🔫 Good Chats: Riding Shotgun with Sholto
For this whiz kid at Basket Range Wine in the Hills, a wine region isn’t just about what’s grown where, it’s about community, and making stuff that tastes good.
The first time I met Sholto Broderick, his brother Louis and their wines was at Rootstock in 2015. Mike Bennie and I went to town on him about how bad his wines were for some reason (they weren’t), ordered heaps, and now we’re mates. Basket Range Wine is an incredible estate on Basket Range Road in the Adelaide Hills, one of the steepest in the country, with wines cascading down ridges that hurt your knees if you’re not 24 anymore. Sholto’s dad, Big Phil, bought the property in 1978, and now Sholto mostly manages all the production. The styles get more precise and refined every year, which we love to see, but wow the farm… that’s what makes these wines. The 2020 vintage has just landed!
DRNKS: First things first mate, what's your favourite tractor?
Sholto Broderick: We recently got a new Landini tractor which is blue, has a CD player and is pretty good for getting up our steep slopes. It’s good. I’d say it’s my favourite.
RMs or Blundstones?
Both, but depends who you’re with. I feel both hold a lot of connotation but are objectively both good boots. Context is everything. Dirty Blundstones for going to wine festivals in Sydney and RMs if no one is looking or you’re overseas. Neither for the vineyard. *Editor’s Note: Sholto is currently running tan Steel Blues in the vineyard which, obviously, is a big no no.
How many vineyards were on Basket Range Road when your old man bought the property?
Dad (Phil) bought the original property in 1978, and it’s now our neighbouring property. There weren’t any vineyards in Basket Range then - mostly apples and cherries and a mix of other stuff. It’s a pretty steep part of the world. There was (and still is) a lot of bush around. In 1980 he planted two acres of vines on the site above, where our old house used to be.
Your dad’s a Magistrate in Adelaide, so why did he want a vineyard? They're pretty hard work, without much reward.
He was (and still is) friends with Stephen George (Ashton Hills), who didn’t pour cold water on the idea to plant the small site, so he did with a mix of Bordeaux varieties and made the wine in the shed on the property. He worked in Adelaide during the week, so the effort was confined to evenings weekends. He and mum’s friends helped pick the grapes. I think there are nice parallels between what I’ve seen in old photos, what I can remember, and what I see now with people in the area during vintage. Except people now have Jura, not Coonawarra, with lunch; but they still roll their own ciggies. In the early 2000s, we moved to the neighbouring property (where we are now) and planted a larger vineyard, selling the majority of the fruit and making a couple of barrels under the Basket Range Wine label. I think growing grapes can be difficult, particularly if you have a tough year. It was good to sell the fruit to local winemakers and see the fruit in their different wines. But it’s nice to actually make wine and for people to enjoy it.
I know these days you're very hands on and low input - has this always been the case?
With our current vineyard, which is about 13 acres, dad contracted most the growing of the grapes. He’s always worked full time in Adelaide, so looking after a vineyard in his spare time by himself wasn’t possible. This meant the vineyard was managed on the conventional side. Through interest and encouragement from local winemakers who bought some of the fruit, dad stopped the use of herbicide. Louis and I, over the past few years began to prune and manage the vines with a focus on plant and soil rejuvenation. We now do everything in the vines.
Got anything you want to say about how frequently the term ‘Basket Range’ is used by people that don't use any fruit from the Basket Range?
I think the association with Basket Range is now largely based on an eclectic group of people who happen to live and make wine in the area and are part of the community, rather than a grape-growing region. There are only a handful of small vineyards actually in Basket Range. The majority of people source external fruit, but some people both grow the grapes and make the wine. Whether fruit is local or not, the wines from here helped create a market and interest for the area we grew up in, before it was cool. This helped us begin to make the wine and grow the grapes in a way that interested us, and that people liked, which is great. For me, irrespective of where people’s fruit is from, it’s a community. Imagine if everyone grew grapes and everyone was awful?
What's the vibe on your new wines? I know 2020 was super low yielding, but how's quality?
Yeah, that’s true. It was the second year in a row which was significantly lower yielding. The 2020 wines are looking good. Each year has been a learning experience and seeing what works better. The fruit quality was nice and the wines in barrel are looking nice too. The weather became quite temperate in late February which meant the grapes could hang out and ripen gently.
Ok finally, what's the best ute you can buy in Australia?
Dad’s got a new Hilux. It’s pretty zippy. Amarok if you’re in Sydney. Anything that makes you happy.