Andrew Kenny launched his Kenny Wine label in 2021 with an Adelaide Hills pinot noir and a Clare riesling, and a shiraz he had made in 2016. With the purchase of a vineyard in the Clare subregion of Auburn, the 2021 vintage saw a home-site shiraz join the portfolio. Kenny’s wines are classic in style, expressions of variety and sites he believes excel for specific grapes.
“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 increase biodiversity and organic matter in the soil.
“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. 2022 will be the year where we will see the most difference in the fruit picked.”
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 the shops,” he jokes. Half the shiraz has also now been grafted over to sangiovese, with two clones employed, one being the Brunello clone.
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 contactsauv 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 worse 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 plans to import wines he made with Gabel. “Watch this space,” he says. 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.
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. “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.”