Over his career, Ben Chipman has worked with some of the Barossa’s legendary names, and its biggest characters. With a bright-eyed approach and compelling sense of energy, Chipman has soaked up a lifetime of experience while moving from marketing man to hands-on winemaker. His lithe and vibrant Tomfoolery wines, built on both Barossa stalwarts and less classic varieties, are playing a vital role in defining the ‘new’ Barossa. Chipman won the People’s Choice Award in 2014.
Ben Chipman (or Chippy, as he is inevitably known) worked some serious miles around the Barossa before carving out his Tomfoolery brand over many years. Tasmanian by birth, Chipman moved to the Barossa in his teens and cultivated an interest in wine while still in high school. That interest saw him actually make his first wine before he’d graduated, and a degree in Wine Marketing at Adelaide University followed, after doing some hard yards at Yalumba and with Lou Miranda over vintage.
That degree, and no doubt his infectious affability, led to a start at the legendary Rockford Estate, where he worked for five years alongside Robert O’Callaghan, learning the almost forgotten ways of the old Barossa. A stint with Chris Ringland was next, with time spent on his Spanish project wines, which saw an appreciation for old-world wines blossom. Somewhat later, a combined hands-on winemaking and marketing role with Rusden Wines, alongside the larger than life Christian Canute, ran parallel to his transition to making his own wine.
The first Tomfoolery wine was minted in 2004, an old vine shiraz, the ‘Artful Dodger’, which remains the Tomfoolery flagship. That first effort was from a single tonne of fruit, so not one to quit the day job over, but over the years the range has expanded significantly, with a deep emphasis on wines of freshness and drinkability. “My style highlights aromatics and freshness while still maintaining flavour and structure,” says Chipman.
Alongside Barossa stalwarts, Chipman works with tempranillo and unusually makes a straight cabernet franc, both as a red wine and a rosé, plus also detouring into the Adelaide Hills for a sauvignon blanc and a pinot noir and syrah blend. The winemaking is traditional, with wild yeasts, open fermenters, hand plunging and basket pressing the order of the day.