McLaren Vale is one of the premier Australian wine regions, boasting a Mediterranean climate with low altitude and cooling breezes courtesy of Mount Lofty and Gulf St Vincent. It’s best known for its rich red wine including shiraz, grenache, and the cabernet varieties. Since McLaren Vale gets plenty of sun, warm-weather foreign beauties like fiano, vermentino, tempranillo and sangiovese also shine here. Of the over 70 cellar doors this slice of South Australia is home to, one stands out even amongst an elite crowd.
Andrew “Ox” Hardy from Ox Hardy wines comes from Australian winemaking royalty. This winery sits on a 54 hectare block in a unique part of McLaren Vale and produces minimalistic wine styles that emphasise the quality of the vineyard and the fruit. Ox Hardy’s delectable wine collection was sequestered from the public eye, hiding in the cellars until its 2019 release where they descended the debutante staircase to an awed crowd.
It owes much of its success to its Ancestral Vines, which are some of Australia’s oldest and most valuable. The rest of the success comes from the man himself. Ox Hardy is making his own mark with topnotch drops from this special vineyard, and this is what he had to say about it.
I was at Petaluma [Wines] from 1982 but I was always mucking around with Dad [the late Bob Hardy] in our family’s Upper Tintara Vineyard in McLaren Vale as a sort of hobby. We made wines just for fun — we’d pick half a ton and make something for at home drinking. Then I started making more commercial quantities and a couple of years ago I decided to go full-time.
Our wines are very much about what the vineyard gives. My great-great grandfather bought it in 1871 and it’s been in the direct family ever since. It’s in a very special part of McLaren Vale, Blewitt Springs, which is quite high and a lot cooler than other vineyards in the Vale. It’s a bit of a secret and a lot of people don’t even know it’s there.
Hopefully what people can see in our wines is the strength of the fruit from this vineyard. It’s that old cliché of “Great vineyards make great wine”, but I think in this case it’s really true.
The grenache is an interesting one. My father hated grenache because the old ones were really poor. This one has a lovely fresh, fragrant lift of fruit flavours and it’s really food friendly. It’s great with barbecued meats or roasts. In summer I like to drink it chilled.
The shiraz is my nod to old-fashioned McLaren Vale winemaking. I’m not trying to make a massively structured, thump-you-over-the-head wine; I’m trying to show that this is what McLaren Vale can do really well — lighter, more fragrant shiraz. It’s got a little bit of oak but not too much, and there’s spice and ironstone on the palate. It’ll age gracefully, though it’s a good drink right now as well.