WINE region Langhorne Creek is hoping to boost its profile among industry players and drinkers with an innovative idea to give away grapes to winemakers.
Langhorne Creek is Australia's fourth largest wine-producing region but is often overshadowed by the nearby wine hubs of McLaren Vale, Barossa and Adelaide Hills.
A number of Langhorne Creek's leading wineries and industry bodies have banded together to launch Project 5255, which will give two tonnes of locally-grown grapes each to three successful applicants to be made into their own commercial wine.
Successful applicants must have a Producer's Licence and will be able to choose from a number of varieties made available by local growers, including regional favourites Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz as well as emerging varieties such as Mouvedre, Graciano, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Fiano, Organic Chenin Blanc and Organic Malbec.
Bremerton Wines winemaker, Rebecca Willson, who is also helping to drive the project, said it was a unique approach that could be used as a template for other regions interested in rolling it out.
She said a broad cross-section of applications were expected from senior winemakers to rookie talent from other South Australian regions and interstate.
There is also the potential for international winemakers to participate in the program if they hold an Australian Producer's Licence.
"There could be some established winemakers in there who have never had the opportunity to use Langhorne Creek fruit in the past but I imagine there will be quite a few emerging winemakers who will see this as a great opportunity to get themselves started," Ms Willson said.
"I think it's going to create a lot of interest and achieve what we want, which is getting people to understand Langhorne Creek, look to it as a fruit source and build the profile more.
"There are the staples such as the Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Malbec but the emerging varietals are really coming to the fore and we're seeing that not only in the established brands here but also just from grape growers who have had them in the ground for a while now."
- Sarah Keough awarded 2020 Nuffield Scholarship
- Authentic experiences rewarded at wine tourism accolades
- Premium wines make inroads into US market
The 2t of grapes from the 2020 vintage is expected to produce about 150 dozen bottles.
The winning winemakers will be free to sell the wine under their own brands but the wine must be made from 100 per cent Langhorne Creek and include the Project 5255 logo on its label.
Wineries in the district have offered the use of their winemaking facilities and mentoring for the winning winemakers and cut-price bottling services are also available.
The project, which takes its name from Langhorne Creek's postcode, is being partially funded by a $25,000 grant from PIRSA. Part of the funding will be used to buy the grapes at reduced rates from participating growers.
Entries close on November 15 with the three successful applicants notified soon after.
Ms Willson said the guest winemakers would be expected to engage with the grower to get an understanding of the site and the terroir through to harvest from February to April.
"We'll produce some short videos and blogs to be promoted throughout the whole winemaking process documenting what they are doing, how they are choosing their wine style and what they want their outcome to be," she said.
"We're hoping that most of the wines will be a 12-month or less turnaround to bottle.
"It's exciting that we're inviting people to be part of something that's never been done before and it's such a good collaborative project for the region so I'm really looking forward to seeing what comes of it."
Langhorne Creek has become home to some of the world's oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines and produced the inaugural Jimmy Watson Trophy in 1962 - Australia's most famous wine prize - when Stoneyfell's 1961 Metala Cabernet Shiraz beat all-comers.
Wolf Blass also won three successive Jimmy Watsons in the 1970s using Langhorne Creek fruit.
And the success has continued.
Grape growers in the Langhorne Creek region since the 1880s, the Follett family has won more than 50 trophies at major Australian wine shows since it started making its Lake Breeze wines in 1987.
Last year, Bleasdale Vineyards, the oldest winery in the region, won seven trophies at major shows including the Max Schubert Trophy for best red wine at the Royal Adelaide Wine Show with its 2016 Generations Shiraz.
SA typically produces about 50pc of Australia's wine and 80pc of its premium wine each year.
- This story was originally published on The Lead.