Today, 23 September 2023, Alan and Kathrin Varney open Varney Wines’ revamped Tasting Room at 62 Victor Harbor Road, Old Noarlunga SA 5168, culminating a hectic 25-year journey. When 18-year-old Alan bought a one-way ticket from his native New York to Sydney in 1998 it was a leap into the unknown, just as it was for Kathrin when she left her native Germany. Fate meant they would meet each other in a backpacker’s hostel in Opotiki, New Zealand, before she returned to her home in Berlin. Yet another leap saw Alan ‘chasing’ her there before both found McLaren Vale a wonderful place in which to live and work.
Then he began his self-described 11-year odyssey with d’Arenberg from 2008-2018, but fitting in northern hemisphere vintages in California, New York city and Portugal. He also gained a degree in viticulture from Melbourne University’s Dookie Campus. An anchor came in the birth of their two sons, now 17 and 19. But slings and arrows of outrageous fortune were to come as they worked day and night renovating a disused, limestone barn they had bought in 2015. Varney had accumulated a network of grape growers during his odyssey, a vital link now.
By 2017 they had assembled the pieces of equipment in the barn-cum-winery, and in 2018 opened a small restaurant run by Kathrin which was to win hats in both 2021 and 2022. They built an environmentally friendly winery next door to the barn, and then the nightmare of Covid hit mid-March 2020. They managed to steer the business through that to stability, but a year ago a large section of the property was acquired by the State Government which meant they had to abandon the restaurant, and once again redesign the Tasting Room overlooking the Onkaparinga Gorge and into the winery.
Alan Varney is an intuitive winemaker of great skill and financial acumen; he and Kathrin sell all the wines direct to consumers at mouth-watering prices (https://varneywines.com.au).
2022 Varney Wines Grenache
Cold soaked, part whole bunch, 15-28 days on skins, 7 months maturation in used French oak, 200 dozen made. Bright scarlet hue; a cedary spice-laden bouquet introduces a rich palate with plum, pomegranate, black cherry and finely-honed tannins all tumbling over each other, and the spices will increase as time goes by.
96 points, drink to 2036, 14.6% alc, Screwcap, $36
2020 Varney Wines GSM
Cold soaked, partial whole bunch, wild yeast open fermentation, 9-40 days on skins, 9 months in used French barriques. Wow. Adventurous winemaking produces a seriously complex wine, in both texture and flavour, spice riding high, magical freshness on the finish and aftertaste.
95 points, drink to 2035, 14.2% alc, Screwcap, $35
2023 Varney Wines Mencia
A variety on the rise in Spain and Portugal – and recently in Australia. Deep but bright colour; a haunting herbal/dark cupboard bouquet is swiftly dealt with by the medium- to full-bodied palate anchored by dusty tannins, and that Varney touch of freshness on the finish.
95 points, drink to 2038, 13.7% alc, Screwcap, $36