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The Story of a Seventh Generation Barossa Vigneron – Vindana Wines

One of the great legacies of the wine industry is the multi-generations that prosper from the wine industry. It is important to tell these stories so they inspire.

This is the storey of a 7th generation vigneron, custodian of a family legacy…. please meet Scott Higginson Winemaker & Owner of Vindana Wines in the Barossa Valley who tells the story…

This story begins on the banks of Jacobs Creek, Barossa Valley in 1846 when our ancestor Johann George Mattner and eldest son Gottfried first purchased survey land from the government and our family carved themselves a future of freedom, reliant on faith through a mixed farming enterprise including vine garden and very primitive cellar for small scale wine production. Five generations on my grandfather who inherited the property at 16 years old following the death of his father in a truck accident, so assumed responsibility in supporting his mother and three siblings (one of which was born 8 months following his father’s death).

Following a period of much struggle he managed to hold ownership and go on to begin raising his own young family that included my mother and twin sister, but after 111 years of family heritage on this patch of dirt, he was lured by opportunity of bigger vineyards into the irrigated frontier lands of Monash, SA, some 2 hours North of the valley.

Upon relocating he soon experienced a change in market conditions that resulted in not been able to sell his grapes, by the following years vintage it was looking like the situation was not going to change, so was faced with a choice of either leaving grape crop to rot on the vine or sell to wineries at well below production costs. In a leap of faith he decided to crush the fruit himself and went on to sell most of the wine in bulk to d’Arenberg’s, Basedow’s and Kay Brothers. And so we saw the establishment of Vindana Wines.

The following period saw market conditions evolve and within 10 years Vindana had risen to be the 4th largest winery crush intake across Australia and had those very wineries that did not want his grapes not so long ago, lining up with cheque books for a buyout. Despite the lucrative offers, he decided to forge forward as a family wine company with hopes and dreams to someday pass on to the generations that follow, although his generous and caring nature was soon to be taken advantage of and his dreams shattered.

The cyclical nature of the wine industry experienced another downturn coupled with substantial Government changes to liquor licensing and tax laws, which once again saw a surplus of grapes and 100’s of family growers grappling to hold onto their vineyards. These growers were being turned away by many of the larger wineries not wanting their fruit and my grandfather experienced endless stream of down trodden growers and their families begging and pleading with him to take their grapes otherwise they would be left to rot and no income that year.

Although Vindana winery was also full of wine from previous year in tank and struggling sales, Dennis who could sympathise with these growers having experienced same situation years earlier, ill-fatally offered a hand of generosity and agreed to take in the growers fruit, on the proviso that they would not receive payment until the wine was sold (similar to the Peter Lehman like scenario). Three months after the fruit was crushed the deal was soured by a small group of growers under financial stress from their banks and the whole good deed got ugly. After several years of legal disputes Dennis was so disheartened by this act of betrayal and fed up with how things had played out so he sold the winery and returned his focus to farming winegrowing enterprise. Vindana was no more.

Scott Higginson is the eldest grandson to Dennis. His earliest memories and childhood experiences all evolve around the upbringing amongst the vines or the vast playground of oak, stainless and concrete that made up the winery cellars. Then in later teenage years attending University of Adelaide’s Roseworthy Ag campus to study wine marketing, this campus is located on the Western flank of the Barossa Valley and numerous field trips for study and various social events saw me develop a connect to the area and somewhat homecoming to where my family legacy first commenced. Back then I always had a desire to one day establish myself as a small vigneron in the valley and carry forward a family heritage. Although this was a journey that would take another 15+ years before I returned to establish Vindana.

In 2013 I invested into small acreage of land and house in the Southern Barossa, just a stone throw from where my family first commenced on Jacobs Creek. Immediately began establishing a vineyard and in 2014 sourced a couple of tonnes of Merlot fruit from a local grower to craft my first batch of what was to become Vindana Wines. Following a brief period of bootlegging a few barrels between friends, family and work colleagues, I eventually registered and re-launched the company Vindana Wines in 2018. As we progressed our way to about 1,000 cases annually and I decided to step away from the corporate world to focus on this venture. After 170+ years of being vignerons, I can’t say I didn’t know better, it’s just what we do! So let us celebrate the next generation of emerging vignerons..

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