Ripped Out Vines, Research, And A New Start: The 4-Year Flinders Run Odyssey In Search Of Clonal Diversity In Shiraz And Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Grape Varietals

Ripped Out Vines, Research, And A New Start: The 4-Year Flinders Run Odyssey In Search Of Clonal Diversity In Shiraz And Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Grape Varietals

The world of viticulture and oenology is as diverse as the wines it produces. The fascinating interplay between grape varietals, terroir, and winemaking techniques gives rise to an astonishing range of flavours and aromas. Within this intricate realm, the phenomenon of clonal diversity plays a pivotal role in shaping and capturing the unique characteristics of a wine.

This article delves into clonal diversity and my observations in two prominent wine grape varietals, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, let me tell you making the hard decision to pull eighty acres of vines was a gut-wrenching experience. This down time forced me to dig deep, reflect on our wins, evaluate our losses, and find a way to come back stronger than ever. Most people would have walked, hung up their boots and give it away, that wasn’t an option for me, and with a swift kick up the proverbial rear end from my mother in-law, I embraced the opportunity to start again, it was my chance to do it better.

Since our first plantings in 1997, the industry has experienced significant advancements in viticulture and the wine science, this enables winemakers to push the boundaries in wine making, assessing fruit at optimum ripeness, assessing the specific clones, and understanding what each specific clone brings to the wine making process. This research was at the forefront of high-profile wineries and the subsequent results of this research was available to the industry. This research into specific clones within wine grape varietals was the hot topic of discussion amongst high profile winemakers, and with published findings from the Australian Wine Research Institute, Yalumba and Wine Australia, it triggers my entrepreneurial vision to delve into this research and implement it in our next generation of vineyard developments.

From 2013 to 2017, four years of research was undertaken, I travelled extensively across the state, walked various vineyard sites, assessing fruit, and conducting analysis of the ripe fruit. I collated that research and all the relevant information on each of the specific clones, my aim was to identify which clones were the standout superior performers, and importantly were they suitable and would they perform in the Southern Flinders Ranges wine regions terroir and climatic conditions.

My aim to identify and select not only the right varietals, but those hand select superior performing clones within the Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon varietals for the development of Flinders Run’s next generation of wines. We want to create something uniquely special; we want to bring together the results of hundreds of thousands of dollars of research and showcase it in the development of a premium range of wines, grown and produced in this obscure wine region that has been kept a secret from the Australian wine consumer.

Clonal Diversity Defined:  what does this mean?

Clonal diversity refers to the genetic variability present within a single grape varietal. Grapevine propagation often involves the selection and cultivation of specific clones, which are genetically identical plants originating from a single mother vine. These clones for whatever reason have mutated, they have shown a unique quality, a subtle difference in terms of, vigour, growth patterns, grape yield, berry size, bunch size and cluster configuration, disease resistance, and most importantly stand out flavour and aromatic profiles.

These unique characteristics in each clone bring something special to the table, and when combined through the art of blending, create layered wines with stunning aromatics and flavour profiles that excite palates.

Shiraz Clonal Diversity

Shiraz, is a dark-skinned red grape varietal that produces rich, complex, and bold red wines. The varietal is renowned for its adaptability to various climatic conditions, while each clone can express diverse flavour and terroir influences.

Clonal diversity within the Shiraz grape has led winemakers to pursue these specific clones to craft wines that capture these diverse nuances, these range from dark fruits, deeper colour, pepper, and spice flavours, while other variants boast those delicate floral and savory notes that add elegance to a finished wine.

My time researching both varietals led me to contact Mr Nick Dry from Foundation Viticulture (formerly Yalumba Wines Nursery Manager), and Mr Wayne Farquar from Elite Nursery in the Barossa. Our discussions centred around the phenomenon of clonal diversity, accessing field and lab reports from research projects enabled me to conduct extensive research into each clones’ attributes. This now facilitated an informed approach to my selection process.

Putting the theory and findings into practice, I contacted the various vineyard and nursery managers and walked through a number of vineyard sites, in the Clare and Barossa Valleys as well as the Riverland wine improvement Nursery, sampling and assessing the various clones that were highlighted as the premium performers from the research conducted by Elite Nursery, Yalumba, and the Australian Wine Research Institute.

It’s one thing to read the documented research findings and another to get the opportunity to sample and taste these specific clones in the field, a sensory evaluation experience that confirms there is so much more to the shiraz grape, this really gets my creative juices flowing!

I documented the flavour profiles of each of the select Shiraz clones, as I embraced this phenomenon and the uniqueness of each clone and its own distinct attributes.

This led to liaising with the various vineyard managers to ensure we could harvest the fruit at optimum ripeness, our aim was to ensure we could conduct the analysis to determine, baume, colour, acid retention at optimum ripeness, seed maturity, as well as the sensory evaluation to assess the specific ripe flavour profiles.

Four years of collated research enables us to select five superior performing Shiraz Clones,

  • Provis, black and red berries, pepper spice and plums, this is jam packed full of flavour. Intense and rich in colour, with deep purple hues. Sourced from Leasingham Wines Clare Valley’s mother block.
  • R6WV28, originally from Chateau Tahblik Victoria, this clone presents rich dark fruits, elegantly perfumed, great depth of colour, blue and blackberry fruits, this clone was sourced from Elite Nursery Barossa
  • Kalimna 3C, Penfolds flagship Shiraz clone, this is low yielding, intensely flavoured small berries, smaller bunch clusters, producing blue, black and raspberry flavours, rich complex wines with an intense impenetrable depth of colour. sourced from the Riverland vine improvement council.
  • Penfolds Barossa 1654, selected by Penfolds for its robust full-bodied wines, blackberries, raspberries, chocolate fruit cake flavour profiles on complete ripeness, with a complete palate. Sourced from Killikanoons, Baroota Block Southern Flinders Ranges.
  • PT15, sampled at the Riverland vine improvement nursery, loose bunches compared to the other 4 shiraz clones, small berries, with rich black and blue berry flavours, displaying intense colour. Sourced from the Riverland vine improvement council.

