The Fruits of One Man’s Labor for Savoriness
Location: Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Owner & winemaker: Tim Stock
Vineyard area: variable. A mix of a leased vineyard, long-term fruit agreements, and random lucky opportunities in Adelaide Hills and the nearby Barossa Valley
Vineyard management: practicing organic / Biodynamic-certified, depending on the source vineyard
Soil: deep sand over clay in the Barossa Valley, mix of clay loams with either schist or sandstone, streaks of quartz and ironstone in the Adelaide Hills
Main varieties: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Pinot Noir
Annual production (approx.): 6,000 – 10,000 bottles
Winemaking: fermentation in 1650l open wooden vats made from very old jarrah, a native hardwood, usually with some whole bunch for the reds. Aging in old French barrels of various ages and sizes. Spontaneous fermentation only, no fining and no filtration.
- Tim is a long-time Australian importer of wines mainly from Georgia and France, who’s now working on his dream of becoming a winemaker
- The wines, as well as their names, are inspired by Tim’s harvest experience in various French wineries, as well as their terroir-driven approach
- The labels are woodcuts by Japanese artist Ryota Yamashita and represent Barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills, the two winegrowing regions that Tim works with
- He makes his wines in the shed of the Commune of Buttons, another popular lo-fi winery in the Hills
The GPS doesn’t recognize the address, there’s no phone reception and we’re running late; the perfect setting when looking for a winemaker in the wilderness of the Adelaide Hills. Luckily, after a couple of bad turns on the long dirt roads leading to odd places, and a successful attempt at not-running-over some highly vocal neighbors’ dogs, our trustworthy rental Toyota finally arrives at the Commune of Buttons shed, part of which shelters the current Les Fruits production.
It’s a pleasant spot surrounded by forest and a small vineyard — quite a nice place to work until Tim Stock (who was washing barrels to get them ready for the harvest as we pull in) finds a bigger place of his own. Right now, Les Fruits is a one-man operation, existing as a labor-of-love side-project to Tim’s main occupation: a nearly 20-year-old import company that brings mostly Georgian and French wines to Australia. Having worked with the wines for so long and helping with many a harvest in France ignited Tim’s own winemaking passion a couple of years ago; knowing good growers and the potential of Barossa Valley and the Adelaide Hills, the prime wine spots in South Australia where he sources his fruit, Tim was able to turn the spark into a boutique production.
“The Barossa is blessed with a wealth of old vines, as the Languedoc is, but I can’t help but feel the ripe fruited styles that made it famous have very little soil transfer character. Whereas the Languedoc wines are unmistakably marked by their place, something that I set out to make here as well,” Tim says about his inspirations, reflected also in the name of the winery and the wines. This quest for a more savory, less cooked-fruit flavor profile is helped by working with skilled growers like Wayne Ahrens of Smallfry winery, a local biodynamic legend. His old vines of Grenache, Cinsault, and other Mediterranean varieties thrive in the sandy Barossa soil and provide Tim with fruit for part of his production.
Another part comes from various spots in the Adelaide Hills, the pioneering region of natural winemaking in Australia which still remains its hotbed, with estates like Gentle Folk, Lucy Margaux, or the late (and deeply missed) Taras Ochota putting it firmly on the winemaking map. It’s a place of rare natural beauty and compelling community spirit, especially during the harvest, when people from all around the globe flock in to help with the vintage; no wonder Tim’s plans are to move here full-time. (Although Sydney, where his business and family are based, is a pretty decent spot as well. Shout out to its beautifully lively natural wine scene; a sip of Les Fruits’ vibrant wine in one of Sydney’s bars is what stood at the beginning of this coop. Fewer koalas there, tho.)
The charming labels of Les Fruits wines – woodcuts by young Japanese artist Ryota Yamashita – reflect this double sourcing, depicting either the hilly character of Basket Range or the iron-rich Barossa Valley. The grapes from both are hand-harvested and mostly fermented in big open wooden vats made from very old jarrah, a native hardwood of intense dark red color. The wines then age mostly in 7 to 15-year-old French barrels ranging from 225l to 1100l, but mostly 300l hogsheads. “I try to avoid plastic or steel for fermentation or aging, but do have to use them from time to time,” Tim acknowledges the reality of first-generation winemaking in a coveted area. He does use small steel tanks for resting the wines prior to bottling, as these couple of weeks allow for natural stabilization and processing sulfur that Tim adds during this one and only racking. “I believe that adding SO2 in this earlier stage works best for me, influencing the wines less than doing it later during bottling. And some cuvées are bottled without, depending on the feeling.”
