Working the Basket Press – scene from a painting of the Rusden Winery by Amy Loechel

The Rusden winery in Australia’s Barossa Valley produces superb wines, including an excellent Grenache.  I had the good fortune to spend time with Christian Canute of this family while in the region.   Because Christian and the man who introduced me to him – Tim O’ Callaghan – are portrayed more thoroughly in my book Vino Voices, this piece focuses on another man who has been involved with the Rusden winery named Ben Chipman.  Ben has worked as the marketing manager for Rusden, but also produces his own label of wines – named Tomfoolery. (

On a hot afternoon in the Barossa Valley, Tim O’Callaghan, Ben Chipman and Christian Canute introduced me to an array of small production, great quality wines (which are described more extensively in the book Vino Voices).

I asked Ben why he appreciated his work.

Ben Chipman – chillin’ on a Tuesday afternoon in the Barossa

“It’s livin’ the life.  It’s about the community and lifestyle.  We’re very lucky you know.  We love what we do.  We’ve got a very good core bunch of mates that we share ideas and good times with.  What we get out of it is working with stuff that we love, which has a fair bit of tradition involved as well, holding onto those older values.  Mate, you go out into the world and that’s disappearing.   We love the simple things, but also love great wine.

“We’re very much focused on relationships and building relationships.  Obviously you got to have good wine to start with, a good product.  Otherwise people won’t talk to you.  We definitely do that well.  We’re really proud and passionate of it.  We get to do a fair bit of travel.  Yeh, we sort of grind out the long vintages.  Takes us three months to do our vintages.

“We don’t filter or fine our wines, we let gravity do that.  Classic blends, spend about eighteen months in here.  In the eighteen months it’s just gravity.  We’re using such pure wine making techniques.  Our sandy soil gives us a bit lighter wines, a bit aromatic wines, prettier wines than the western side of the Barossa.  Because of that we really want to avoid filtering.”

The kernel of Barossa’s finest
The right bottle to choose when summer gives way to fall (autumn)

“We were just were on a sales trip to Perth together.  It’s one of our favorite destinations.  A three hour flight from here.  Even though it’s in Australia, it’s still the most isolated city in the world.

“We use a tiny bit of new oak, but we want the fruit to drive the wines, and the fruit to show off in the end product.  We don’t want to disguise it.

“The bigger companies like to use a lot of oak because the wines are then going to stand out in lineups.  And we’ve got a show industry here, where it’s important for the big companies to do well in wine shows.  It sells them bottles.  Whereas we don’t enter wine shows.  We sell our wines, as I said before, by building relationships and, obviously, the products are of top quality.

Pumping in the Barossa – by Amy Loechel

“That’s the other thing.  We can’t compete.  We don’t have big advertising budgets.  Our advertising budget is ourselves, going over to a city.  That’s the only place where we put our money because it’s meeting the customers direct.  It’s hugely important.

“I love the grapes growing on sandy soil round here.  Driftsand and sandscrub.  You get awesome aromatics off the sand, floral characters, violets, that sort of stuff.

Shoveling grapes – another mesmerizing image by Amy Loechel

“Shiraz and Grenache are still hand pruned and hand picked.  Focused on this area because it’s a bit tougher.  You’ve got to wait a bit longer for your grapes to ripen.  Instead of big and muscular and aggressive, the style appears to be more about finesse and elegance.

“We are all headin’ down the same path.  We believe in tradition and making the best wine we can.  It doesn’t get much more complicated than that.”

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. what a wonderful excuse you’ve found for wandering about and meeting interesting folks: Wine.

    none here I wouldn’t relish. great illustrations, too!

  2. As always, Jim, thanks for your comment. My sister takes your financial advice and passes the jewels of that wisdom onto me. In appreciation of that, I look forward to sharing bottles of some very good (though slightly off the beaten path) vinos with you in the coming years!

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