Salomon Finniss River Estate

Australia, South Australia

Bert Salomon's Australian vineyard holdings are in the Finniss River region, on the Fleurieu Peninsula, just south of Adelaide. Founded by his ancestors in 1866, the current generation followed his lead over a hundred years later to make wines with the same meticulous care that they follow in the Wachau, Austria. For local knowledge and expertise, Bert has been helped from the outset by his longtime friend Mike Farmilo, who was Penfold’s chief red winemaker until 1997. It has clearly been a winning combination.

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       However, the most memorable and pleasant surprise was bumping into the languid and charming Austrian, Bertold Salomon – or Bert as he likes to be called. The last time I’d seen him was in Vienna in the late 90s when he ran the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. Salomon, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the film actor Donald Sutherland, was well known to me for making exceptional wines at Salomon Undhof in his homeland. But what I hadn’t realised, until this tasting, was that he has also been doing the very same thing in South Australia since the last millennium. From Austria to South Australia In 1995, he and his wife Gertrud bought the 50ha of gentle hillside land in the Finniss River Valley, which is part of the Fleurieu Peninsula south of Adelaide. There they planted Syrah/Shiraz, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Grenache and Mourvedre to take advantage of the cool climate – the estate is just 10km from the Southern Ocean. ‘The elevation of 120m above sea level and the soil composition in Finniss are our most important viticultural assets,’ Bert told me. According to Salomon, the property’s thin topsoil, a mix of gravel and glacial sand, gives good drainage. At the same time, the calcareous red and orange clay in the subsoil retains the right amount of water. ‘The microclimate is wonderful for ripening the grapes,’ he added. ‘You taste the warmth of the midday in their fruit and the chilled air of the nearby Southern Ocean in their acids.’ For local knowledge and expertise, Salomon has been helped from the outset by his longtime friend Mike Farmilo, who was Penfold’s chief red winemaker until 1997. It has clearly been a winning combination. Their first vintage was in 1998 and since 2002, Bertold and his family live between Australia and Austria, happily harvesting in both countries. ‘Now, I am proudly part Australian,’ he beamed. And who can blame him, I was absolutely enthralled by these beautifully true and crafted wines, which I had never known about, let alone tasted. To me, they define style, purity, authenticity and pleasure in equal measure.