Spinifex

Perpetual Virtuosity from one of the Pioneers of the ‘New Barossa’

We first offered Spinifex’s wines in 2006, writing, “If Spinifex is not one of the most exciting Australian producers to have cropped up in the last decade, then we don’t know much about wine.” Time has been kind to those words, and thanks to this outstanding producer’s continuous progression, our reputation is not only still intact but indeed enhanced! Thanks, Pete.

Spinifex was started by Magali Gely and Peter Schell in 2001. Magali and Peter’s background is the key to understanding the styles of wine they produce. Magali comes from a family that has been growing wine near Montpellier for over ten generations, whilst Peter is a trained oenologist and has made wine in Burgundy, Switzerland, Provence, the Minervois, the Languedoc, Bordeaux and New Zealand. Peter and Magali’s combined backgrounds led to the belief that the vineyard is paramount in the production of unique, authentic wines, and that the wines they produce should not only reflect their sites; showing richness and intensity; but also, be well-balanced and a pleasure to drink.

Pete Schell should be considered one of the pioneers of the ‘new Barossa’, in that he was perhaps the first to truly grasp that seeking ripe fruit at lower Baumé and large format, or at least neutral oak was the way to go in the Barossa. He knew that power came naturally in this part of the world and that his efforts need to be directed at finding perfume and finesse and digestibility. He also grasped the importance of the old parcels of heritage grape varieties (much of which had been grubbed up) and worked hard to lock down what he could. Finally, and most thought-provokingly, he came to realise that the Barossa might well be as good a rosé and white wine region as it is a red wine area and promptly set about producing some of the most exciting examples of these wine styles the Barossa has seen.

While Schell’s wines remain quite unlike the traditional Barossa norm, they remain saturated with what we often call a ‘sense of place’ and maintain an unmistakable Barossan soul.

Twenty years into the story and Pete Schell’s fastidious criteria for site selection combined with his intuitive, hands-off work in the winery continues to yield dramatic results. His wines offer the textural openness and generosity that is the mark of the region, its climate and ancient soils, yet not at the expense of definition, tannic freshness and line.

Alongside their ground-breaking roster of négoce wines, Pete and Magali have realised their lifelong goal of owning and working their own vineyards. And what vineyards they are. The Rostein Vineyard in the Eden Valley was purchased in 2014. To complement the old vine Riesling and Shiraz already in place, they’ve planted Grenache (the highest block in South Australia at 495 metres) Mataro, Counoise and Cinsault. Next came the historic Dominion Vineyard near Vine Vale in 2018. Located in the dead centre of the Barossa Valley, this four-hectare site is home to two parcels of 1910 Grenache and 1918 Shiraz. Both varieties are deep-rooted in thin soils made up of fine, silty sand over friable, red-coloured clay. Translation: this is great, old-school Barossa country. A little Grenache Gris has also been planted.

Each of these vineyards is entirely hand-pruned, hand-picked and has been managed to a very high standard, namely: biodynamic preparations; regular compost; no synthetics and no chemical fertiliser; no irrigation; and no under-vine management apart from some mulch application and lots of mowing. Despite this exciting evolution, Schell’s unwavering commitment to his growers means the négoce wines will always remain a cornerstone of the Spinifex range.

The Range

Spinifex Rosé 2022
Spinifex Rosé 2022
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Spinifex Rosé 2022

This stellar release marks the 20th vintage of Provençal styled rosé at Spinifex. This year it's a blend of Barossa Valley Grenache (52%), Mataro (30%), Shiraz (16%) and Cinsault (2%). The vines are all dry-grown and mainly bush vines with an average age of 50 years, although the oldest parcels reach up to 90 years of age. The fruit was all hand-picked and chilled overnight, before crushed bunches were macerated for between six and 24 hours before pressing. The wine was wild-fermented mainly in tank (with five per cent fermented and aged in old French oak demi-muids), and matured on lees prior to being bottled. The resulting wine offers the kind of vibrant texture and crunchy line that were once the exclusive domaine of Provençal rosé. Not anymore. With delicate red fruits, grapefruit and a little river stone and garrigue, it’s a bone-dry and gently textured wine with a chalky feel and a nervy cut. The finish is long, pristine, and tinged with saline minerality.

