Growing up in the Eden Valley, Elka Parsons is no stranger to a vineyard. Between working vintages to fund her early 20’s travel ambitions, to now running her own label “Elk Wines” in the Barossa, it’s easy to see how thoroughly wine is intertwined into her life. With sustainability front of mind Elka started her own label Elk Wines and kicked things off with a Riesling, paying homage to her roots. We were lucky enough to catch up with Elka to hear all about being an independent small batch winemaker in the Barossa.
Elka in a Snapshot
What does the perfect drop of wine look like to you?
Young, fresh, fruit forward wines are definitely my thing…not one to put wines down very often.
What was your favourite memory from Vintage this year?
Collaborating with a friend from Blewitt Springs who owns a Shiraz vineyard in the area. We roped all our friends into a day trip to Kylie and Ben Menzies’ vineyard and harvested a tonne of their fruit in mid March. The day was filled with many laughs, loads of good food and a few too many G&T’s. Our kids also had a blast stomping on the whole berries, to help kick off the wild ferment.
Most underrated wine/varietal/blend?
Eden Valley Riesling – it is certainly making some headway, but I still have punters come up to me at tastings saying that they don’t like Riesling as they don’t like sweet wine?
If you could enjoy a glass of wine anywhere in the world with any person… where would it be, who would it be with and what would be in your glass?
Mmmm… tough question… As we have just celebrated Christmas, probably a nice glass of Krug Champagne. Paired perfectly with watching my son open his presents on Christmas morning…it’s my favourite time of year!
Where is the most interesting place wine has taken you?
I loved working a vintage in Stellenbosch, South Africa in 2011. Such a spectacular part of the world, I have done some travel in my time, but I felt like I was sitting on top of the world, drinking champagne, watching the sunset and looking down on the city below after a friend and I climbed a peak near Table Mountain, Cape Town.
The Story So Far
What led you to becoming a winemaker and eventually starting your own label, Elk Wines?
I grew up on a hobby farm in Eden Valley, my interest in wine started at a very early age, as I usually enjoyed a glass of wine with dinner with my family and as I grew older, the family cellar was luckily never under lock and key. After enjoying working several vintages locally in the Barossa Valley in my 20’s to fund my love of travel, I really got a taste for the wine industry. In 2019 I sourced my first tonne of Eden Valley Riesling from a local grower and processed it locally at a friends winery in Nuriootpa, Elk Wines has just developed from there.
Tell us a bit about Elk Wines, and your winemaking approach.
We like to keep things simple, sourcing fruit from single vineyards, hand picking the fruit to ensure premium quality and small batch winemaking techniques. Minimal intervention is also an approach I tend to follow, I enjoy allowing the fruit to shine. I have the ability to source fruit from different regions around South Australia, we are so fortunate in this state to have such a diversity of unique varietals, which I look forward to sourcing in upcoming vintages.
Your first wine was an Eden Valley Riesling, and you’ve recently added a Shiraz from Blewitt Springs to your portfolio. Why did you choose these grapes from these plots?
As you know, I grew up in Eden Valley, so sourcing some good Eden Valley Riesling fruit wasn’t a hard feat, however the low yields in 2020 made it difficult to get the tonnage I was hoping for. I doubled my tonnage of EV Riesling in 2021 and am thrilled I did as it was a cracker of a year. The Blewitt Springs Shiraz was sourced from a friend who I work with at Qantas, Kylie & Ben Menzies own a shiraz block in the area and we agreed to collaborate, they provided the fruit and I handled the winemaking. We are thrilled with the result and will be bottling the 2021 Blewitt Springs ‘Galley Gossip’ Shiraz in early February 2022.
What will vintage look like for Elk Wines, will you have a few helpers come on board?
Another collaboration with a friend from Adelaide Uni Viticulture & Oenology Degree, perhaps a Blewitt Springs Grenache… My friends and family are always only a phone call away and my small batch approach allows me to do most things myself.
What impact do you want to have on the wine industry?
To ensure we keep working towards more sustainable processes, wine packaging and bottling options are always a consideration along with excess water usage.
What do people get most excited about when it comes to Elk Wines, and how do you engage customers with your story?
People enjoy hearing about my small batch approach and the fact that I have the flexibility to source fruit from different wine regions around South Australia. All my wines are also vegan friendly, which appeals to a growing market.
What is your approach to selling and connecting your wine with customers?
Due to my small volumes direct sales is my main approach to selling. Several local restaurants, pubs and bottle shops also stock our wines in the Barossa Valley and Adelaide. I enjoy engaging with our customers via socials, especially during vintage, it gives wine enthusiasts a chance to watch the processes involved in our day to day operations. My son Jacks who is now 5 years old, also features in many of the pics and videos, we are a small family business.
What do you think the wine industry should be focusing on in the next 5 years?
Obviously climate change is an issue we all need to focus on, varietal choice will be one of our major considerations moving forward. Varietals that can thrive in dryer, hotter conditions will be in huge demand, we need to ensure we are planting or grafting these hardier varietals now to ensure the Australian wine industry continues to thrive.
What’s next for Elk wines? (e.g. new wine, trade shows, distribution, export, cellar door)
I look forward to getting my hands on some Italian and Spanish varietals in future vintages. A cellar door is definitely on the cards, I’ve found my dream location in Greenock, just waiting for my son to reach the age where I have a bit more time on my hands. I will continue my affiliation with the Riesling Eden Valley Committee and exhibit at their annual wine shows and events.