Our time researching assessing and sampling these specific clones has enabled us to get a clear understanding of the Shiraz varietal, our small batch wine trials have proven that our selection process has been on point. We now look forward as we see these vines come into fruition, and with an element of excitement we visit the barrels sneaking a taste of each to see how our selection process and mother nature are working together. I can now say with a degree of certainty, there is only one way to achieve an orchestrated symphony of flavours, and that my dear friends are through an understanding and appreciation of the diverse flavour profiles each specific clone displays within the Shiraz grape varietal.

Emanuel assessing Shiraz Grapes in particular this was R6WV28 clone

Cabernet Sauvignon Clonal Diversity

Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine grape is often referred to as the “King of red wines,” it is another red grape varietal known for its adaptability and age-worthiness. The varietal is recognized for producing big fruit driven wines with complex structure, featuring a harmonious interplay of tannins, acidity, and fruit flavours. Clonal diversity within Cabernet Sauvignon leads to wines with varying degrees of tannic structure, aromatic intensity, and aging potential.

My time researching assessing and sampling this grand Bordeaux varietal sees me walk several vineyard sites, Leasingham wines Clare Valley block, Wayne Farquar’s Elite Nursery in the Barossa, and The Riverland vine improvement council nursery in Renmark. Each of these sites had a complete spectrum of Cabernet Sauvignon clones planted, so the ability to assess and sample was made easy, while recording the flavour profiles and the vines performance was front and centre in my assessment process.

Diversity is an understatement, each clone displayed something unique, similarly the documented research narrowed my section process, but to taste and assess these in the field was an incredibly special opportunity.

There is something I draw on from discussions with my late grandfather John Kassapis, who by the way was also a market gardener in the Southern Flinders Ranges. As he worked alongside me in the vineyards he would say “There is only so much you will learn from the books, but to gain the hands-on experience you must spend the time in the field.”

With that statement burnt into my DNA my travels across the state and the many diverse regions continued, my quest to fully evaluate and assess this grand Bordeaux varietal was my primary mission. Full days were spent walking through each block, assessing the vines performance, sampling each of the select clones across these vineyard sites, as well as harvesting fruit and sending it off for scientific evaluation. A lengthy process but one that was needed if we were going to get this right.

On completion of the trial, we settled on four superior performing Cabernet Sauvignon Clones

  • ISVFV6, medium vigour, tight bunch structure, with medium size berries, great depth of colour, deep purple with a bright and vibrant ruby rim. Complete ripeness is essential, with optimum flavour profiles identified in the higher baume range with complete sugar and flavour ripeness identified at 15+baume. Producing structured wines with depth of flavour, showing balance, acidity, and a unique savoury note. Sourced from Elite Nursery Barossa        
  • Q390-05, selected for its low vigour, and low yielding attributes, it produces smaller bunches with small berries that show a richness in flavour, black and blueberry flavours with good tannin structure, this clone hangs well on the vine and with careful canopy management it can reach optimum and complete maturity developing optimized sugar ripeness. Sourced from Elite Nursery Barossa    
  • French Clone 169, predominantly identified as a cool climate clone, this clone showed some very special attributes, very low yielding, small berries with an intense flavour profile, plum and black cherry flavours that are super rich at the higher baume levels, colour almost cherry black with a bright ruby rim, this clone with meticulous vineyard management produces some very big wines. Sourced from Elite Nursery Barossa.
  • French Clone 337, a prominent Cabernet sauvignon clone that is known for its lush fruit character, depth of colour, softer more approachable tannins, making structured wines suitable for earlier consumption. Sourced from Leasingham wines site Clare valley.

Our aim is to harvest process and mature these Cabernet Sauvignon clones as independent parcels. Maturing them in predominantly French Oak of various grains and toasts our aim is to capture the diverse and unique flavour profiles and bring them together through the finite art of crafting and blending to create a complex amalgam of these superior performing Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

There is no rushing this process, mother nature and the maestro’s fine-tuned palate come together to create a symphony of flavours that display richness, layers upon layers of complex flavours that come together in a grand finale fit for a King, let’s not forget this varietal is unforgettably identified as “King of Red Wines”.     

Impacts on Wine Production

The diverse flavours of each clone provide us with an opportunity to craft unique wines that capture the varietals distinct fruit expression as well as showcasing the Southern Flinders Ranges regions unique terroir. Clonal selection can influence factors such as grape yield, ripening and subsequent harvest time, disease resistance, and flavour profile and with that in mind we apply a meticulous approach to our vineyard management practices ensuring each clone is grown successfully and the subsequent fruit produced is of a premium standard. It is our philosophy at Finders Run, that “Great wine are borne in the vineyard” therefore we strive to select only those clones that have proven their superiority and suitability to grow and flourish in our part of the country. We know we are onto something special, and if our trials are anything to go by just wait until you try the wines we are crafting, I am sure Flinders Run will continue to excite palates across the globe!


Clonal diversity is a captivating aspect of the viticultural world, highlighting the intricate relationship between genetics, environment, and winemaking techniques. In the case of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, our hand select clones will allow us the opportunity to craft wines that embody the varietal’s expression, while capturing the unique characteristics of the Southern Flinders Ranges Wine region. Flinders Run is committed to continue exploring the phenomenon of clonal diversity, and as the world of wine remains an ever-evolving tapestry of Flavors and aromas, so too will Flinders Run be ready to continue embracing this unique phenomenon associated with clonal diversity.

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