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Sidewood & side projects

Sidewood owners and vignerons Owen and Cassandra Inglis (Photo: Sidewood Wines)

I got quite a shock when I rolled up to visit Sidewood in the Adelaide Hills. I’d expected to see Daryl Catlin there, a winemaker I’d known for some years as he’d also worked at Shaw + Smith (tastings). What I didn’t expect was the two massive corrugated iron edifices sprouting from a bare expanse of scraped earth. One building is a warehouse, the other a winery with a canning hall. Yes, a canning (and bottling) line. The cans are for the fast-growing Sidewood apple cider and perry.

You need a big shed for the bottles and especially the cans, explained owner Owen Inglis.

“The minimum purchase of empty cans is 60,000.”

The cider and perry business has taken off for Sidewood. I’m not surprised as the quality is excellent. Sidewood has a distribution agreement with ALM (Australian Liquor Marketers) and the ciders are in 100 outlets in South Australia alone – the kegs in 30.

The cider making equipment alone takes up enough space for a small aircraft hangar. Catlin is now a proficient cider-maker as well as winemaker.

It seems Owen Inglis doesn’t mess around. He does things big. We start the visit at the winery/ciderie, then tour his extensive vineyards at Woodside (Sidewood is Woodside back to front, get it?) at which there is a thoroughbred horse stud with 70 neddies, 35 of which he owns. And we finish up at his cellar door, at Verdun, where we taste through a formidable range of wines made by Catlin.

Accompanying us is vineyard manager Mark Vella, who looks after all 80 hectares of Sidewood vineyards as well as numerous others owned by other grape-growers in the Adelaide Hills. The winery processed 800 tonnes of grapes last vintage (2016), and Inglis says sales have been growing at a staggering 50% a year since he joined the business full-time. Inglis was born in Hong Kong, where his father was in food trading. He formerly worked as a chartered accountant in Sydney.

The cellar door sales is a former restaurant just off the freeway – a perfect spot to harvest the tourist traffic. You can eat, taste and drink there – or you can hit golf balls into a lake. As you do.

Vella points out that the Woodside vineyards are cooler than most in that area because they’re in a valley into which cool airs drains from the hills above. This has the disadvantage of making the site frost-prone, and the property is thus equipped with excellent water supply from dams and bores, partly for irrigation, partly for frost preventive misting.

The top Sidewood wines are under the Mappinga label. Inglis is especially proud that the 2013 Mappinga Shiraz covered itself in glory at both the Decanter World Wine Awards and the International Wine & Spirit Competition, winning a total of five trophies. The 2015 vintage of this wine, yet to be released, is a big, dark, powerful red, with just a hint of the mint that dominated the 2013.

The 2015 Mappinga Fumé Blanc (AUD $35), an oaked sauvignon blanc, is ripe and powerful, with an extra layer of character over and above the regular sauvignon blanc.

The 2015 Mappinga Chardonnay (AUD $35) is a fine wine, full of nougat and caramel touches, combing richness with elegance. I’m proudly informed that it won a trophy at the Australian Small Winemakers’ Show in Stanthorpe that very week (in early November).

Even so, the most impressive Sidewood wine I tasted was, appropriately, named after the boss: 2015 Owen’s Chardonnay (AUD $42.50, cellar door only). Made exclusively from the Mendoza clone, and very low cropping at 7 to 8 tonnes per hectare, it sees 30% new oak, and is very fine as well as concentrated; a powerful wine loaded with honey, nougat, creamy lees and grapefruit flavours. A stunning chardonnay.

Sidewood is certainly a major new presence in the Adelaide Hills.

*Reviews of all the wines I tasted are on the app now, as well as a stunning 2015 Catlin Syrah from Daryl Catlin and a lovely 2014 Vella Wines Harvest Widow Chardonnay from Mark Vella.

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