Cue-ball bald, bespectacled and dripping in tatts, Col McBryde is one of the industry’s most-loved characters. Ruthlessly quick witted and thoughtful, McBryde is about as good humoured as it gets when you’re eking out a living in the ancient dusty soils of the Clare Valley, with a sense of irreverent fun never far beneath the scientific rigour. McBryde turns out some vibrant but seriously age-worthy reds from the home vineyard, some cracklingly bright riesling from Clare neighbours, and a suite of wines in B-movie and pulp fiction novel livery built for raucously fun times. McBryde was the Young Gun of Wine for 2009.
Col McBryde is a ridiculously well-educated yet eternally self-deprecating man, whose conversation is laced with charmingly oblique references and richly iconoclastic language, delivered with a cheeky smile that occasionally bursts into an excited giggle. He’s a winemaker by training, with a PhD (his thesis was titled, Development of Novel Wine Yeast Strains Using Adaptive Evolution… just so you know) in microbiology, and a Kiwi by birth, working vintage both in New Zealand and Oregon, before landing in South Australia for keeps in the late 90s.
McBryde met his partner, Jennie Gardner, while in in his first year of oenology at Adelaide University. She was well into her PhD in microbiology (something about wine yeast metabolism… a fairly smart duo, they are). Her parents, Will and Elaine, also happened to own a mature and rustically old-fashioned vineyard in the Clare Valley, and it was the launching place for both of their careers.
The Adelina vineyard is in the Springfarm subregion, just south of the Clare township, with their most famous and nearest neighbour being the near mythical Wendouree. The Gardners bought the historic property in 1986, with the first vines dating back to 1910. The fruit had always been sold to Tim Adams, but Col and Jen encouraged them to make and release estate wines, with the birth of Adelina Wines coming in 2002, when the duo took over management of the site.
It’s no secret that Col has a deep affection, nay obsession, with Wendouree, and would have one of the finest collections of their wines if he’d just stop drinking them. This, coupled with a love for Château Rayas, underpins much of Adelina and McBryde’s philosophy. Natural ferments and long macerations are tuned to making wines that will age over significant periods, and though they are typically made from fruit with red fruit flavours and freshness in mind, they are rarely wines that burst from the glass in youth, requiring time to unfurl.
In the vineyard, alongside old vine grenache and shiraz are plantings of Mataro and a block of all three along with ugni blanc, roussanne and carignan, planted randomly to inform a genuine field blend (an intentionally chaotic self-inflicted assault on McBryde’s fastidious nature). Adelina’s arneis, chardonnay and Italian varietal bottlings hail from the Adelaide Hills, while riesling is sourced from prime Clare sites.
Col’s more light-hearted foray is the co-lab with Gardner and their friend Nic Bourke, Some Young Punks. With labels lifted from pulp fiction novels and B-movies, and names like ‘Monsters, Monsters Attack’, ‘Naked on Rollerskates’, ‘Squid’s Fist’ and ‘Quickie’, expect a degree of irreverence, with drinkability at the fore. And if that doesn’t keep them busy enough, Col and Jen also make a Rheinhessen-inspired Clare riesling and a shiraz malbec that is all homage to the great Clare reds of old (and Wendouree of today), which sit under the Vinemind imprint.