UNIQUE: Christian Canute is making offbeat varietals that reflect a fascinating family story.THE Barossa wines Christian Canute makes for the Rusden brand have unconventional names like Black Guts, Chookshed, Poco Loco, Ripper Creek, Full Circle and Good Shepherd and trace an intriguing family saga.
The names fit because for more than a decade the portfolio has featured such offbeat varieties as zinfandel, malbec, cinsault, chenin blanc and mataro (aka mourvedre) as well as the familiar Barossa standards of shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and grenache.
The Rusden story begansimplyin1979 with teachers Dennis and Christine Canute buying 16 hectares of Vine Vale land as a hobby farm on which they could relax with their kids.The relaxation didn’t materialise because the land had a rundown vineyard that challenged Christine’s background as a fifth-generation member of a pioneer Barossa wine family.
She quit her school job to devote herself and the family to restoring the vineyard and today Rusden has 13 hectares of hand-tended vines that produce an annual grape crush of 80 to 100 tonnes processed in a winery run by Christian.
The zinfandel that Christian first made in 2005 is called Chookshed because that was where the vines were planted.Ripper Creeks are so named because they reprise the “ripper” 1960s and 1970s Barossa shiraz-cabernet blends, the Poco Loco grenache-cinsault-matarorosés relate to the sometimes crazy antics ofChristian and wife Amy’s four children.
The Full Circle mataro is so named because 80-year-old vines of that variety were ripped out and burnt in the 1970s by previous owners only to be replanted 20 years later by the Canutes.
The Drifts and grenache-shiraz-mataro, first made in 2005, is named for the white sand over clay on which the Canute vines grow. The name also recalls the vine destruction undone by Dennis, Christine and Christian as they spent months kneeling in the sand to replant grenache and shiraz.
Black Guts dates back to 1994 when Dennis Canute and his teacher pal Russell Gehling teamed up to make a big shiraz for consumption by their families and other locals. It earned the nickname “Black Guts” – and the tag went on the bottles.
Then Russell, the Rus on the label, dropped out and big wineries cut prices for the grapes the Canutes sold them – propelling Dennis, Christine and son Christian into commercial winemaking for their Rusden brand.
In 1997 Christian made the first Rusden wines and he cautiously labelled the former Black Guts “Barossa Shiraz”. It caused such a storm of protest from customers that the original name was restored next vintage.