About Us

Silver Webs Merlot 2005

The 2005 Merlot is the first release under the Silver Webs label made exclusively from grapes grown at Smeaton’s Martin Hill Vineyard in the Adelaide Hills appellation near Adelaide, South Australia.

John and Jan Smeaton and daughter Nikki purchased their vineyard site in 1995 and planted the first 35 acres the following year.

Jan’s family has a history of winemaking dating back to 1892 when her great grandfather was one of the pioneer families that planted the first grapes in the Coonawarra region of South Australia. That region has gone on to become Australia’s most admired producer of red varietals and blends that reflect the unique terra rossa soils of the area. John graduated in Agricultural Science and went on to obtain a PhD in biochemistry. After a career in the modern gene based biotechnology industry, the vineyard and winemaking enterprise represents a return to one of the earliest biotechnologies practiced by man-harnessing the yeast to make great wine.

Merlot is a fickle grape and has decided preferences for where it is grown. It likes sloping ground and ours is grown on a North, North East slope of well drained sandy loam podzolic soils that merge into a red clay that overlies a weathered yellow clay and disintegrating sedimentary rock. We are located quite close to the Eden Valley where Jim Irvine grows and produces one of the world’s great Merlots. Given a similar micro climate and soils it was an easy choice for us to decide upon Merlot as the flagship for our new label.

Our viticulture is based upon the idea of scientifically rational sustainability. Chemical use is restricted to the minimum required to produce sound fruit and maintain a diverse ecosystem. Traditional sulfur and copper sprays keep our vines protected from the mildews if disease pressure is high but our site provides the best protection with its almost constant air movement, especially during the critical spring growth phase. Working alongside us are numerous spiders, lady bugs and a broad diversity of insect life that thrive on errant thrips and mites that dare enter our space-a balanced ecology is the key. When the vines are dormant we employ sheep to control the weeds that would otherwise require the use of diesel fuel and herbicides. The recent drought in Australia has seen a family of kangaroos move in to assist the sheep. For their help in the winter we allow the roos a few grapes in the summer. A big red kangaroo sitting up on its haunches enjoying a fresh bunch of chardonnay is quite a sight and the small fruit loss involved is a fair trade. Birds are a more serious problem that has required netting more vulnerable parts of the vineyard.

The recent drought in Australia has made us more aware of how fortunate we are to have a property that includes significant water catchment. Two ponds capture and store sufficient rainwater to last over two seasons when the rains fail as they did this past year

2005 was a year with an extended growing season with mild days and cool nights that saw harvest of the Merlot postponed until April 27th. The rich, fully ripe fruit was hand harvested and vinified with a cultured yeast strain before storage for 2 years in used French oak barrels. We have chosen screw caps as the best available technical closure for our wine. Post bottling changes in wine should be anaerobic processes and only the very best corks can achieve this, but not with the consistency of the modern screw cap closure engineered for wine use.

Best enjoyed with robust foods such as rack of lamb, beef stews or Indian cuisine the 05 Merlot exhibits ripe black currants, cherries and plum with a wisp of tobacco lingering on the palate. This Merlot is no shrinking violet.