The Maxwell Winery
As the popularity of Maxwell Wines and Meads grew through the 1990s, Mark Maxwell realised that more space was needed. He then undertook the mammoth task of relocating the family winery to a site amongst vineyards he had owned since the early 1980s. Situated in the original heart of McLaren Vale, just north of the main street on gently rolling hills, this was the perfect place for a new winery to be built into the south-facing limestone hill, overlooking the township.
Spanning three main levels, the winery was designed to take advantage of gravity flow throughout the winemaking process, contributing to the outstanding quality of the wines. Constructed from limestone and old solid timber, the design also allows visitors the opportunity to view a ‘working winery’ while sampling the wines and taking in the magnificent views from the cellar door. Indeed from the cellar door one can see the five unique open fermenters that Mark’s father Ken built. Used for fermenting red grapes, the idea behind the construction of these was to recreate the gentle hand-plunging methods of years gone by. Taking a relatively long seven to ten days to ferment a parcel of fruit to dryness, these fermenters provide a soft method of extraction of colour, tannin and flavour from the skins and seeds to the fermenting juice. Holding only two tonnes of fruit each, it allows the winemakers the chance to focus on premium small-batch vinification techniques, and treat each parcel of fruit that enters the winery during vintage individually.
Importantly, a special barrel cellar was also designed into the new winery. Hidden away at one end of the winery, the cellar was cut into solid limestone. With a natural earthen floor and impressive limestone walls, the cellar creates an ideal environment of constant temperature and humidity, providing a perfect place to mature some of Maxwell’s best wines in barrel. With this stunning new facility, the annual crush of grapes was steadily increased to around 400 tonnes. Mark also expanded the range of wines to include a Verdelho and, as it came into bearing, some Viognier.
Outside of the busy vintage time, the Maxwell Mead continued to be made, with the family now recognised as the most significant (and largest) producer of this rare beverage in the southern hemisphere. Hence the winery actually has the dual function of being a meadery as well!
For more information on the world-renowned McLaren Vale wine region, please visit www.mclarenvale.info.