An Interview With James Evers

Get to know our winemaker, James Evers, and discover the story behind his winemaking journey. Learn about his unique approach to winemaking and what sets Nepenthe and the Adelaide Hills apart in the world of wine.

6 Jun 2023

When did you join the Nepenthe family?

I’ve been involved with Nepenthe since 2007. When we acquired the brand, it already had a fantastic reputation in South Australia. Over the years, we’ve grown and evolved the brand to become recognised nationally, and we plan to introduce Nepenthe to an international audience in the near future.


What makes the Adelaide Hills such a unique region for winemaking?

Many people don't realise that the Adelaide Hills is one of the largest premium wine regions by area in Australia.

I love that it's quite a young region compared to the Barossa Valley, the Hunter Valley or McLaren Vale – so we're not bound by tradition. And because it's a mountainous area, the variation in altitudes and aspects creates several different microclimates, allowing us to produce a range of wine styles.

For example, as you head closer to Adelaide, the region's west side is higher and cooler – great growing environments for Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and sparkling wine. As you head east, the area gets dryer, allowing us to make bolder reds like Shiraz and Tempranillo and lesser-known white wines like Arneis, Grüner Veltliner and Viognier.

All the winemakers in the Adelaide Hills are experimenting with different varietals because we know consumers want to try new things. The level of diversity and innovation we see here is quite rare for a single winemaking region, which makes it all the more exciting to me.

How would you describe your winemaking style?

I like to make fresh, easy-drinking fruit-forward wines that are balanced and vibrant and capture the unique terroir of the Adelaide Hills.

I believe in letting the fruit be the hero. For me, minimum intervention is key, and my job is to gently cradle the flavours of the fruit in the bottle without complicating the process.


What are the key distinguishing factors between your different wine collections?

Elevation: This collection showcases the unique and diverse provenance of our home in the Adelaide Hills. These wines are smooth and easy to drink but have enough complexity and depth to keep the palate engaged and interested. Perfect for anyone looking for a premium-style everyday wine.

Pinnacle: Sourced from premium vineyards, this diverse collection has a little more complexity without taking things too far, e.g. the Chardonnay has a little more oak. The range also includes most of our emerging varietals, including Grüner Veltliner, Nebbiolo, Arneis, Albariño, Gewürztraminer and Viognier.

Apex: This single vineyard collection represents what the Adelaide Hills can do at its best. It’s all about finding the right variety, the right clone, on the right aspect, planted in the right bit of soil. A single vintage snapshot in every bottle. These wines are complex, nuanced and capture an authentic expression of the vineyard to create a distinct and memorable wine.


How is the 2023 vintage shaping up?

We had fewer hot days at the beginning of the season than in a typical year, resulting in one of the longest-growing seasons I've seen in recent years. The long season means the grapes have ripened slowly, creating exceptional flavour development.

Cooler years mean fresher, vibrant wines with higher acidity – perfect conditions for Sauvignon Blanc. But our other hallmark varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, will absolutely sing this year with great flavour and ageability.

All things considered, I truly believe it will all come together to be an outstanding season.

While they must all feel like your children, if you had to pick your favourite wine, what would it be?

Chardonnay. Slam dunk. Whether it’s Altitude, Elevation, Pinnacle or Apex. I think Chardonnay is the most diverse grape variety in the world, and it gives the most back. One of the things I love about the Adelaide Hills is that it’s rapidly becoming one of the best Chardonnay regions in Australia, if not the world.

I drink Chardonnay with anything and everything. It’s heavy enough to handle some red meats, it’s light enough to handle seafood. It’s such a fantastic variety.


And finally, what varietals are new to the Nepenthe range?

The beauty of the Adelaide Hills is that it’s such a rich growing region because of its cool climate, high altitude and diverse terroir. This means we have the luxury of cultivating a wide array of classic and emerging grape varieties, each with their own unique expression of the sub-region they were harvested from.

Our Prosecco is fairly new and uses an Italian grape variety called Glera. We're making it in the cellar door at the moment. It's fantastic. Very simple and fresh, which suits the brand.

And we currently have a Pinot Tempranillo blend in production – kind of a happy accident. The grapes were in the same truck, and the cellar hands crushed them into one fermenter. I kept an eye on it, and it turned out to be a fantastic wine.

Our cellar door and VIP club is fantastic because it’s where our customers can taste and purchase our unique and emerging varietals, not available anywhere else.