scintilla wines james madden and blogger lorna moffatt
Wine Makers Wine Regions

Basket Range: Scintilla Wines

Just outside of Adelaide, buried in the surrounding hills which give it its name is Basket Range. The combination of deep brick red clay, perfect climate and sunny weather makes the area appealing to winemakers like James Madden who heads up Scintilla wines in Ashton. 

James is a sommelier turned winemaker who after a chance meeting with the likes of Anton von Klopper, James Erskine and Tom Shobbrook back in Perth, was excited and inspired by their passion for wine and winemaking. Since then he moved to Melbourne, put in a stint in the City Wine shop before deciding to switch it up and move to Adelaide to set up Scintilla Wines.

As well as making natural wines, James has a young family to take care of so in order to make this happen, James job shares with his partner as they look after their 3 year old bub. And it’s working for him. 

James started with 7 tonnes before moving up to 12 in 2018, 17 in 2019 and making hopefully 20 tonnes in 2020! He plans to cap it at 20/25 tonnes to maintain quality and save room for future farm plantings.

scintilla wines winemaker standing on wine barrels pouring wine
Barrel hopping, sweet

The shed

We arrive at the top of the hill and are welcomed into the shed with open arms by James and two 2019 Scintilla Wines – the pet nat and the fruity yet to be released Forest Range pinot. 

We started with the ‘Forever Young’ pet nat which was picked this year in February and is just in the hands and bellies of wine drinkers a few weeks ago in November. James has been making pet nats in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and the wine style is one of his favs but no mean feat to make. 

Pet nat actually requires a LOT of effort as the bottles are leant on their side (similar to champagne and the traditional method) to allow the yeast to gather in the neck and are then disgorged by hand in the middle of winter when it’s cold so they lose the least amount of wine. 

Little did I know that instead of sticking to the two vinos round the barrel, we were then hitting up the barrels to get a taste of what’s still cooking! How good. 

The tasting

Here’s the tasting line up we went through with James:

  • Solera Barrel started with Skin contact Sauvignon in 2017 – James removes 100 litres and adds back the same each year. This 100 litres goes to make MV Forever Young Pet Nat. Yummo.
  • 100% Chardy – farmed himself since 2017. The grapes come from a steep hill in Cherryville and have about 8 bunches per vine so very concentrated still with about 4 grams of sugar.
  • The ‘Nightfall’ pinot noir and Verdelho – described as a Spring rose is made using 100% whole bunch direct press, making it light and zesty.
  • Forest Range pinot – V smashable and generally lush.
hand holding two wine corks, one saying little things and the other saying scintilla wines
James used to make wine under the name Little Things but is now Scintilla Wines

James is also testing making wines with his favourite grapes, Savagnin and Verdelho which are related (Savagnin is the mother) grapes. Verdelho is more easily available here so he’s testing with that at the moment, but he describes savagnin as “powerful” fermenter, so much so that you can see the juice rolling like a storm brewing while it ferments. 

James’ passion for natural wine is clear and he’s managed to fit the time needed to make natural wine around his life. Time is something that big corporations don’t have or necessarily want to give to wine and it’s great to see the smaller business making excellent wine in an industry that needs small labels like Scintilla Wines to keep the love for it alive.

We had a great sesh with James and left with three bottles to carry back to Sydney! 

Want to see my round up of other wineries in the area? Find out more on Basket Range Wines on the blog.

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