When Deviation Road owner and winemaker Kate Laurie took a break from her Agricultural Science degree to work a European vintage as a 19-year-old, she was only supposed to stay in Champagne for a few months. But she immediately fell in love with the region and ended up living there for three years while completing an advanced diploma in Viticulture and Oenology at the Lycée Viticole d’Avize.
Unsurprisingly, she returned to Australia with a passion for fine sparkling wines. So there was a touch of destiny when she fell in love with the great-great-grandson of South Australia’s first female winemaker and moved to the Adelaide Hills. Together they founded Deviation Road at the highest point of the Mount Lofty Ranges, where the elevation and cooling southerly winds are ideal for growing pinot noir and chardonnay – Champagne’s key ingredients.
“The climate and conditions here allow the fruit to retain naturally high acidity without the sugars racing away and getting very high alcohol,” says Kate. “So really all I’m doing is nurturing the juice into the tank and then letting it go through a very cool fermentation process.” Still wines like the textural, fruit-forward Pinot Gris express the region beautifully with what Kate calls “fresh and pretty aromatics of musk and rose petal”, while Deviation Road’s renowned sparkling wines allow Laurie to show off her extensive classical training.
After fermentation, every bottle is riddled, disgorged and labelled by hand. Kate says: “that means Hamish and I have touched pretty much every bottle ourselves.” That incredible attention to detail results in sparkling wines of elegance and finesse, with seductively fine bubbles that explode on the palate and helped Deviation Road win Halliday Wine Companion’s 2022 Sparkling of the Year.
The zesty Loftia Vintage Brut is an aperitif-style sparkling that is aged for three years and has what Kate describes as “the signature Deviation Road lime and acid profile”. While the gorgeous pink Altair Sparkling Rose includes 15% reserve wine from as far back as 2010 for extra depth but still gets “a bit of lift and lovely sherbet acidity from the chardonnay”, according to Kate.
The picturesque Deviation Road property sits on the border of Mark Oliphant Conservation Park, which Kate says offers a “pristine snapshot of the Mount Lofty Ranges’ native vegetation – and because the cellar door is nestled at the bottom of the vineyards, it’s surrounded by an amphitheatre of native bushland and vines”. A range of tasting flights allows visitors to mix styles or focus solely on sparkling wines, while the premium experience includes the opportunity to taste incredibly rare late disgorged sparklings that have been left on lees for ten years to develop extra complexity and rich, toasty flavours.