The resulting wine offers the kind of vibrant texture and crunchy line that were once the exclusive domaine of Provençal rosé. Not anymore. With delicate red fruits, grapefruit and a little river stone and garrigue, it’s a bone-dry and gently textured wine with a chalky feel and a nervy cut. The finish is long, pristine, and tinged with saline minerality.

Pete Schell makes a damn fine rosé. This year it's 52/30/16/2% grenache/mataro/shiraz/cinsault and it sits light salmon in the glass showing aromas of nectarine, raspberry and grapefruit along with hints of redcurrant jelly, white flowers, crushed stone and maybe a touch of lanolin. Sapid and fine with a lovely shimmering acid line and savoury palate shape and an endearing lipsmacking briny finish that begs another glass.”
94 points, Dave Brookes, Wine Companion
“Pale crimson/salmon-like colour, redcurrant flavours, dry, savoury, earthen, that kind of thing. Firmly in the ‘pale and dry’ camp. Watermelon characters, maybe some grapefruit, definitely some spice. Light in a good way. Frisky but with plenty going on. Good gear.”
91 points, Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front
Spinifex Rosé 2022
Spinifex Rosé 2022
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Spinifex Old Vine Grenache 2021
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Spinifex Old Vine Grenache 2021

When Pete Schell heard rumblings of a small old Grenache block being put up for sale for being "too old and too low yielding", naturally his ears pricked up. A call was promptly placed to the owner, a brief negotiation followed and Pete has now been farm-sharing the block for three years. Pete describes it as a "lovely old block" with an average vine age of 60 years old. These gnarled old vines are dry grown, spur pruned bush vines and yields are, across the board, 'miserable'. But, the resulting wines are strong, characterful and jam packed with flavour and energy. The fruit was hand harvested and wild fermented in stainless steel. 40% was whole bunch and the remaining 60% was uncrushed, destemmed berries. Pump-overs occurred every second day and the wine was matured on light lees in seasoned thick-staved 500L French oak puncheons. The aromas are dense with ripe fruits, dark spices, earthy undertones and some purple floral lift. The palate has silky fruits, vibrant acidity and lovely light, tight-grained tannins with a savoury and anise-tinged finish.

“An impressive single-vineyard grenache from Pete Schell at Spinifex Wines. Brilliant crimson in the glass with flashes of purple and notes of juicy plum, raspberry, red cherry and blueberry with hints of fine spice, gingerbread, purple florals, red licorice, earth, cola and lighter tobacco tones. Plenty of space and detail with fine, compact gypsum-like tannins and a brisk acid cadence, finishing savoury, balanced and spice-laden.”
94 points, Dave Brooks, winecompanion.com.au
Spinifex Old Vine Grenache 2021
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Spinifex La Cigale 2021
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Spinifex La Cigale 2021

Released as an understudy to the Spinifex Garçon (which was not produced in 2021), La Cigale is a blend of 37% Mataro, 31% Cinsault, 20% Grenache and 12% Shiraz. The Cinsault was sourced from an old block in Bethany with 40- to 50-year-old vines, the Mataro from two blocks in Ebenezer in the northern part of the Barossa (the older site with vines over 40 years of age). The Shiraz is from Altona in Southern Barossa (with 30-year-old vines and deep gravelly sand), and the Grenache component is from Pete’s usual sources for the Garçon Grenache: old, dry-grown vines, also grown in the Barossa’s deep, coarse, sandy soil. The winemaking has taken in a mélange of approaches, including the use of whole-bunch, whole-berry and destemmed fruit, followed by mostly natural ferments in a combination of stainless steel, concrete and large-format seasoned oak, which took place on fine lees for an average of five months. In the glass, this has Pete Schell’s signature all over it. Filled with intensity and bright aromatic lift, there’s an array of earthy and savoury notes, all complimented by juicy and vibrant red and blue fruits. Clean acidity drives a plump mouthfeel while powdery tannins contribute sinewy structure. Schell points out that the exuberance of Cinsault shines brightly here. Yet, as so often happens at this address, the whole package is greater than the sum of its parts: it’s a fresh and bright wine with bags of energy and animated generosity. A Spinifex bistro classic is born.

