Kaesler Wines – estate grown premium wines from ancient, dry grown Barossa Valley vineyards
Last month I drove up to the Barossa to meet with Reid Bosward, winemaker and part owner of Kaesler Wines. Honest, friendly and down to earth, it was a privilege to be able to spend so much time with him learning about the history and his passion for the winery.
Reid is proud of their estate grown wines. They own the vineyards in the two locations in the Barossa and do not buy anything from growers and neither do they want to. As Reid explains, their aim is to make wine that is reflective of their specific vineyards – the soil, the climate, the vineyard program. He adds, “We always saw Barossa as an international brand like Burgundy and Napa. We are not chasing the market with style. We make richer reds, bolder style reds that are proudly Barossan.”
Reid and the team are focused on ensuring the winery goes the distance and is famous. They stay connected with their consumers with their cellar door sales and consumer events around Australia.
In the beginning before Kaesler
To have built such an impressive business and only the third owner of Kaesler since 1893, I wanted to understand how Reid became who he is today.
He explains, “At school I was good at chemistry and physics. The school I went to had a big agricultural stream. So I was interested in doing something that could encapsulate all those sort of things and there is nothing better than wine with chemistry and agriculture; they go together very well, in fact one leads to the other. If the agriculture is functioning well, the chemistry is easy but that doesn’t always work so you need to have a good chemistry background when the agricultural things aren’t going your way.”
“And I worked in a bottle shop as a kid, packing shelves as a Saturday job,… but I was probably more interested in labels than the wine in it.”
He then went off to study winemaking at Roseworthy supported by his parents who saw education as a privilege and a gift. He studied alongside some of the well-known names in the industry; Steve Pannell, Peter Gago, Jimmy Wilcox, Ed Thomplinson, Virginia Willcock, Nick Haselgrove, David Babich and Clive Otto.
After graduating in 1990 followed four years at Tyrrell’s as an assistant winemaker. As Reid explains, it was more of an apprenticeship and then he got the bug to go overseas.
He left Australia and worked for the Lurton family based France working as a flying winemaker. At the time, the Lurton family wasere setting up wine projects around the world in regions that had a long history of making good wine. but more recently had lost their way.
The Lurton family’s business model focused on employing Australian winemakers to make the fruit they bought into a wine that was appealing and interesting for the UK supermarkets. Reid describes it as “hard, very manual and physical work. They were difficult conditions. You had to get out there and couldn’t just sit and direct traffic” which has added to his skills set today. During his five years as a flying winemaker overseas, Reid worked in Bordeaux and Minervois in France as well as South Africa, Moldova and Spain on a number of large projects.
Moving back to Australia
On his return to Australia in 1996, Reid joined Cellarmaster the following year in the HunterBarossa. He describes it as being “the best job ever.” He adds, ”What I loved about it was that we made over 600 different wines.”
With the ability to make 1.2 million cases a year and the brief being to experiment and avoid sticking to one style, I can only imagine that it must have been a fantastic opportunity. However in the winemaking team, you couldn’t just make anything. As Reid explained, you had to be thoughtful as the average Cellarmaster customer didn’t spend more than $20 on a bottle. Therefore the wines Reid and his team created had to match this but also offer a point of difference.
Buying Kaesler Wines
While at Cellarmaster, Reid was buying grapes from Kaesler. Then in 1999, he had the opportunity, along with two business partners to buy the winery from a local landscaper who had bought the winery from the original Kaesler family.
What they had bought was sold to them as “a lifestyle opportunity” with a vineyard, winery, restaurant, cottages and cellar door. However the first and most important change to make was to sort out the viticulture. Although they were good vineyards, they had been poorly farmed so it was important to implement a good viticulture program. Reid and his partners had a vision for the winery and saw the Barossa as an international brand. Reid wanted to be serious as a world player and that meant investing in the vineyards and viticulture.
Barossan Soil and climate at Kaesler
The soil at Kaesler and the vines are unique. This year is 125th year for the Old Bastard Vineyard which is only sourced from the original vines planted in the 1893.
