Jancis Robinson

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Most people know that Stephanie Toole and Jeffrey Grosset are married. They have separate vineyards, separate tasting rooms, separate offices, but share a winery and lab. Some couples have side-by-side his and hers bathroom basins. Steph and Jeff have side-by-side his and hers Bucher presses.

They tell me that they keep their noses out of each other’s businesses, but will stick noses into each other’s wines, and sometimes listen to each other’s opinions. For many, the tightrope of running two essentially competing businesses in one small space, both ramping up to maximum man hours, resources and stress at pretty much exactly the same time, would spell disaster for business and marriage. But they seemed incredibly at ease. Perhaps all the tension goes into those Rieslings …

 

 

That night they cooked us dinner in a home full of wide spaces and hung with strikingly beautiful artwork. Seemingly effortlessly, a fresh, elegantly simple meal was rustled up between the two of them, moving like choreographed dancers in their kitchen while we sipped on a 2010 Mount Horrocks Watervale Riesling.

They talked about their daughter Georgie, who is a lawyer but wants to make wine, about Jeffrey who sees wine in numbers and shapes, and how Stephanie is the TCA Nazi, how the Grosset wines changed their style in 1999, and that 2002 and 2012 were their hero vintages.

We talked yeasts. They’ve tried wild yeasts. ‘You get more texture and complexity but less freshness and purity’, says Jeffrey. Stephanie adds, ‘I prefer neutral yeasts that contribute nothing. Just get the job done.’ They use about three or four different yeasts every year. I was even more surprised to hear their stance on acid adjustments. ‘Yes’, said Stephanie, ‘we acidify. If it’s done right – at the beginning and with care – then it works. Sometimes, in some vintages, you have no choice unless you want an unbalanced wine.’

Climate change and sustainability came up, and they talked about how their approach has changed over the years. They’ve cut out all fertilising, which means that nitrogen levels in the soil have dropped and yields have dropped, but the vines themselves are more stable. ‘Our approach’, Jeffrey said, ‘is to offset climate change. Perhaps mitigating is the best word. It’s only by being highly sustainable that we can hope to keep a balance.’ Stephanie agreed and added that Clare Valley and Margaret River might be two of the best regions in the world in which to practise organic viticulture.

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