With a Barossan grape-growing heritage as deep as they come, Troy Kalleske was always destined to make his name in wine. But bucking the family history of contract growing, Kalleske made and labelled the first wines under the family name after nearly 150 years of growing, and he did so with organic fruit from their vineyard that had recently been converted to biodynamic practices. His wines are writ large with a traditional Barossan sensibility, but there’s always sense of balance, a lightness of touch here, too, with more experimental bottlings continually testing new waters. Kalleske was the inaugural Young Gun of Wine People’s Choice winner, in 2007.
There are different routes to becoming a winemaker, from late career shifts to youthful passions kicked off over a transformative glass of wine to a deep vein of history pulsing through ones being. Troy Kalleske is firmly in the latter camp. He is a seventh generation Kalleske, with his grape-growing forebears marking their lineage in the Barossa back to 1853. The vines that he first picked fruit from were planted by his great-great-great-grandfather. There’s some little history there, that’s for sure.
Kalleske studied winemaking at the University of Adelaide, and he did quite well, too, being awarded a raft of scholarships along the way. His family were primarily growers, who sold their fruit to some of South Australia’s most vaunted names, so his on-the-job winemaking apprenticeship was away from the family farm. Straight from university, Kalleske entered the Southcorp Graduate Winemaker Program, working at Seppelt Great Western, Lindemans, Penfolds and Seppeltsfield. He also worked with Rolf Binder at Veritas, and a bit further afield as harvest oenologist for Kendall-Jackson at Vinwood Cellars in Geyserville, Sonoma.
In 2002, he took the Kalleske name from a footnote to the front label, bottling the first estate wines in their near 150-year history. Along with his brother Tony, Troy had built a winery a few years earlier on the property in Moppa, Greenock, and the vineyard had already been converted to organic and biodynamic practices, with the 50-hectare vineyard certified since 1998 – a landmark achievement for the time, not just for its foresight, but also for its scale.
It’s no surprise that viticulture underpins Troy’s approach to winemaking, with soil health and resultant berry health of utmost primacy. “Farming the vineyard organically and biodynamically is the truly natural way of farming, ensuring ultimate sustainability, authenticity and quality. Careful environmental practices continue to be at the core of our Kalleske farming, grape-growing and winemaking,” says Troy.
In the winery, additions are eschewed, excepting sulphur, with ambient yeasts and natural malolactic bacteria employed, and no enzymes, tannin additions or fining agents added. Traditional open-top fermenters are used, and the reds are all basket pressed. Oak use is primarily neutral, with some new oak for the flagship wines, and all a predominance of hogsheads, both French and American.
Kalleseke produce an ‘Old Vine Range’ and a ‘Classic Range’ from familiar Barossa varieties, with the often neglected chenin blanc and semillon featuring in the whites. Zinfandel, tempranillo and durif crop up in the ‘Alternative Range’, the ‘Divergent Genre’ gives Troy a chance to experiment with earlier picking, whole-bunch ferments and the like, while the ‘Kalleske Biodynamic Barrel Project’ is a deep foray into Steiner-ism. Basically, three barrels whose oak was harvested, split, toasted and assembled on different biodynamic calendar days – root, fruit and flower – were filled with the same old-vine Greenock shiraz. The difference… well, that’s in the bottles.