Andrew Kenny Kenny Wine

Top Winemakers

Andrew Kenny launched his Kenny Wine label in 2021, focusing on Clare riesling and Adelaide Hills pinot. With the purchase of a vineyard in the Clare subregion of Auburn, the 2021 vintage saw a home-site shiraz join the portfolio, while an old vine grenache and a sangiovese were added in 2022. 2023 saw the introduction of a collaboration from the Pfalz region of Germany – a ‘Kenny X Gabel’ Riesling, with more riesling and a pinot noir to be released under this label. Kenny’s wines are classic in style, expressions of variety and sites he believes excel for specific grapes, and it is in the Clare Valley that the range of wines offers a particular exploration of sub-regionality.

“Our ethos is single vineyard wines, attention to detail in the vineyard, trying to showcase site diversity, subregional characteristics and clonal selection,” says Kenny. “We want to celebrate vintage variation, not cloud it with fancy winemaking – honest wines that we are proud to drink and share.”

“We want to showcase single vineyard wines across multiple regions, celebrating vintage variation, different soil types and clonal selections.”

Kenny’s day job is at Pikes and Pike & Joyce, where he is the senior winemaker. The Pikes facility is also where he makes his own wines under his eponymous label, which he launched in 2021 with an Adelaide Hills pinot noir from Lenswood and a Polish Hill River riesling, both from 2020, along with a Clare shiraz he made in 2016.

“I’ve been making wine since 2014,” says Kenny. “And I’ve always wanted to have a passion project. The admin and logistics of starting a proper label has always seemed too hard, but I guess the catalyst was my partner, Victoria, coming in and taking charge of all the hard stuff so I could focus on the wine. She has a lot of drive in her and although she’s not in the wine industry, her admin and accountant’s brain has been a very big part of Kenny Wine getting off the ground.”

The pair were also searching for their own vineyard, which they stumbled upon in the Clare subregion of Auburn in 2020. It’s a site that was planted by Kilikanoon in 2001 to shiraz. “The vineyard had been struggling with low crops, poor maintenance and disease,” says Kenny, noting that their principal goals have been increasing biodiversity and organic matter in the soil.

At Kennny’s own farm, half the shiraz vines have been grafted over to sangiovese. “I’ve always wanted to have a passion project,” says Kenny. “The admin and logistics of starting a proper label has always seemed too hard, but I guess the catalyst was my partner, Victoria, coming in and taking charge of all the hard stuff so I could focus on the wine.”

“We threw away all herbicides, insecticides, systemic fungicides and inorganic fertilizers,” he says. “Moving to under-vine cultivation, cover cropping and compost use has seen a remarkable increase in soil structure and microbial activity – the worms are back and thriving. We’ve seen an increase in soil microorganisms and beneficial ‘weeds’ since taking over – less dry earth and better water inception, and the vines are healthier and producing a more-even fruit set.”

Kenny says that though in its infancy, he is working with growers to transition their practices along similar lines, while his goal is to make their home site as close as possible to self-sustaining. “We want to turn our small farm into a living ecosystem that sustains itself and us, so we can be lazy and not have to go to the shops,” he jokes. Half the shiraz has also now been grafted over to sangiovese, with two clones employed, one being the Brunello clone. 2023 was the first crop off of the vineyard. “We are stoked with the fruit quality thus far,” he says, noting that he made a sangiovese in 2022 with grower fruit.

2023 saw a makeover of their Auburn vineyard, close planting 600 vines on around a third of the site to pinot blanc. “It’s the Clare Valley’s first pinot blanc as gar as we are aware,” says Kenny. “Three years is a long wait for our first crop, but good things take time and we are excited to see what it produces.” Andrew has worked with pinot blanc in Germany since 2015 and believes “Clare Valley’s diurnal climate of cool nights and warm days will suit the variety and produce wines with lively acid profiles, meaning we can build complexity and texture around that core of acid.”

Kenny is originally from the Adelaide Hills, with a trip through Europe fresh from school preceding a viticulture and oenology degree at Adelaide university. Graduating in 2014, he worked in the Hills and the Clare Valley, while also working vintage in Germany in 2015 and ’17. Both stints were at Weingut Gabel in the Pfalz. Kenny was also the Dux of the AWRI’s Advanced Wine Assessment Course in 2021.

While at Weingut Gabel, Kenny formed a strong relationship with Oliver Gabel, who he counts as a mentor, along with Neil Pike. “I made a skin contact sauv blanc in Germany in 2015 with the idea of bringing it home and showing it off to Australia,” Kenny says. “It was one of the worst wines I’ve tasted, and I learnt that keeping wines on skins for too long in the presence of alcohol is not for me.”

That has not stopped Kenny’s interest in bringing wines back from the Pfalz, with a 2021 Kenny X Gabel’ ‘Honigsack’ Riesling released in 2023. “This is an exciting project we’ve been working on for the last 18 months with our very good friend Oliver Gabel… It will be a premium wine for the Kenny brand and an ongoing partnership with the Gabels.” There is further riesling and a pinot noir to be released from this project coming from the 2023 vintage.

The German influence is also on show for Kenny Wine, with a kabinett-style riesling called ‘Kabi’ carrying 35 grams per litre of residual sugar. “A fresh, easy-drinking wine rather than an obvious sweet wine was always going to be a challenge, but I think has been a huge success,” he says.

The 2022 vintage also spawned a new wine, a grenache from the Clare subregion of Sevenhill. “This Particular fruit comes from a 1961 planted vineyard, which we are lucky to be able to work closely with the grower to assist in converting the vineyard management to our style and producing single site wine that will become a core staple of the KW portfolio.”

While the Kenny Wine label started as a fun side project, it has now become something that the pair want to expand. Owning their own vineyard naturally makes this more of an imperative, but the vision extends beyond that. “In the next few years, we plan to work with more growers, choosing sites we want to work with and growers we think align with our values. We’re currently looking to expand our riesling brand, specialising in this area. Along with our two Polish Hill River rieslings and a German riesling, we have a Watervale riesling to be released in 2024.”

Becoming growers themselves, Andrew and Victoria Kenny have first hand experience of Mother Nature’s hand in the business. Significant frost in November of 2023 wiped out the entire crop from their own vineyard as well as one of their growers. “One of the silver linings in this was the push to work with a new grower who we have been itching to sign on for some time now,” says Kenny. “We were incredibly excited to sign a long-term contract with Castine-Morella vineyard who are YGOW Vineyard of the Year finalists, and gurus in their field. Their focus on land ecology and fruit quality sits perfectly with our desire to produce quality wine starting in the vineyard.”

No matter how much the brand grows, the ethos will remain the same. “We want to showcase single vineyard wines across multiple regions, celebrating vintage variation, different soil types and clonal selections,” says Kenny. “This brand came about as a creative outlet to play around with varieties that we believe in, trial new processes and work with grapes in a minimalist way, and we have a vision to work with more growers and select single vineyard site we believe are special for specific varieties, while keeping a quality focused ethos.”

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