"With a blend of 37/31/31/12% mataro/cinsault/grenache/shiraz and a very sharp pricepoint, I guess this could be considered as the sibling of the Spinifex Esprit, which has a similar makeup. All you need to know is that it's a pretty lovely wine, packed with exotically spiced plum and red berry fruits and featuring an airy, spacious mouthfeel with plenty of detail and inherent drinkability. You could even pop it in the fridge briefly if that's what you're into.”
92 points, Dave Brookes, The Wine Companion
Spinifex La Cigale 2021
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Spinifex Papillon 2022
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Spinifex Papillon 2022

Pete Schell’s Papillon was one of the first of the mod-Barossa wines to show that ripeness and depth of flavour needn’t come at the expense of freshness and vineyard expression. All these years later, it remains at the top of its game—if anything, it has never been in better form. This year’s wine is drawn from three exceptionally old, dry-grown, bush-vine sites as last year. Unlike the Grenache-dominant 2021, the 2022 leads with Cinsault, with 87% of the blend. The lion's share of the Cinsault is sourced from a plot of pre-Great-War vines (1910) in the friable, deep, red-clay soils of Ebenezer, while the balance is sourced from a 40-year-old sandy plot in Bethany. The Grenache component comes from a plot of vines planted around 1890 in Vine Vale that are rooted in deep, coarse sandy soil. All three parcels are fermented as whole berries and matured in a mix of old, large oak foudres and stainless-steel tanks. The fresh and moderate conditions of 2022 have delivered one of the most consumable renditions of Papillon we have seen in some years. Campbell’s notes sums the wine up nicely—delicious indeed. 

“It’s a light, mouthwatering, fresh style of red with its core of sweet raspberry and red licorice flavour surrounded by dry spice and roasted nut characters. In short, it’s delicious. Frisky but with flavour; sweet-fruited but with ample savoury nuance. It’s more-ish plus plus.”
92 points, Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front
Spinifex Papillon 2022
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Spinifex Lola 2021
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Spinifex Lola 2021

Pete Schell is crafting a slew of exciting, avant-garde whites from the Barossa and Eden Valleys these days, yet his ‘cherry cola’ blend is the original, and some would say the most multi-layered white. At three-quarters of the blend, Semillon again takes centre stage in this year’s Lola, joined by Clairette, Ugni Blanc and Vermentino. The Semillon—a grape that has been grown in the Barossa Valley since the 1850s—is sourced from three old-vine vineyards (65, 75 and 95 years old) located in Ebenezer, the foothills near Bethany and the valley floor close to the Para River. The Clairette is cropped from an elevated site in Rowland Flat on the eastern side of the Valley. This late-ripening grape, with excellent acid retention, provides additional freshness. Ugni Blanc and Vermentino contribute texture, even more freshness and a lick of salinity. All parcels were hand-harvested, and the bunches were chilled before crushing and maceration on skins for six hours before pressing. All fermentations were wild in a combination of old French oak barriques, puncheons and stainless steel. Components were then matured on lees for eight months before blending and bottling. Schell’s extensive attention in the vineyards and a light touch in the shed have given us another exceptional release of this unconventional white. It’s a deliciously fresh and textured white blend, flush with stone fruits, citrus, salinity, spice, and some lovely hay and talc notes lending complexity. It’s fleshy with a nice phenolic tension, bracing acidity and a long, savoury finish—one of the Barossa’s most original white wines, and one of its best.

Schell’s extensive attention in the vineyards and a light touch in the shed have given us another exceptional release of this unconventional white. It’s a deliciously fresh and textured white blend, flush with stone fruits, citrus, salinity, spice, and some lovely hay and talc notes lending complexity. It’s fleshy with a nice phenolic tension, bracing acidity and a long, savoury finish—one of the Barossa’s most original white wines, and one of its best.

