This is a cautionary tale, showing that in wine, the very big (Woolworths-owned Endeavour Group) can happily live with small high-quality wineries. Endeavour Group’s retail sales in FY21 were $10.1 billion, and it’s a multi-layered business. It owns Dan Murphy’s, BWS, Langton’s, Cellarmasters and Pinnacle Drinks, variously involved in sales at wholesale or retail. Over time it has acquired a portfolio of seriously good wineries that have come together in Endeavour’s Paragon Wine Estates. They are Chapel Hill, Isabel Estate (NZ), Josef Chromy, Krondorf, Oakridge, Riddoch, and Shingleback. What is striking is the lack of duplication of similar wines, and the reflected lustre that each adds.

Enter Michael Fragos. In 1990 he was appointed Assistant Winemaker of Southern Wales Winery, in 1994 Winemaker of the re-named Tatachilla, Chief Winemaker 1995. Musical takeovers and mergers followed with St Hallett, Banksia and Lion Nathan all involved.

In 2004 he broke free to become Chapel Hill Chief Winemaker, and CEO in 2013. With 43ha of estate plantings, and a network of growers closely aligned with it, Endeavour Group began distributing Chapel Hill in 2016/17, and in 2019 bought Chapel Hill from Swiss-owned Schmidheiny.

With sales of 100 thousand cases, Chapel Hill still sees itself as mid-sized. Michael Fragos has been with it for 19 years, winemaker Bryn Richards for 17 years, and viticulturist (Vinedresser is a snappy name) Rachel Steer for 15 years. Fragos’ record of high achievement dates back to 1990, with a degree in Microbiology and Genetics from the University of Adelaide, and a degree in Oenology from Roseworthy College.

The three are united by their love of McLaren Vale.  Says Fragos: ‘The winery has been set up for gentle and patient small batch winemaking which allows us to keep all of the different grape parcels separate. This ensures that we know each wine intimately back to the individual vineyard blocks. It is essentially all about trusting your grapes and your people to achieve purity and balance in the wines.’

2019 Chapel Hill The Vicar McLaren Vale Shiraz

Matured in oak for 22 months. Quintessentially McLaren Vale with its bed of dark chocolate and layers of luscious black fruits piled on top, then neatly tucked in by finely tuned tannins and – I suppose – oak. It’s medium- to full-bodied with the structure and balance to ensure a long life.

96 points, drink to 2040, 14.5% alc, Screwcap, $65

2020 Chapel Hill The MV Bush Vine McLaren Vale Grenache

The bouquet is full of flowers, spices and forest berries, the beautifully balanced and shaped palate taking the wine to another level altogether with its seamless flow of red fruits.

96 points, drink to 2035, 14.5% alc, Screwcap, $33

2021 Chapel Hill The Parson McLaren Vale Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre

Wow. Isn’t this a bargain? It’s juicy, it’s silky, it’s beautifully balanced. It’s so fresh on the finish. All three varieties have their say. You don’t have to wait for it, but it will wait for you.

94 points, drink to 2031, 14% alc, Screwcap, $18

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