Pikes Wines, a family tradition has certainly made its mark in the Clare Valley
A Winderful Chat with Jamie Pike
I met up with Jamie from Pikes Wines before he jetted off to the USA.
Speaking to “Pikey”, it is clear his passion is in the wine trade and in particular the family business. He is a busy family man with two small children and as Sales and Marketing Manager, is deeply involved in Pikes Wines so I appreciated him catching up with me and telling me about the wines, the story and the family.
Before joining the family business three years ago, Jamie was working in the trade, for Villa Maria as Brand Ambassador and before that leading a sales team in a wine distribution company. Today as Sales and Marketing Manager, Jamie is the face of Pikes. He spends time attending trade shows, meeting restaurant and bottle shop owners and telling the story of the Pikes brand to the consumer. One day you might see him rock up at a bar carrying cases of wine to restock their fridge or you will see him at a wine tasting in the city discussing the wines.
Chatting to Jamie about the brand and its history, I soon learnt that had it not been for an interest in a certain someone, then the family company would not be here today.
How it all began
It all started with wine and love. Jamie’s dad Andrew worked as a vineyard manager for Wynns in Coonawarra early in his career. It was in this small town that Andrew met Cathy, a dental therapist. However when Cathy secured a placement many hours away from Coonawarra in another small country town in Clare, then Andrew (‘being the smitten kitten he was’ says Jamie) followed. He soon was offered a job with Penfolds, Wynn’s competitor and set up the Penfolds Clare Valley Estate which was the largest organically managed vineyard in the country at the time.
Meanwhile, Andrew’s brother Neil who had also been working at Wynns, followed Andrew to the Clare Valley a few years later and began working for a family owned winery Mitchell Wines. As Jamie explained, a piece of land then came up for sale opposite the Penfolds vineyard and the family (Andrew, Neil and Cathy along with Andrew and Neil’s parents Edgar and Merle) bought it and it was that block that became Pikes Polish Hill River Estate. They spent many weekends trudging around the paddock planting vines with little 3 month old Jamie on their backs. To think what they have built through hard work and consistency is admiring and equally impressive learning that the Pikes family had been involved in the drinks trade since 1885.
The History of the Pikes family and the famous fish
It was Jamie’s great great grandfather, Henry originally from Dorset in the UK who in 1885, set up Pikes Dorset Brewery and created the now famous Pike logo. The business grew when his son Walter Henry joined the business and in the 1940’s they diversified brewing soft drinks, tonic water and cordials. The company which had been changed to H.Pike & Son was sold in 1964. So when Pikes Wines was set up 20 years later, it was a no brainer to use the famous Pike fish image.
Since 1984, the vineyards have grown from just the one vineyard in Polish Hill to 100 hectares making up to 70,000 dozen bottles. The actual production is more if you take into consideration the brand Pikes and Joyce which comes from Adelaide Hills and the grower’s fruit for the ‘Traditionale’ Riesling and Shiraz.
Growth of Pikes
Their growth is impressive and consistency has been key to their success. As Jamie explains “The wine itself has been consistently made. Our viticultural practices mean that we have a very reliable quality year in and year out. Between 85% to 95% of the ‘Traditionale’ Riesling comes from Polish Hill which is slightly higher in elevation and the cooler sub region of Clare Valley. In 35 years, the Riesling label has never changed (‘Traditionale’) with just a small change to the capsule.” Their vineyard practices to date and their plan for a more sustainable future is equally admirable.
Jamie continues, “We have been looking to improve our sustainability and use sustainable farming practices and have done so for many many years.” They do this because they believe in it and have a responsibility to do this. In the Clare Valley, Pikes is one of the larger producers and as such Jamie believes they also need to focus on the sustainability of the business.
With the threat of lack of water, Jamie describes that the company uses practices designed to maximise water usage and water retention in the soil. Jamie adds, “It is equally important to provide shade for the fruit and lower temperature in the fruit zone. We were one of the first to push the use of straw mulch in the region. We will mulch the vineyard so that it is renewed every 3 years. Every block has new treatment every 3 years of new straw mulch. This means it keeps moisture in the soil underneath and acts as a blanket, keeping the temperature in the fruit zone much cooler as well.”
Another vineyard practice they adhere to is the east to west orientation of their vines as this keeps the sun directly over the top of the fruit of the vines over the whole day as opposed to warming up one side and then in afternoon baking the other side.
The company wants to be as self-sufficient as possible and one area they excel is water conservation. As water and water security is their biggest pressure, they have an EPA-approved program where they recycle all of their waste water that comes out of the winery from cleaning equipment to flushing out hoses, no water is allowed to be wasted. All the water is processed through a gravity-fed five tier native reed bed which acts as a natural filter. From where it is all collected, it is then mixed with 50% mains or dam water and then it is used back onto the vineyard. The same water capture technique and recycling is used for the brewery where Jamie’s younger middle brother Alistair is the brewer.
Pikes is also focused on become more self-sufficient when it comes to electricity. Their current solar panels account for 30% of our electricity usage and they are looking at options to have more solar. Throughout summer, before vintage and the winery is empty, they would have the opportunity to sell back.
Where can you buy Pikes Wines?
The Pikes wines are sold in 60% retail (and national retail) and 40% on-premise (restaurants). Their consistent James Halliday 5 star rated winery is a reflection of their commitment to quality and consistency. With their passion on sustainability no doubt Pikes Wines will hopefully be here for another 35 years to come.
Swanny Cellars is a big supporter of Pikes. The ‘Traditionale’ Riesling is recommended in the Autumn issue of On the Vine.
Next time you head over to South Australia, drop into Pikes and check out their new tasting room and new restaurant which was opened last October. You can also try some of their craft beers there too.
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.