Sven Joschke’s wines are lo-fi, and with no adds except a particularly small dose of sulphur when they go to bottle, but that’s not to say they aren’t purposeful with clear directions in mind, as he says, “minimal intervention, made with intent”. With only a few years of winemaking under his belt – after fleeing a corporate career as an accountant – Joschke has hit the ground running, making wines from the Adelaide Hills, Langhorne Creek and the Barossa, as well as in the Jura, France.
Joschke describes himself as “an office lad who gave up the city life for the love of wine”. A friendship with “Amsterdam’s top somm, Lotte Wolf” and Movida Aqui’s head sommelier and restaurant manager at the time, Andrew Marshall, opened him up to the exciting possibilities of good wine.
While living with Marshall, Joschke says he “was exposed to the finest wines and stories that accompany them. One day in the veggie patch with a glass of Morgon Beaujolais, it struck me: ‘Must be amongst nature and wine as a life choice’. I quit my job, packed the car and moved to the Barossa.”
That decision saw Joschke give up a career as a chartered accountant and arrange a job in the Spinifex and Schwarz Wine Co. shed in Tanunda, Barossa Valley, to start a new career. He received the first batch of fruit that he’d ever worked with just two weeks later. That could have been somewhat of a culture shock, but Joschke was unfazed: “Taking a leap of faith is not a question when you’re truly inspired.”
Like many top emerging makers before him, working alongside Spinifex’s Pete Schell proved to be a good choice. “My true local inspirations lie with Pete,” says Joschke. “Innovative, creative, progressive, never afraid to take a risk. The end result is generally truly spectacular. And if it’s not, what a great learning curve for the next vintage. I respect that philosophy wholeheartedly.”
At Spinifex, Joschke also met Marin Fumey of Domaine Fumey Chatelain, forging a friendship and trading vintages between the Barossa and Fumey’s family estate in the Jura region in France’s north-west. It is from those vineyards that Joschke also made one of his first wines, with a chardonnay from Arbois made in 2018 to join a mataro and a grenache from the Barossa’s Vine Vale. That range has grown to include rosé, sangiovese, chardonnay, syrah, cinsault and dolcetto – both blends and varietal bottlings – from the Adelaide Hills, Langhorne Creek and the Barossa.
While Joschke’s wines are certainly on the lo-fi side of things, he’s resistant to easy classification. “I’m not big on comparing myself and wines to others. The wines are as intended and are a representation of varieties, the regions they come from and myself,” he says, “soulfully created wines by taking calculated risks throughout vinification.”
It’s an approach that he puts down to not just the mentoring of Schell, but a host of winemakers and viticulturists both here and in France. “Their insight and collective wisdom have helped shape my individual philosophy on winemaking, and I’ll be forever grateful,” he says.
“Barossa is a traditional region, but it has the emergence of experimental and progressive winemakers and vignerons. The blend of tradition and experimental is formidable. What makes the Barossa, in my opinion, one of greatest regions in Australia is its wine community – collaborative, inviting, encouraging and willing to give a new fella a go. There’s an underground theme of breaking away from its bread and butter, with numerous types of varieties being planted and progressive vinification techniques being adopted.”
But Joschke is also at pains to point out the critical role of site and farming. “We as producers are only as good as the sites. Site selection is key – suitable variety to region and climate, along with sustainable vineyard management. I continue to search for sites where the grower and I share the same pursuit – a sustainable and ethical collective of growers and producers. We’re all in this together and when sustainability and overall quality continues to rise, everybody wins.”
In the past year, Joschke says he has found valley floor sites that have been abandoned for some time. “I’ve been spending the off-season replanting panels where 8-metre cordons once stood,” he says. “The project is super exciting, and with the practices adopted, should yield exceptional organic fruit down the track. The chainsaw will be my friend come June this year, where vines will be cut back to basics, eutypa rid and shoots trained to become our new vine babies. I’ve also managed to find additional organic sites in regions only dabbled in previously for new cuvees.”
Joschke notes that as a general production philosophy, his wines are produced using minimal sulphur additions, with less than 20 ppm added at bottling only. “I have an emphasis on lees work, even with reds, with no additions… unless in case of an emergency. Lees brings with it the added benefit of protecting wines over a long period of time, allowing the use of minimal sulphur. I’m in love with barrel fermentation and what this technique brings to each wine. All wines are un-fined and unfiltered and are single vineyard releases, apart from the 2020 rosé.”
There is also much in the wings for Joschke. “My love has always been with wines aged under flor, given the Jura experience,” he says. “Previous production sites have prevented us from attempting this daunting exercise, but we’ve found our place now – you can’t move those barrels. The intent here is so combine my two loves: flor and rosé.
“Late last vintage we also kept back a proportion of a wine to concentrate in barrel and added back chardonnay with secret herbs and spices for a little vermouth project. It’s currently sitting in the sun to lose that angel’s share and to develop those rancio characters for an undetermined period of time. It’s looking pretty good now – I’ll try not to drink it all personally! Lastly, I’ve also been actively holding back wines in barrel and bottle to mature. An important lesson I’m learning when looking at back vintages is how well the wines are holding up and what benefits are gained with a little maturity.”