A Winederful Chat with Liz Heidenreich in Clare Valley
I feel very fortunate to be able to meet talented winemakers as the Swanny Cellars Roaming Reporter. There is so much more to wine than just “a glass of wine”. I see winemakers as artists creating beautifully structured wines with length, acidity, fruit, balance and each has a different story.
Speaking to a winemaker and learning what they have been doing in the vineyard, the sustainable practices and then the vinification techniques in the winery is a huge part of understanding and appreciating what is in the glass that I savour and enjoy. I find it interesting learning the choices in vinification to produce the styles they want to create and how they reflect the soil, climate and unique growing conditions of vines to make the wines that I and many of their customers enjoy.
Meeting Liz Heidenreich
Earlier this month, I drove up to the Clare Valley to meet Liz Heidenreich. We met at the General Store in the small township of Watervale. Family owned, selling breakfast and lunch, it is also stocked with interesting eclectic merchandise and had a wonderful community feel.
Liz is just a talented and humble winemaker keen to achieve and challenge herself. After working for the oldest Clare Valley winery Sevenhill Cellars, Liz set up on her own and now sources fruit from the Barossa and Clare Valley making wine for her own label Heidenreich. Liz grew up in a family where her grandfather Rufus sold fruit and made wine from the grapes he had planted in 1936. The German name “Heidenreich” comes from Rufus’ father who left Germany in 1866 to migrate to Australia.
You might think it makes sense that Liz is now a winemaker. However on leaving school at 18, Liz decided to study nursing and for 15 years focusing on intensive care and critical care at a number of hospitals in Adelaide. Liz then started getting itchy feet and realising how much she enjoyed helping her uncle Noel out in the vineyards (who runs Heidenreich Estate).
Liz decided to study a Post Graduate in Winemaking in 2002 at Adelaide University.
The first woman winemaker at The Adega do Cantor in Portugal
While studying at Adelaide University, Liz was fortunate to make Port alongside guest lecturer David Baverstock of Esporão in Portugal. Originally from the Barossa himself (where he had gone to school with Liz’s dad’s brother), David had headed to Portugal soon after leaving school over 30 years ago to make wine. Liz was invited to work as a cellar hand at Esporão in 2004.
Liz enjoyed her time in Portugal so much that she returned the following year. But instead of working alongside David at Esporão, she worked at Adega do Cantor. The English translation for Adega do Cantor is “Winery of the Singer”. It is the winery Sir Cliff Richard set up in 2005 and is on the southern coast of Portugal slightly inland, north of the town of Albufeira. Liz helped set up the winery and made three vintages here working alongside Sir Cliff Richard and then David every other weekend.
The first woman and non Jesuit winemaker at Sevenhill Cellars
Sevenhill Cellars is the first winery established in the Clare Valley and has one of the oldest vineyards. The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) found the winery in 1851 initially to produce sacramental wine and today it produces a wide range of wines.
Liz started in 2005 and worked until November 2018. Liz adds, “It was great in many ways working there. I got to travel a lot and did a lot of the trade and promotional work. But it was time to go and I was ready to do my own thing.”
Consultant Winemaker for Port Lincoln-based Peter Teakle Wines
Since last December, Liz has been working as a Consultant Winemaker for Peter Teakle. He had bought an established vineyard in 2017 in Port Lincoln and did a lot of work to ensure the trellising was modernised.
They are making wines from Riesling, Chardonnay, Semillon, Shiraz, Cabernet and Merlot and aim to be making 3,000 dozen. As they have planted more Riesling and Shiraz, it may go up to 4000.
Liz is employed not just to make wine but help to build the winery. Having worked for Adega do Cantor and 13.5 years at Sevenhill, no doubt Liz has the expertise to achieve this and more.
Establishing Liz Heidenreich Wines
Liz started studying wine in 2002 and has had a busy winemaking life to date working for Sevenhill Cellars, Esporão, Adega do Cantor and Peter Teakle. Many people probably would be happy with their achievements to date and take their foot off the pedal, but that is not Liz. Explaining the move to setting up her own label, she says, “I was getting itchy feet. I was getting ready to think about what the next challenge would be.”
Liz adds,”If I am going to make a career change, I feel I should do it now before I get too old and too settled.” Working with her uncle with great fruit and supportive husband David, the brand was launched in 2018.
Describing the past year working on her own label Liz says, “It has been daunting but I am really happy I have done it. It is exciting. I have a real passion for it and love the freedom and flexibility. You are your own boss so you have to make it work, otherwise you don’t get any income but it is a really good motivator. When you are so passionate about it, it is quite easy to be motivated.”
The fruit for the red wines (Grenache and Shiraz) comes from bush vines in the family vineyard in Vine Vale, in the Barossa between Angaston and Tanunda) where they are all dry grown.
The Riesling is from Watervale, from a vineyard owned by Nick Walker and David of O’Leary of O’Leary Walker Wines. It is just 100 metres down the road from the General Store. We head there after to view the vineyards and take a few photos. Liz buys the fruit and makes the wines at O’Leary Walker Wines.
The rosé comes from old block nearby in Watervale.
The range of Liz Heidenreich Wines
The wine range includes:
- Heidenreich Watervale Riesling
- Heidenreich Barossa Grenache
- Heidenreich Barossa Shiraz
- Nurse Betty Grenache Rosé
The name “Nurse Betty Rosé” is under a different label recognising her time as a nurse when she used to be called “Betty.”
From the whole range Liz make 12,000 bottles which is a fantastic achievement considering it is just 18 months old.
What do you love about your role as a winemaker?
There seems to be so much that Liz loves about her job, “I like the freedom and the creativity. No day is the same as the day before. There is lots of variety and a fair bit of travel as well interstate and internationally. It is also about getting your hands dirty.”
Discussing vintage, Liz adds, “Vintage I love, as you don’t worry about anything else, you just focus on that. You are up to your armpits in grapes.”
Liz focuses on showing the characters from the region. Her favourite grape variety is Riesling. “I love Riesling, drinking and making it, it is unforgiving. With Riesling, it is all about purity of variety, keeping it clean, and crisp and showing regionality so it is important to protect it from oxidation and phenolics in order to show the beautiful characters.”
Liz and time away from vineyards
With so much time spent in vineyards, travelling and making wine, I wonder if there is time to relax. Liz seems to take it all in her stride.
Her and David have a little Jack Russell that takes up a lot of their time and they also enjoy fishing in Port Lincoln and Kangaroo Island as well as catching up with friends and enjoying the country; walking and camping. And sometimes they head to the city but their heart is in the country.
The future of Liz Heidenreich Wines
Already having achieved so much in such a short space of time, it feels unfair to even ask about the future. Liz is keen to become established first but then who knows what the future holds? If Liz can buy more good quality Riesling, Grenache and Shiraz, we could see more of her wines on the market.
Regarding a cellar door, Liz may lease some space to be able to showcase her wines nearby in Watervale so watch this space.
I wish her all the very best for the future.
Stockists of Liz Heidenreich Wines
Swanny Cellars is a big supporter of Liz Heidenreich Wines.
The Heidenreich Watervale Clare Valley Riesling 2018 is currently recommended in the current issue of On the Vine.
A number of restaurants also stock the Heidenreich Watervale Riesling, Heidenreich Barossa Grenache and Heidenreich Barossa Shiraz.
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.