The most it has every produced is 7,200 bottles compared to the 1500 produced during the 2019 vintage. Wine quality is fantastic, as Reid states but it was a difficult year due to frost, some rainfall during flowering which was windy; there were many issues.
Reid explains; “What we do, is very different from what other vineyards do. It is more Burgundian where we look at the soil types and draw a ring around it and make the wines from that specific area of the vineyard.”
Reid explains. “We make wines that reflect this wine and climate. Everything we do reflects our climate. We are good at doing that.” That explains why they are focused on Shiraz which responds so well to the soil and climate. Plus as Reid states, it is fun to make and as many of us know, Shirazit tastes good.
The Bogan is a true reflection of what Kaesler is trying to achieve.
The Bogan Shiraz
The students that Reid studied with at Roseworthy went off to become famous names in the wine industry such as Peter Gago who is now Chief Winemaker at Penfolds, Virginia Willcock who is Chief Winemaker at Vasse Felix and S.C. Pannell now owner and Chief Winemaker at S.C. Pannell.
With Reid’s mullet, dressed often in flannel shirts and coming from the western suburbs in Sydney, many of the WA students called him a “bogan”. In Reid’s last year at Roseworthy, he knew that Peter would head to Penfolds and he jokingly challenged him saying that in the future, he would make a wine to rival and surpass Grange. It was initially a joke but then in 2001 they created this wine for the first time sourced from vines planted in Marananga and Nuriootpa; the oldest being 120 years old.
The 2001 was a sell out in the States and continued to be so for the 2002 and 2003 vintages. With a Gold Medal and Trophy for the Best SA Shiraz at the 2019 Great Australian Shiraz Challenge and its popularity, The Bogan Shiraz could, one day achieve Reid’s goal.
Life as a winemaker
When asked what Reid loves about his job, he replies: “It’s indoors and outdoors.”
He goes on to explain how the job of a winemaker is consistently hands-on no matter how many years of experience you have. “Every year is a new set of things that you need to look at, assess and relate to that need to be addressed every year and then you need to make your wine accordingly. You need to prepare your viticulture accordingly and then you need to make your wine accordingly. That is good stimulation to make sure every year that you are okay, there is no recipe. We have a house style which is driven by picking decisions and oak but you still need to get there which is the interesting part.”
He adds, “I have to work with my team to make sure we don’t get lazy and every year we sit down and re-assess the year and how we are going to tackle this.”
As I learn, to make good wine, whatever the weather and conditions throw at you, requires planning. And 150 steps to make a good red wine requires a lot of planning and passion.
When Reid is not managing the business, he is spending time with his family on the Yorke Peninsula or sailing. His wife Belinda is a neonatal intensive care nurse and his two daughters are focused on dance and horses. His son Harry, soon to be 21 is becoming interested in the wine business and it was great to meet him when I headed to Kaesler. A passionate and intelligent man that will no doubt in the future, will also make his mark in the wine trade.
As well as its cellar door, the wines (about 30%) are sold on premise in local restaurants as well as independents. They are also in 22 countries with exports making up 60-70% of their production.
It is clear Reid has that passion, a talent and a drive to keep improving year on year to continuously make the best wines possible from his Barossan vineyards. I wish him and the team all the best and look forward to the future vintages.
Swanny Cellars is a big supporter of Kaesler Wines. Drop in and talk to us about the wines.
Text written by Ruth Turnbull, Swanny Cellar’s Roaming Reporter.
About the Roaming Reporter:
Ruth Turnbull is the Roaming Reporter for Swanbourne Cellars. Having studied the WSET Advanced Certificate and WSET Diploma in Wines and Spirits, Ruth has worked in the wine trade in both London and Perth for over 15 years. While living in WA, Ruth was a regular Panel member on the Liquor Barons Panel and managed the digital marketing for Swanbourne Cellars. Now based in Adelaide, Ruth focuses on meeting the winemakers and the people behind the brand in order to highlight and share their story on the Swanbourne Cellars blog and social media channels.