Having tasted both Tim’s finished wines and barrel samples, we can assure you that the feeling is generally very good; we’re quite happy with this boutique discovery and the fact that Jenny & Francois is one of the very first importers to smuggle this fruit of terroir passion outside its native Australia.
Occitan (Barossa Valley)
This red blend style and name are inspired by Tim’s passion for Mediterranean wines: “Brisk acidity, fine raspy whole bunch tannins, a thick texture and rich flavors down the back of the throat. The dark fruit is really a background vibe with savory-sweet leather, earth, dried thyme, and rosemary stalk notes dominating. Proof that we can grow and make wines that talk of their terroir in the European sense?”
Varieties: 37% Syrah, 32% Carignan*, 17% Mourvèdre, 14% Grenache
Vineyard: Wayne Ahrens’ Vine Vale block in the eastern Barossa, certified biodynamic. Relatively flat with consistent deep sand over clay soil. The age of the vines ranges from 90 years (possibly up to 140, Wayne says) for the Mourvèdre, approximately 50 years for Syrah and Grenache, and 10 years for the Carignan. Or, so-called Carignan, now thought to actually be the Portuguese variety Bonverdo.
Winemaking: All grapes were hand-harvested. Three ferments – the Syrah was 50% whole bunch 50% hand destemmed, the “Carignan” underwent a 100% carbonic (whole bunch), the Grenache and Mourvèdre co-fermented. Foot treading then gentle hand plunging. Syrah and Carignan pressed before dryness. Aged in a range of barrels, all old neutral French, including ‘Ol’ Stony’, a 70+-year-old reconditioned 1100 barrel from the now-demolished Stonyfell winery. Racked to tank, lightly sulfured. Refrigerated until bottling in late February.
Personality: Garrigue look-a-like notes – dried mint, thyme, and pine sap, outlined by some ripe black fruits. The palate continues this theme adding in the characteristic saltiness of this site. Bold yet crunchy and drinkable.
Atmosphere (Adelaide Hills)
Varieties: 100% Pinot Noir
Vineyard: Back block of Scary Gully, a high-altitude site around 550m. Soil is red-brown loamy clay over sandstone with schist and quartz gravel. Organic farming.
Winery: Grapes harvested manually into small crates. Part of them was 100% destemmed, and another 2/3 fermented as whole bunch in the classic tri-layer “Burgundy sandwich”. Pressed directly to old neutral 225l and 300l French oak barrels. Racked to a small stainless tank in January, 20ppm SO2 was added, refrigerated until bottling without further sulfur addition, in February of the following year.
Personality: The Scary Gully is one of the most distinctive spots in the Hills, as shown in this wine. Vibrant with cherry, raspberry, and cranberry, striking a more serious savory note along with fine tannins and velvety rich texture. There’s umami touch, there’s a good length, something bright, something dark, definitely something to meditate on.
Voix des Raisins Rosé (Adelaide Hills)
The 2020 Voix des Raisins is a rare “free upgrade” opportunity. “The Whisson Lake fruit is usually reserved for my top Pinot Noirs – Noir and Parachute – but with Covid closing sales channels and 2019 still to be sold, the decision was made to use them to make Rosé instead. This is damn expensive Rosé fruit!” the winemaker explains.
Grape: Pinot Noir + a little bit of Cinsault
Vineyards: Budvin and Whisson Lake, both situated on the edge of the Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills, facing Carey Gully. Steep slopes of loamy/gravelly clay over schist Hills soils. Whisson Lake is one of the Hill’s highest vineyards (over 600m ALS at the top). The Cinsault grapes come from Wayne Ahrens’ certified biodynamic vineyards in the Barossa Valley.
Making of: Grapes were chilled, destemmed and macerated for a day or so then pressed directly to old French barrels for natural fermentation and subsequent aging on lees. Racked in January 2021, lightly sulfured (20ppm) and stored in tank refrigerated until bottling in mid-February, unfined and unfiltered. Hand waxed.
Personality: expressive, focused, savory rosé that drinks well no matter the season.
