05 Jun Off the Vine, Season 1, Ep 11

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Fox Creek Vineyard: In 1984 Jim and Helen Watts bought a 32-hectare property between McLaren Vale and Willunga. The land had previously been used for growing barley and grazing sheep. The first vines were planted in 1985 and so began Fox Creek Wines. The soil is mostly heavy clay and tends to crack quite dramatically in summer. This makes it difficult to establish vines and the owners were advised not to proceed with plantings. Ironically, the soil type has proved to be an advantage as it restricts vine vigor and yields. This leads to grapes being produced with intense flavor. Scott Henry trellising is widely used. This technique produces a much greater canopy area per meter of vine, and promotes better color in the fruit and greater airflow through the vines. The system also tends to reduce the vine’s susceptibility to disease. Fox Creek’s head winemaker Dan Hills has the luxury of being able to blend from small batches of wine, sometimes only three or four barrels. This improves blending options and leads to greater consistency. It also limits the effects of vintage variation. The JSM blend is made from Shiraz, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Due to the differences in batches from vintage to vintage it is a difficult wine to make with consistency each year. However the winemakers have risen to the challenge and JSM is recognized as one of Fox Creek’s best wines. The decision to produce a white or red sparkling wine was dictated by the area. McLaren Vale is known as a great Shiraz growing region and therefore it was decided to produce a red sparkling wine with the name Vixen. It is blended predominately from Shiraz and Cabernet Franc with a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon. Its essence is fruit lift and concentration of fruit flavors. This is a wine that is fun to drink and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. However it is a serious wine.