Before taking the reins at the family vineyard, Michael Downer learnt from some of the finest makers, both here and abroad. He now works from the Murdoch Hill home vineyards, near Oakbank, but also sources higher into the Adelaide Hills for cooler expressions, which inform his cutting edge Artisan Series wines. In a nod to…
Sarah Adamson Scout
Scout is the trans-Tasman “wine child” of Sarah Adamson and Greg Lane, named after the narrator in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Now, that literary reference may seem a little odd for a wine brand, but in the book, Scout observes carefully and questions rather than just going with the flow. This is the mantra at Scout. Their first wine was an Adelaide Hills chardonnay, coupling texture with racy drive.
In some respects, Scout is an unusual affair, with wines made on both side of the Tasman. And although the majority of their bottlings are currently from New Zealand, a fascination with the Adelaide Hills runs strong with the pair. Adamson spent a seminal year working at Deviation Road with Kate Laurie, which is where the first Scout wine was made – the 2017 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay.
“We sourced fruit from two different vineyards in Piccadilly and Lobethal. We wanted to play around with a few techniques to build texture into the mid-palate. We did a portion on skins for 25 days. I loved this until it went to barrel and was horrifically stinky! I was sure we wouldn’t be bottling any of it and I had stuffed up a major portion of our fruit. Luckily, it came right at blending time and I think it gives the wine so much interest! It taught us a big lesson in patience and holding our nerve,” says Adamson.
Adamson grew up in Invercargill, about as far south on the South Island as it gets. And while winemaking was not exactly a vocational direction suggested at the end of high school, her parents had a good enough cellar and strong enough passion to transfer some of the magic. Adamson first studied law and chemistry, but soon switched to viticulture and oenology at Lincoln University in Christchurch, where she completed her bachelor’s degree. She met Lane (a South Australian native) in 2011 at Peregrine, in Central Otago, where she had worked for three years. The pair then travelled the world, before heading back to Lane’s homeland, where they stayed for five years, working in the Clare Valley and Adelaide Hills.
Interestingly, it was their experience of the newer wave of Australian chardonnay and pinot noir that prompted the move to New Zealand. “At the end of 2017, we moved back to New Zealand, to focus Scout on making juicy, bright and fresh examples of pinot noir and chardonnay from the South Island. Having witnessed firsthand the proliferation of these styles in Australia over the last five years, we thought the time was right to try it in NZ.”
And while the New Zealand arm of Scout is currently soaking up much of their time, the cross-Tasman model is very much alive. “Scout is all about making delicious wines from South Australia and the South Island of New Zealand that are high in drinkability. These are two places that are really special to us (our homes respectively) and we want to showcase them through our wines,” she says.
And no matter which country they’re making wine in, the philosophy is the same. “We select small parcels of fruit from growers that share a similar philosophy on wine and wine growing. That is, minimising any and all additions and low cropping. All we try to do is then get this into bottle as a fresh, bright and juicy wine that isn’t smashed with oak or other winemakery stuff. By thinking our way through the process, and planning ahead, we can avoid fining and filtration as well,” says Adamson.