After 20-year-old Englishman Thomas Hardy arrived in Port Adelaide on August 12, 1850, he quickly proved he was no ordinary man. He first worked for 12 months on the vineyards of John Reynell, then on a cattle station at Normanville, before moving to Victoria’s goldfields where he became a butcher, having driven the cattle he bought from the station at which he had worked.
By 1853 he had returned to Adelaide, married his cousin Joanna Hardy, invested his goldfield profits in a property beside the River Torrens and planted 6.6ha of vines, stone fruits and oranges. Twenty years later, in 1873, his masterstroke was the purchase of Dr AC Kelly’s vineyards, winery and stock on hand – recouping the purchase price in the following year’s sales.
At the expense of dispensing with nigh-on 150 years of proud history, you come to fifth-generation winemaker Andrew (Ox) Hardy, who began his career in 1982, working at Petaluma under the eagle eye of Brian Croser. Numerous successes followed as he wove 10 years at Clare Valley’s Knappstein, completed the executive program for growing companies at Stanford University in California, and worked in the Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley, Coonawarra and McLaren Vale. He’s larger than life, with a smile ready to spring into action at the least provocation.
The Hardy family still owns the McLaren Vale Upper Tintara vineyard planted by Thomas Hardy in 1891, its fruit purchased by a roll call of wineries. In 2008 Ox and his father Bob procured a tonne of shiraz from the 1891 planting and made the wine in the remnants of the winery on the vineyard, its late fermenters (built in 1923) still functional.
The first Ox Hardy wines have just been released and the ’10 and ’12 Ancestor Vines Shiraz (and following vintages) will be progressively released over coming years.
2008 Ox Hardy 1891 Ancestor Vines Upper Tintara Vineyard McLaren Vale Shiraz
Oh my. What a beautiful wine, It caresses the palate with its purple and black fruits, supple tannins and freshness on the finish. It is medium-bodied, yet has the insistent power of a full-bodied wine. 14.5% alc, screwcap. 99 points, drink to 2030, $225.
2010 Ox Hardy 1891 Ancestor Vines Upper Tintara Vineyard McLaren Vale Shiraz
There’s magic in this wine, starting with its brilliant colour. Its purity, balance and attention to detail are akin to a miniature painting from the 15th century, red fruits skipping around the perimeter of the gloriously long finish. 14.5% alc, screwcap. 97 points, drink to 2030, $225.
2012 Ox Hardy 1891 Ancestor Vines Upper Tintara Vineyard McLaren Vale Shiraz
There’s a distinct change of mood here: the fruits are black, the tannins are firm, the dark chocolate and fresh earth aromas are all of those of a young, powerful wine. It’s hewn from the bowels of the earth, but has exceptional balance. 14.5% alc, screwcap. 95 points, drink to 2040, $225.