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Adelaide Hills beef producer wins Great Australian Shiraz Challenge

Primary Industries

An Adelaide Hills beef producer is giving the term Beef and Burgundy new meaning by winning a major wine award with its Shiraz.

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Bendbrook Wines & Beef runs its herd of Black Angus cattle on a 40ha property near Macclesfield in South Australia where it also has a 15ha vineyard.

Its 2015 Goat Track Shiraz was today awarded the Trophy for Best Australian Shiraz at the 2019 Great Australian Shiraz Challenge.

John Struik bought the property in the mid-1990s and planted his Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in 1996 with his wife Margaret at the same time entrepreneur Duncan MacGillivray established Longview Vineyard across the road. The Bendbrook vineyard sits in a valley either side of the Angas River, which flows through the property.

“We’re beef producers more than anything else and we sell to a lot of the restaurants with our Bendbrook brand of beef,” Struik says.

Angus cattle on the Bendbrook property.

“I planted the vineyard when I read that Macclesfield was one of the first wine growing areas in Australia back in 1843 but they pulled them all out in 1914 when World War I came and they needed milk and not wine.”

The Goat Track Shiraz is made by Adelaide Hills winemaker Leigh Ratzmer and takes its name from the vineyard’s steep slopes. The handpicked Shiraz is matured in a mix of French barriques and hogsheads incorporating 20 per cent new oak and sells for $38 a bottle.

About 400 dozen of the wine is produced each year and sold to restaurants and through Dan Murphy’s. Benbrook produces about 2000 dozen bottles of wine a year in a range that also includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Chardonnay and a Cabernet Shiraz blend.

The Great Australian Shiraz Challenge win caps a strong recent run for Bendbrook. Its Yarn Spinner Cabernet Shiraz was awarded a Gold Medal at last month’s Royal Melbourne Wine Show while its 2017 SL Cabernet Sauvignon won a trophy at the most recent Adelaide Hills Wine Show.

Benbrook Beef is sold mainly to high-end restaurants in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne.

John Stuik, winemaker Leigh Ratzmer and Gus the Kelpie with the Great Australian Shiraz Challenge trophies.

Struik is now not quite sure if he is running a beef company that sells wine or a wine company that produces beef but said the combination seemed to work well.

“It’s a bit like Shiraz/Cabernet or Cab/Shiraz,” he laughs.

“We don’t do much in the vineyard during winter at all except let the cattle fertilise it and at the end of a vintage we sometimes let the cattle in early to mop up the fruit and that becomes our grape fed beef but that’s generally just for our consumption.

“We had a policy with restaurants and hotels that we’d sell them the wine if they bought the beef but we’ve relaxed that a bit.”

There were 247 medals including 23 golds awarded in this year’s Great Australian Shiraz Challenge, which attracted almost 500 entries.

The 2019 Saint Martin Oak Best of Show Trophy and the Orora Glass Trophy for Best South Australian Shiraz are being delivered to Benbrook Wines today.

Struik expects the “reasonable amount” of the 2015 Goat Track Shiraz he has left to sell out quickly.

He says it is becoming increasingly difficult for small producers to stay competitive in the wine industry but awards such as this make it all worthwhile.

“If I didn’t have the quality strip we’ve got here I would have put a dozer through it four or five years ago and just had cattle but I couldn’t bring myself to do it because every so often we get an absolute cracker vintage and this reinforces that decision,” Struik says.

“I’ve tended to do it all myself so as your bones get older you sometimes wonder why you don’t just let the cattle in permanently but then you get a gong like this and you think ‘I can put up with a few more years of bouncing around on the tractor’.”

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