About Us

Winemaking

We make all our wines on the premises from grapes grown in our own vineyards here in Ballandean. We are therefore 100% authentic Granite Belt winemakers.

We aim to produce:

  • Good quality wine competitively priced for everyday consumption
  • Premium wine for special occasions
  • Wine and service that is pleasing to our customers

Winemaking at Just Red Wines is very much a family affair. Tony and Julia with their son Michael have been making wines together since 1993. Both Tony and Michael are qualified winemakers and make the wine together.

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Our Cellar Door

Our cellar door is cozy and friendly. Chances are you will find one of the three of us in the cellar door when you visit. We are happy to answer your questions about the processes that have gone into our grape growing and winemaking. We can accommodate groups of up to 20 for tasting and sales.

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Viticulture: Our Organic Philosophy

We do not use any insecticides in the vineyard and we minimise the use of fungicides by concentrating on grape varieties that tolerate our occasional wet summer.

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Just Red Wines Story

Our story starts in New Zealand where both Tony and Julia grew up on dairy farms. They tried the city life, but it wasn’t for them.

In 1989 they purchased their first vines from Joe Corban who said to them, “so Tony, you’re an accountant and you’ll surely make a small fortune… by putting a large fortune into a vineyard”. 

Joe’s jest didn’t dissuade them however and with three young children they bought a small block of land outside of Whakatane in New Zealand in the sand dunes overlooking White Island and planted “Kanuka Forest Wines”, a 7-acre vineyard and boutique winery. Tony went to Lincoln University to study winemaking and viticulture for a year while Julia kept things going at home. They made their first sales from the land growing root stock for Joe Corban.

After a few years of wine sales, it became apparent that this project would never be economic. The property wasn’t well suited to growing wine grapes, the water table was too high, and the climate was generally too wet to make good wine consistently.

At the same time, Tony and Julia had become concerned that their property was exactly on the tectonic fault line. In front of them lay White Island and directly behind was Mt Tarawera, and beyond that the volcanic plateau. All were active volcanoes, with both Ruapehu and White Island occasionally erupting, spreading dustings of volcanic ash over the region. Furthermore, the 1987 Edgecumbe earthquake and subsequent earth tremors had somewhat shaken their view that this was “God’s country”. They began to think this might not be the safest place to bring up a family.

Although the venture hadn’t been profitable from a wine growing point of view, the stunning sea views provided a good return on the sale of the property which allowed them to immigrate to Australia in search of more stable ground and a more suitable grape growing opportunity for the family.

This led them to the Granite Belt in Queensland, an up-and-coming wine region.  When Tony was looking at land in the Granite Belt prior to immigration, he asked one of the local winemakers “where would you plant a vineyard?” and the winemaker replied “Eukey Road, because it’s a bit more elevated up there”. Tony then asked the real estate agent to let him know if anything came up along Eukey Road.

While packing up to come over to Australia a letter arrived in the mail from the real estate agent that a property had come up along Eukey Road and we needed to be quick. It was love at first sight. The property had previously grown table grapes for 50 years but had reverted to grazing land and tomatoes in the last 10 years.

For the second time, the family planted a 7-acre vineyard and established a winery from scratch. They decided to specialise in red wine selecting the regional giants Shiraz and Merlot. Julia and Nikki came up with the name “Just Red Wines” thus achieving a name that people would easily remember and make it obvious that we only make red wine. The question we are most often asked is why do you only make red wine? Our short answer is that life’s too short to drink white wine!

Four years of development was hard work in the vineyard every weekend with Tony and Julia having day jobs during the week and Michael and Nikki first at school and then at university. Weekends were spent in a ‘donga’ with added bathroom. There was no power on the property and hot water came in the winter from the wetback on the Crown No 5 wood stove, and in summer from long coils of poly pipe spread over the rocks.  During this time Tony worked as an accountant in Warwick while studying more viticulture at UNE eventually achieving him a Master of Science in Agriculture.

A non-commercial vintage was achieved in 2002 from a small block of vines, known as the “organic vineyard” that they had planted in 1998. This vineyard became part of Tony’s Master’s thesis comparing organic with conventional wine grape production. Tony tells the story that his academic supervisor was doubtful that the hand hoeing done in the organic vineyard would be vigorous enough to simulate cultivation. But Tony protested, saying “the hand hoeing was extremely vigorous, you should have seen the blisters…. on Julia’s hands”. The organic vineyard project ended when the goats escaped their paddock and finding the organic vines quite tasty, they completely stripped it. Just Red Wines philosophy continues to include using organic methods where possible.