Spinifex Lola 2021
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Spinifex Sol Solice Grenache 2022
Spinifex Sol Solice Grenache 2022
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Spinifex Sol Solice Grenache 2022

This is the inaugural release of the Sol Solice Grenache—and what a start! This wine will represent the finest Spinifex Grenache of a given vintage. In 2022 the fruit was sourced from two vineyards: the Rostein Vineyard in the Eden Valley (64%); and a vineyard in Light Pass in the heart of the Barossa Valley. Both vineyards are managed organically by Pete and Magali. The three hectares of Grenache in the Rostein Vineyard were planted in 2018, and according to Pete, at 490 metres above sea level, it’s the highest altitude Grenache block in South Australia. The Light Pass site is a dry-grown vineyard with 60-year-old vines. Vinification was similar with both blocks. Fruit was hand-picked, fully destemmed and naturally fermented in stainless steel and old wood. Fermentation lasted eight days with minimal pump-overs. After pressing, the wine matured in seasoned puncheons and demi-muids for 10 months before it was bottled without fining or filtration. A sign of things to come, this first release is pure magic. It’s knee-deep in scents of berries, florals, earth and spice, while the palate is intensely flavoured, with ample texture, refreshing tannin and brightness all striking a flawless balance. Finishing with a beautifully long, tapered and perfumed close, this refined and layered Grenache over-delivers in every department. Southern Rhône, eat your heart out.

A sign of things to come, this first release is pure magic. It’s knee-deep in scents of berries, florals, earth and spice, while the palate is intensely flavoured, with ample texture, refreshing tannin and brightness all striking a flawless balance. Finishing with a beautifully long, tapered and perfumed close, this refined and layered Grenache over-delivers in every department. Southern Rhône, eat your heart out.

“Fabulously deep, dark and vibrantly red in the glass. Lifted aromas of anise, blackberry, bramble, pastilles, ironstone and graphite, really complex and evocative. Full, plush and decadent on the palate, there's a core of dark fruit, all mulberry, blackberry and dark, pithy cherry, there is also some graphite and licorice at play. The tannins are textured, drying and layered and provide mouth-feel, length and presence. Delicious!”
95 points, Aaron Brasher, The Real Review
“Smells exotic; is exotic. Orange peel and raspberry, cranberry and chalk, floral elements and roasted spice notes. It’s both pretty and substantial, juicy and taut. There’s something ultra pure about this wine; something special. Woodsmoke and earth notes rise as the wine breathes. Apart from many things else, it’s a gorgeous drink.”
95 points, Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front
“Grenache sourced from the high elevation of the Eden Valley and the Barossa Valley floor. An offering of the best grenache of the growing season, according to Peter Schell. Plenty of vibrant, aromatic fruit with juicy red plum, cranberry and mulberry fruits sheathed in gingery spice and hints of cola, earth, dried citrus rind, teacake, orange blossom, raspberry coulis and redcurrant paste. Firm, chalky tannin grip and a super lively, mineral-laden wine finishing juicy – just a pure, joyous rendition of the variety. A new wine for the crew from Spinifex and it is glorious drinking.”
97 points, Dave Brookes, Halliday Wine Companion 2024
Spinifex Sol Solice Grenache 2022
Spinifex Sol Solice Grenache 2022
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“Wonderful to touch base again with Spinifex wines. In the cornucopia of avant garde producers, sometimes it’s great to look back at those who were there at the genesis, and revel in their consistency and continuation at a high level.” Mike Bennie, The Wine Front

“Last year he was a finalist for Gourmet Traveller Winemaker of the Year. Small wonder Spinifex has five red stars in the 2021 Halliday Wine Companion. If all this isn’t enough, the prices are a breath of fresh air.” James Halliday, The Weekend Australian Magazine

“Pete and his partner Magali Gely operate what I think is the best new-wave of small-scale Barossa wine companies to emerge at the beginning of the 21st century… These weren’t big, blockbuster, showy wines designed to impress. They were wines that managed to take the best of the Barossa’s sometimes forgotten varietal traditions and fuse them onto a very European flavour sensibility.” Max Allen, The Future Makers

Country

Australia

Primary Region

Barossa, South Australia

People

Winemaker: Peter Schell

Availability

VIC, NSW, ACT, QLD, TAS, WA

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