Sidewood has this year bought a 25-hectare vineyard to take its total plantings to 93 hectares across four sites in the Adelaide Hills, making it one of the region’s largest sustainably certified growers.
A bottling plant is also being built at the winery, which makes cider too. A canning line for the cider started up recently with the full bottling facility expected to be online by late 2017.
Sidewood owner Owen Inglis ran companies in Hong Kong, including one of the world’s biggest luggage manufacturers, before buying his first Adelaide Hills vineyard and starting the business in 2004. But the real growth—about 50% a year—has come since 2012, when Inglis moved to South Australia to run the business full-time.
This growth has included the purchase in 2014, and subsequent expansion, of Sidewood’s winery facility in Nairne, where the bottling plant is being built. This has allowed production to grow steadily from 140 tonnes in 2014 to a possible 1,000 tonnes in 2017.
“The philosophy that we have is that we want to control the process from growing it to bottling it—that’s what I did in manufacturing as much as I could, and it’s very hard to control the quality if you’re buying fruit from third parties,” Inglis said.
“It’s a philosophy similar to what the French have. New-world marketing is all about the winemaker, and a winemaker can buy his fruit from anywhere. The old world doesn’t work that way: it’s all about terroir, terroir, terroir.”
The French connection at Sidewood moves beyond philosophy and into the wine.
The winery uses French clones in its Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, and also specialises in a Rhone-style Shiraz. Its sparkling wines and Sauvignon Blancs are also proving popular in Australia and around the world.
Sidewood’s 2013 Mappinga Shiraz was awarded the 2015 Decanter International Trophy for “Best Rhone Varietal over £15” and followed it up this year with two trophies for the wine at the International Wine Challenge in London.
“The region has great potential. The burgundy varieties are very well suited to the region, sparkling wines as well, and Rhone-varietal Shiraz. But I think probably the Pinot Noirs coming out of the Adelaide Hills are going to be some of the best in the world,” Inglis said.
“Ours is very much a Burgundy-style Chardonnay and we’ve got some great Pinot Noirs. We’re using a lot of French oak as well.”
The winery currently produces about 35,000 cases of wine a year and a few thousand cases of cider.
Inglis said exports, led by America and China, accounted for half of all of Sidewood’s sales in the first quarter of the current financial year compared to 20-30% in previous quarters.
“Export markets are strong. We’re particularly growing in Canada and the United States—we’re now in seven states there.
“Asia is also a good market for us; China’s going well and we’re in Singapore, Malaysia Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Korea.
“The China market is maturing, which is a good thing for Australian producers of quality wine,” he added.
He said investing heavily in his vineyards and leaning on the expertise of Vitiworks, a vineyard management services specialist, had been crucial to improving fruit quality from C-grade to A-grade in a handful of years.
Sidewood also appointed former Shaw & Smith chief winemaker Darryl Catlin in 2014.
In September, the winery installed a 100 kilowatt solar energy system to provide more than half of the annual energy needs at its winery. It has recently been awarded Entwine membership (Environmental Viticulture) through the Australian Wine Research Institute and Freshcare.
“We also have probably the largest water recycling capability in the Adelaide Hills,”Inglis said, adding that Sidewood also recycled the water for two other nearby wineries.
With 18 wine regions, South Australia is consistently responsible for half of Australia’s annual wine production. It is home to brands such as Penfolds Grange, Jacob’s Creek, Hardys and Wolf Blass.