Finally, on 14th March 2003, Tony, Michael and Nikki and Michael’s 3 friends were on their way to pick their very first vintage in Australia when tragedy struck. Nikki and Michael’s friend Paul were killed at the Southern Bi-pass of Stanthorpe when an elderly driver with poor eyesight came through the give way sign, killing Nikki and Paul. Thankfully there is a roundabout at that intersection now.

With heavy hearts Tony and Julia decided to complete their first vintage, the picking must go on. Michael was still in hospital with a broken jaw and other injuries. Friends from New Zealand who helped with the first project came to the rescue and, along with other friends and relatives picked the first vintage which was named “Nikki’s First Pick”. 

The family has continued Nikki’s memory by calling the Shiraz vineyard that she helped to establish, “Nikki’s Vineyard”.  A wine is produced called “Nikki’s Vineyard Syrah” from that vineyard in some years. The “Daily Red Shiraz” is produced in other years from this vineyard.

Soon after Nikki’s passing, son Terran, who had initially stayed on in New Zealand came over to live at the vineyard and to help out. However, after a couple of years he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. He went slowly downhill, gradually losing his mobility. Terran enjoyed painting but eventually had to give that up when he lost the use of his hands. Terran passed away on 15th March 2021.         

In 2004, the second commercial vintage, one batch of the Shiraz started well but did not turn out the best owing possibly to some second-hand barrels. While making this wine Julia had noticed a barrel that, through spillages, had formed a pattern on the barrel that looked like a bearded man’s head. The barrel was a novelty in the cellar door for years. Not wanting to call this Shiraz either Nikki’s Vineyard or Daily Red Shiraz, it was decided to call the wine “Blessed” on the strength of the “Jesus like” image on one of the barrels that produced it. People who bought this wine are blessed because they were supporting Just Red Wines early efforts. When the Blessed Shiraz was finally all sold, one customer said, “we heard you had a wine that you’re blessed to have got rid of!”

Blessed Label with image on barrel:

In 2005 Michael went back to New Zealand to study Viticulture and Oenology at Lincoln University, completing the same graduate diploma that his dad had completed 15 years earlier. Michael has continued to return home to the vineyard to help make the wine each vintage. While enjoying a glass of red on a tasting tour he took a photo of his glass of wine casting a shadow. This became the logo for Just Red Wines.

The first few years at the winery were a struggle largely because there was a wine glut, both locally and Australia wide owing to major increases in wine production over the early 2000s. The number of Granite Belt cellar doors doubled between 1999 and 2005 when Just Red Wines first opened its cellar door. 

On two separate occasions, Tony tipped out entire tanks because he was not happy with the wine. Winemaking in Australia is different to New Zealand. pH levels are higher in Australia requiring the addition of tartaric acid. Furthermore, nutrition levels are lower in the grapes requiring the addition of nutrient to feed the yeasts. Eventually things started to come together in the winery as Tony and Michael came to grips with Australian methods.

It soon became apparent that having just two grape varieties wasn’t enough to satisfy the cellar door demand and some of the Shiraz was replanted with Cabernet Sauvignon.  There was also a need to get on the “Strange Bird” wine trail which had become an important marketing tool for the Granite Belt.

At the time Tony was working as a viticulturist for the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries in Applethorpe. As the Wine Industry Development Officer for the Granite Belt and Scenic Rim, it was part of his job to make recommendations on grape varieties for the regions. His research into Tannat showed that the climate in its home in Madiran in France was similar to the Granite Belt and that it would stand up quite well to wet seasons. And so, the Hassall’s planted a few rows of Tannat and in 2014 produced their first vintage.

They found that Tannat proved to be a great blending variety that provided more colour, fruit and tannin to their blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. And so, the CMT (Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot – Tannat) was born.    

Tony had also become impressed by the white wine variety Viognier and in particular the Shiraz Viognier co-ferment that is traditional in the Northern Rhone. It would provide an additional range to their Shiraz and so two rows of Viognier were planted. In 2014 the first Just Red Wines Shiraz Viognier was produced.   

