Salomon Estate

Australia, South Australia

Our great friends the fabulous Salomon family famous in Austria for the historic estate also have this sensational outpost in Australia - Salomon Estate. Here they make elegant Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Atop the rolling hills of the Finniss River wine-growing area the grapes ripen in an idyllic micro-climate. Finniss River extends along the southeast shoulder of the Adelaide Hills, part of the Fleurieu Peninsula. Salomon Estate wines mirror the unique qualities of this landscape: you can feel the midday sun in their fruits and the chilled air of the nearby Southern Ocean in their acids. These exceptional wines reflect the fruit of Australia with a European approach to winemaking. Bert, Gertrud, Fay Marie and young Bert Salomon bridge the old and the new wine world. Harvesting twice a year they commute between Finniss River/Australia and their famous white wine estate Salomon Undhof – Austria, which they manage in the eighth generation. Always one to make the right decisions at the right time, Bert is helped by iconic Australian winemaker Mike Farmilo, longtime friend and former chief red winemaker at Penfolds.

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.
Decanter Magazine

Bertold Salomon is a familiar figure on the Austrian wine scene. He preceded Willi Klinger as the generic representative of Austrian wine. Before that he served on the board of Austrian wine company Schlumberger, in which capacity he oversaw the first imports of Australian wine into Austria. With a 19th century kinsman who settled in South Australia, he was long interested in the country whose name is often confused with that of his native Austria. (In 1985 Australian wine exports were seriously affected in some markets by the fallout from Austria's 'antifreeze scandal'.) He and his wife Gertrud travelled to Australia frequently in the 1990s and mentioned to Michael Hill Smith of Shaw + Smith that they were toying with investing in some vineyard land there. 'How old are you?' asked Michael. On being told Bert was then 40 he advised, 'you'd better get on with it then'. They did, buying 50 ha (124 acres) in the Finniss River Valley on the Fleurieu Peninsula between McLaren Vale and the southern coast in 1995, planting 15 ha with vines, mainly Cabernet and Shiraz, and just over a hectare of olive trees – the rest is steep pasture. Today they commute between Stein in Austria and a rented house near the ocean in South Australia where they are based during the southern-hemisphere harvest. Their Braeside (Cabernet) and Sea Eagle (Shiraz) vineyards are 120–150 m above the Southern Ocean 10 km (6 miles) to the south and are on a southeast-facing hillside. Average February temperature is 20.4 °C (69 ºF) with annual rainfall of 488 mm (19 in), and heat units of 1560 °C, which they claim is pretty similar to the northern Rhône. Overall average temperatures are 3-5 °C lower than in McLaren Vale, thanks to cooling breezes off the ocean most afternoons. The Finniss River vineyards of the Salomon Estate are in the foothills of the Mount Lofty Ranges, with a similar soil profile of loamy sand over a a pinkish mix of gravel and glacial sand on top of sandstone, red clay and weathered rock. Jancis Robinson OBE MW -  (Jul 2015)