John Lienert – Viticulturalist

“New vineyard plantings started to appear around my family’s farm on the Barossa’s western ridge in the late 1990’s. I was studying agribusiness at the time, and this peaked my interest in the possibilities of establishing vineyards on our property. Dad was willing to back me, and we planted 12 hectares by hand in 2001. He was always one for insisting you had to learn the business from the ground up, which for me meant spending 8 weeks that first year picking grapes for Grant Burge. It was hard slog, and I loved it – which set in place my approach to grape growing, and winemaking by extension. The best way to learn is to get your hands dirty. It’s not glamourous – in fact its bloody hard work – but it’s a great way to gradually master the art of growing great fruit and making awesome wine. I reckon I now know every vine in our vineyards, and have developed an innate sense of how I can respond as a grape grower to everything nature throws at us.

Our first crops were sold to Penfolds in 2004 and 2005 – the winemakers loved the inky black colours, intense flavour and the distinctive savoury/ mineral edge that comes from Shiraz grown in our terra rossa soils. The fruit found its way into their St Henri wine those first two years, to which we thought we might be onto a good thing, and promptly planted more! I took up a job in the cellar team at Teusner Wines for the 2008 vintage and over the next 7 years gained some invaluable insight into both what winemakers were looking for from their growers (so I could grow better fruit), and also how they coaxed the best out of the fruit (so I could have the distinct pleasure of providing my brother some informed and possibly invaluable winemaking advice). When we started making wine for Lienert Vineyards, it may have been my brother in charge of winemaking duties but I knew how equally important it was to get it right in the vineyard.

Our hands on, attention to detail approach in the vineyard allows us to focus on achieving flavour and physiological ripeness without stressing the vines. This is very old country and it’s essential to promote soil health by returning as much organic matter from the vintage as we can. Healthy soils mean healthy vines. The healthier the plant, the better the fruit and the better result in the glass. It’s a simple, pragmatic and I think sound approach to making great wine.”