By 2017, the vineyard and winery were doing quite well but not quite profitable enough for Julia to give up her job as a Kindy teacher, and that’s when the idea of building two tourist cabins came about. The cabins were completed in 2018 allowing Julia to finish her day job.  

The cabins were a blessing when the worst drought on record struck the Granite Belt in 2019. Just Red Wines has always prided itself in only producing wine from fruit from its own vineyard. Maintaining this was very difficult following the drought. A tiny vintage was achieved in 2020, allowing Just Red Wines to stay open, albeit needing to sell off even their treasured “museum” wines.

Just Red Wines owns about 30 acres of bush and rocks similar to the Girraween National Park and bush walks were always a source of pleasure to the family. The cabins gave Tony and Julia the incentive to mark out a well-defined bush walk allowing cabin guests to walk through the bush, and granite outcrops crossing the small creek several times.

Covid-19, while initially being a concern, provided two silver linings for Just Red Wines. The first was that the initial 3-month lockdown gave Tony the time he needed to complete his book “Winegrape growing in the Granite Belt”. The second advantage was the additional visitation by Queenslanders essentially locked in their own state who were keen to find new getaway destinations within Queensland. Many Queenslanders have discovered that they don’t need to go interstate to experience wine tourism at its best.

Julia and Tony:

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Tony’s book: Winegrape Growing in the Granite Belt- A Practical Guide

Tony has written a text book on wine grape growing. It is available for purchase at our cellar door and in several local outlets including: Ballandean Store, Nutrien Ballandean, Queensland College of Wine Tourism and the Stanthorpe Visitor Information Centre.

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Michael’s Story

Michael has spent most of his life around grapes and wine. He has completed a degree in Information Technology from the University of Southern Queensland, and holds a Graduate Diploma in Viticulture and Oenology from Lincoln University in New Zealand. Michael likes to relax with a nice glass of red and a good movie on a sunny Queensland afternoon.

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Nikki’s Story

Nikki was five years old when we planted our first vineyard, so she grew up working in the vineyard and winery in her spare time.

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Nikki went to school in Warwick when we came to Australia where she made many friends and was an outstanding student at Warwick State High School. In her final year she won the Mayor’s medal for student of the year for the best all round student.

Nikki went on to study education at the University of Queensland and had completed two years towards her degree when she was taken from us on that fateful day on 14th March 2003 when she was killed by a careless motorist while travelling home to Ballandean to pick our first Granite Belt vintage. We cherish the memory of our beautiful daughter and have named “Nikki’s Vineyard” where she spent many weekends and university holidays tending the young plants to maturity. She would often work on her own in this vineyard while the rest of us worked elsewhere. This was a major feat for Nikki as she loved the company of people so much. She also overcame her fear of spiders and snakes (which the rest of us born in New Zealand have trouble getting used to).

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Nikki was a very special person. She put her heart and soul into everything that she did and was intent on her own personal and spiritual growth. A few days before she died her friend had given her a new diary for her 20th birthday and these are the words she wrote in it:

“Love ~ Faith ~ Peace ~ Hope ~ Truth

I dream of being forever kind. I want to always see only the soul; the beautiful soul of each person who is on their journey & who has been created by the infinite being our God.

I dream of always feeling love in my heart & peace in my mind. I want to always remember that I am part of God’s heart; that I am thus a part of the infinite beauty; that I am beautiful.

I dream of fulfilling my divine potential. I want to always”

Nikki’s reflections are also inscribed on her tombstone in the municipal general cemetery in Warwick Queensland.

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The Animals

You may have spotted some woolly animals on your visit near our cellar door. You could be forgiven for thinking they are sheep, but they are in fact angora goats. They are very cute… but ask Tony how cute they are when its time to round them up for shearing!

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History of the Property

The property was first planted in grapes in 1935. Some locals say that our property had the best table grapes in the district. The table grapes were removed when the Industry lost it’s profitability in the 1980s. The property was then “rested” for ten years and used mainly for cattle grazing before we bought it in 1997.

The Bush

Our property has about 30 acres of Granite Highland bush country similar to the nearby Girraween National Park. It features huge granite boulders and native bush. A small stream runs through the property and a waterfall is spectacular after good rainfall.

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