Simão & Co. Wines
With a range that covers significant territory, from the Alpine and King Valleys to Beechworth, Glenrowan and Rutherglen, Simon makes wine from all five of the North-East’s regions.
White studied winemaking at The University of Adelaide, with vintages at Adelaide Hills biodynamic icon Ngeringa in 2008 and ’09, followed by a vintage at Pfieffer Wines in Victoria’s Rutherglen in his graduation year. Aside from vintages in Oregon and Hungary, home vintages have since been spent in the Hills, firstly at Petaluma, then at The Lane Vineyard from ’14, where he was made head winemaker in ’19, and he still holds that role today.
While still at Petaluma, in 2013, White made his first Turon wine – a pinot noir ¬– which launched the label in ’15. Then he was working in a shared space with two other makers, but in ’17, he and his wife, Alex, built a winery on their home property. “We have our own custom-built small-batch winery in Lenswood,” says White. “We have also just planted our own high-density vineyard, with 5,550 vines per hectare, essentially asking less of each vine so they can put more energy into growing good fruit. Our property’s altitude ensures we have cool nights, perfect for creating fresh vibrant wines, and beautiful daytime sunlight, creating incredibly rich and expressive fruit.”
That vineyard, which is in organic conversion, is some way off producing, but White is just as interested in the variety that the Adelaide Hills has to offer as he is focused on getting the best out of the home site. “The Adelaide Hills is a pristine gem in the South Australian landscape. Ultimately it is the quality of the fruit that drew us here, and geographically it is one of the most diverse wine regions in Australia, offering a large number of subregions and pockets with a potential to grow a great many varieties.”
In addition to their own vineyard, White notes that he manages other sites they source from, as well as working in conjunction with a neighbouring Lenswood grower that supplies them pinot noir fruit. “We have been working to bring the most out of the sites,” he says. “Using organic processes to reduce the requirement for strong sprays and bringing the vineyards back to a more natural balance where there is a self-sustaining ecosystem. We have also been working hard to reduce the yields and therefor increase the quality and flavour concentration of the fruit.”
The key varieties for the Turon wines are unsurprisingly the region’s stars, chardonnay, pinot noir and shiraz. White makes them in a lo-fi manner, respecting the care with which they’re grown, but his style is one of purity and refinement. “Our vision is to showcase the varieties and wine styles that best suit our corner of Australia, using minimal intervention winemaking to showcase the vineyard. We aim to create elegant wines with intense flavour, wines that express the natural characters of our terroir and the grape variety.”
That process means that White adds nothing to his wines – no cultivated yeasts, no acid, no enzymes – except for sulphur at bottling, and then the merest amount required to protect the wine in bottle. And while that is a philosophy in itself, he is wary of being dogmatic in his approach.
“The first rule of winemaking is there are no rules. We work with the fruit in front of us; every season gives you a different set of characters to work with. It’s the fun part of winemaking to work with the fruit the season provides to bring out what makes that year special. Our minimal intervention approach to winemaking means having the confidence to stand back and let the wine be itself, but the knowledge to step in and guide the wine in the right direction when necessary.”
The winery also has a purpose beyond the Turon wines, operating as The Hills Handcrafted Collective, a co-working winery and consultancy business. It is a natural extension for White to create a forum for sharing ideas and resources, as well as encouraging emerging makers, which he says is a feature of the wine community in the Hills.
“The Adelaide Hills has a strong community of young winemakers openly sharing their experiences with each other all in the pursuit of making the best wine possible and pushing the boundaries of convention. It is an environment with a lot of energy that encourages experimentation and discovery.”
White describes putting their life savings into building a winery and planting a vineyard as “the most terrifying and rewarding thing we have ever done”. But, as he says, “if you’re going to do it, do it properly. Ultimately making world class wines and having total control over the process to do that is what has driven us to where we are today. Our mission is to make bloody tasty wines that are natural, sustainable and independent of outside influence.
“We want to produce wines that are vegan friendly, and believe it’s important to be making considered decisions that do good. Planting our own vineyard gives us totally control of the whole process, so we can carry this ethos the whole way through the life of the wine. From managing the vineyard organically, making the wine naturally and working towards making the whole estate carbon neutral to balance out the carbon footprint of transport.”