Boutique wine making is bringing a younger generation back to the land. We chat to sisters Kim and Tennille Chalmers about the launch of their first wine, Le Sorelle
You know the story. Two sisters spend ten years independently developing talents away from their parents only to return to their roots and take on the family business, right?
Only, in Australia, so often that’s not the way the story goes at all. There’s been an exodus from the land over the past few decades, which makes the story of the Chalmers sisters, who actually have found their way back home, rarer than you'd think. And pretty damn inspiring.
Sure, it helps that the family business just happens to be a vineyard in the beautiful surrounds of Heathcote (as opposed to a rocky patch of scrub where crutching sheep is the go), but even so, if you’d told Tennille and Kim Chalmers a decade ago that they’d be launching their debut wine, you’d have been put right. In no uncertain terms.
“The business was much larger then,” Tennille tells us. “It was too big for us to really have any creative control – and we’re both creative people so it didn’t appeal to us.”
What changed in those ten years, is that the Chalmers (senior) decided to take the wine business in a different direction. They downsized, and began importing a range of Italian grape varieties.
“Our parents put a lot of time into researching grape varieties that were not the norm,” says Kim. “They looked at growing things that perhaps would work better in our own terrain than the French vines that were being grown by rote. We now make wines from predominantly southern Italian varietals.” And it was this smaller, more boutique business that the sisters came back to.
Whilst the pair share solid viticultural genes, their paths up until this point couldn’t have been more different.
Elder sister Kim holds rank as the resident creative. A music composer, festival director, current board member of both Regional Arts Victoria and freelance contributor for Viticulture publications, Kim also now manages the family business.
“She’s definitely the bossier one,” says Tennille, who in contrast is the gypsy soul of the pair, finding her way back into the Chalmers wine brand in the past two years. After travelling and working in Europe for most of her early twenties, she returned to Australia and immersed herself in the hospitality culture of Melbourne. Working most recently as a sommelier, Tennille was part of the wine team at Melbourne’s late great two-hatted restaurant MoMo, made famous by executive chef Greg Malouf.
The vines for the Le Sorelle shiraz have been propagated from a special vine selection out of the Chalmers' family’s original nursery block and nurtured in the famous red Cambrian earth on the northern end of the Mount Camel range.
The concept of making shiraz is a new direction for the Chalmers girls whose family already produces two other ranges from Italian varietals. Their philosophy has always been on growing the right variety to suit the environment, so when it came to Heathcote, it made sense to produce shiraz - but tweaking it slightly to reflect the red wine styles Kim and Tennille love to drink.
You can order the wine through the Le Sorelle website.