Rudy Chardonnay (Adelaide Hills)
This wine comes from a special little 1.2-hectare block that sits at the end of Udy’s Road in the heart of the Piccadilly Valley that Tim leases together with Gareth Belton of Gentle Folk, a fellow Basket Range winemaker that we import as well. The plot is farmed by Gareth and his team, using organic and biodynamic treatments, and extensive renovation is slowly taking place to return the vines and infrastructure to full health.
Grapes: Chardonnay (i10v1 clone originally destined for sparkling wine)
Vineyard: Udy’s Road, Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills. Planted in 1983, 520m ALS. Soil is clay loam with quartz, schist and sandstone gravel over sandstone bedrock. Farming is organic with biodynamic treatments.
Making of: Grapes are chilled before whole bunch pressing. Free run and pressings combined. Old French hogsheads (300 liters) were filled for fermentation and aging for 10 months on full lees, untouched. Racked in January 2021, lightly sulfured (20ppm) and stored in tank, refrigerated until bottling in mid-February, unfined and unfiltered. An additional 10 ppm sulfur was added at bottling. Hand waxed.
Personality: A bright, fresh take on the grape full of orchard fruits and lemon meringue pie, or maybe even lime margarita given its salty edge. Only a small amount made (and even smaller made it to the US) but worth looking for.
Gonzo (Barossa + Riverland)
Grapes: 38% Cinsault, 34% Sauzão, 28% Grenache
Young Cinsault and 50+-year-old Grenache from Wayne Ahrens’ Vine Vale block in the eastern Barossa Valley. Relatively flat with consistent deep sand over clay soil. Certified Biodynamic.
Sauzão sourced from Ashley Ratcliff’s organically managed block on Ricca Terra Farms in Barmera, in the heart of the Riverland. Red-brown loam over limestone soil.
Making of: Sauzão was direct pressed to minimize color uptake and fermented in a small steel tank without intervention. Cinsault and Grenache crates were carefully emptied into 1 tonne open Jarrah vats in layers to keep berries intact for a 2-week carbonic fermentation. The ferments are then fouléed (foot tread) for 3 days before pressing and finishing the primary fermentation in tanks. Wines were blended once all dry and run to used French oak barrels, 300l and 1100l in size. Racked after 10 months, small sulfur addition. Stored cold in tanks until bottling February 2021. Unfined, unfiltered.
Personality: “I wanted to make a light red with texture and tang. Grenache brings the fruit and Cinsault the tang. Carbonic fermentation the texture. The addition of Sauzão this year was a one-off due to the small 2020 yields. It blended in well bringing a mineral accent and acidity. This is currently my most popular wine. Eminently drinkable,” the winemaker says.
Collines Pinot Noir (Adelaide Hills)
“Collines” means “Hills” in French, referring to the fact that the grapes for this wine come from the higher slopes in the, well, Adelaide Hills, and to Tim’s vocation as a French wine importer.
Grape: Pinot Noir
Vineyard: Roughly 60% of the blend comes from the back block of Scary Gully in Carey Gully, a high-altitude site around 550m. Soil is red-brown loamy clay over sandstone with schist and quartz gravel. Organic farming. The remaining 40% came from the Highwood Vineyard at Aldgate, a very low vigor, low yielding site on a slope of impoverished gravelly loam over sandstone, farmed organically.
Making of: Both parcels were fermented with the classic tri-layer Burgundy sandwich which results in around 2/3rd whole bunches. Red ferments are left to start naturally, no pump-inducing. Once started they are gently fouléed (walked over) and finally plunged when the skins no longer support the weight.
Highwood was pressed after 12 days and run to old French barriques and hogsheads to finish fermentation and then left there for elevage. The Scary ferments were slow to kick off, probably due to their unusually low pH (3.14 at harvest) but caught up and were pressed to old barrel at around 2 weeks on skins. Racked and blended to tank in January, 20ppm SO2 was added, refrigerated until bottling in April 2020 unfined, unfiltered.
Personality: “Deep red with a bit of crimson. The components to this have come together nicely. Juicy and vibrant with bang for buck. Ripe darker berry fruits like black raspberry and boysenberry, plum, and dark cherry and a hint of dark chocolate. Lots of natural fruit spice and a complexing whole-bunch herbal note which brings freshness. The palate is fairly seamless and unashamed with its broad rich fruits. Silky but with some fine chalky tannins too. Dark but not clumsy and with a pure purple floral burst of freshness along the way. Great drinking all the way to the bottom,” Tim says.