Dudley Wines is one of the pioneers of Kangaroo Island’s rapidly expanding wine industry, established in 1994 when three local identities got together and planted a couple of small vineyards. From what started as a bit of a diversion, the business has grown to a partnership involving some of the oldest family names on the island. Collectively they own numerous vineyard estates totalling around forty five acres. A number of wines and styles have evolved – meeting with critical acclaim from both consumers and writers – leading Dudley’s partners to invest more heavily in infrastructure and drive the business more strongly to suit the market.
An important aspect of grape growing on Kangaroo Island is its cool climate. It is distinctly maritime in nature, providing fresh evening sea-breezes throughout the ripening season. The result is grapes that have concentrated and clearly defined varietal flavour components.
While many of the Kangaroo Island vignerons transport their grapes to various wineries on South Australia’s mainland to be processed into wine, the Dudley partners decided early on that to retain control of quality, they would need to make the wines themselves on site. So they built a winery.
The Dudley winery was the first such purpose built facility on the island, and today processes fruit not only for their own branded labels, but also provides a contract winemaking service for other local growers.
In the early days the winemaking facilities were a pretty modest affair, to the extent that Dudley’s very first wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz blend from the 1997 vintage, was made and matured in an annexe of the shearing shed. ‘Shearing Shed Red’ as it came to be labelled, soon established itself as the island’s most popular tipple, enjoyed by locals and a growing number of interstate and international tourists alike.
Today ‘Shearing Shed Red’ also contains a little of the classic Bordeaux variety, Merlot, while it has been joined by a Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Rosé, as well as straight varietal Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon wines under the Dudley label also. Meanwhile the shearing shed itself has given over to several modern buildings to house the bag press, stainless steel fermentation and storage vessels, and refrigeration plant. Alongside, a cellar has been dug out of the hillside and walled with limestone to provide a suitably cool environment to house 300 barrels of maturing wine and pallets of bottled stocks.
The ‘hobby’ has grown to be a strong commercial enterprise. A Sauvignon Blanc was added to the range in 2005, while a Riesling is yet to come on stream. These varieties will provide Dudley the opportunity to build a strong portfolio of wines in differing styles to satisfy the needs of the marketplace.
Dudley wines are widely available on Kangaroo Island and are sold to mainland Australia by mail order. Some small sales have been made to the USA, while the opening of a cellar door at Cape Willoughby in early 2004 proved enormously successful. With vineyard, winery and financial infrastructures in place, Dudley Wines’ preparations for further growth include the broadening of its marketing and distribution base.