How do you feel this translates through the wines?
Yes, we aim for the wines to reflect the true flavour of the fruit with minimum intervention. Sometimes less really is more, and when accepting lower yielding crops (of anything) often we see the quality remain consistently high. In terms of winemaking; we agree with Kym that when the grapes are ready to harvest, the prospective wine is as good as it can ever be right at that point. The challenge is to process it, age it and package it as gently as possible to maintain the quality of the fruit from that day it was harvested.
As well as your own wines, fruit from the Hutton Vale Farm vineyard was responsible for Wolf Blass’ single vineyard wine that won World’s Best Shiraz and also Dan Standish’s 99 point scoring Lamella 2016. Does it make you feel just as proud when hearing about these accolades as it does with your own wines?
Absolutely, as the winemakers are always complimentary of the job done in the vineyard. You can’t make good wine from bad grapes! Other winemaker’s success with Hutton Vale Farm grapes is always a celebration.
Are you continuing to sell fruit to other Barossa producers as well as producing your own wines? Are Dan Standish and John Duval still sourcing grapes from you?
Yes, we continue to work together as it keeps us brave and objective in what we do. Better accountability than just thinking we do things well. We really enjoy working with great people and it is truly a pleasure to be able to share and work together with what we achieve collectively and on our own.
To share good food and good wine with good people is always a grounding reminder about how lucky we are to do what we do, we pay that forward by sharing it with people who want to value it too.
Given that the John Duval, Standish Lamella and your own wines all use grapes from the Hutton Vale vineyard, how do you feel the wines all differ?
We have specific areas of the vineyard picked for each of us. We do not pick everything at once and send a portion to each winemaker respectively. So the different nuances in the vineyard can show through, and each has a slightly different method of time on skins, in barrel or types of barrel. Nothing thrills us more than when the flavours speak to the Hutton Vale Farm vineyard in a recognisable way.
Perhaps one of Australia’s
best kept vinous secrets?
A truly, super-special parcel of Shiraz, which is no wonder given the cuttings were taken from Henschke’s Mount Edelstone vineyard. Perhaps one of Australia’s best kept vinous secrets and the reason why two of Australia’s greatest winemakers, Dan Standish & John Duval source their fruit from this small ‘old’ block of Hutton Vale Farm Shiraz…
Hutton Vale Farm’s vineyards and wines have won a range of awards including world’s best Shiraz (twice), and an impressive 98 points from James Halliday for their 2012, which of course, sold-out. Their 2013 was superb, however yields and fanatical selection produced a mere 340 cases, meaning it is also heading for the ‘sell-out’ list.
We have a modest allocation of their 2014, which we believe overdelivers on every level. We adored the precision, and the extraordinary sense of harmony. A breathtaking Aussie Shiraz of magnificent pedigree…
Only 64 Cases (6x75cl) are available and we thought serious Shiraz fans would like the opportunity to guarantee an allocation.
£35.95 per bottle