Matteo Zema opened the first wine bar/tavern in Armo, Reggio Calabria in 1835, much to the angst of the local authorities at the time. Although the tavern no longer exists, it was this legacy and a passion for wine that has been passed down from generation to generation. After migrating to Australia, Nicola Zema started working for Wynns in 1953, hand pruning, picking and planting, a job that continued through until his retirement in 1975.
The passion for wine never diminished and the Zema family's dream was to one day own a piece of Coonawarra’s famed terra rossa soil and create their own world class wines. Coonawarra is world renowned for its remarkable terra rossa soil, a thin metre-deep band of soil overlaying a deep formation of limestone. Another major influence on the region's viticultural performance is the permanent water table two to four metres below the surface.
The dream became reality in 1982 when Demetrio and Francesca Zema purchased one of the finest parcels of viticultural land, in the very heart of the Coonawarra region. The first vintage of Zema Estate wines was made with very little equipment, a tin shed and an old milk tanker under the generous guidance of veteran Coonawarra Winemaker Ken Ward.
The Zema family moved in to the small home on site and went about establishing their new winery. Additional buildings were added over time, from the initial winery and Cellar Door sales constructed in time for the 1983 vintage to the recently added new Cellar Door, office complex and warehouse which was finally opened in 2006.
From Demetrio's original 20 acre vineyard the Zema family have further developed vineyards to today's holdings of more than 150 acres, all required to keep up with the flourishing demand for Zema Estate's premium quality red wines. Things have changed at Zema Estate since its first vintage in 1982. Today the Zema winery is as modern as any in Coonawarra with the equipment and capacity required for quality wine production.
Today Zema Estate is managed by Nick and Matt Zema with Demetrio and Francesca never too far away, either helping out in Cellar Door or cooking up a storm for visitors, staff and guests. There is also a small team of dedicated staff, many of whom have worked with the family for a number of years and contributing enormously to the success of the wines and the business. The bottling of all Zema Estate wines is done on-site at the winery. The family has for many years operated its own bottling line however due to increasing demand this has recently changed to using a large and modern mobile bottling facility which sets up on-site on demand.
The Zema winemaking team painstakingly pump the reddening juice over the grape skins during fermentation, optimising colour and tannin extraction balanced with strong fruit flavours. Further richness and complexity develops with fermentation in oak, static and rotary fermenters before being matured in small oak casks. Vintage usually occurs March to April, with great care taken to preserve the grapes intensity of flavour and structure created by the combination of Coonawarra's soil, climate and the family's traditional vineyard practices.
Zema Estate is vigorously traditional in its approach to vineyard practices. Zema rejects the irrigation and mechanical pruning common in the region, in favour of dry land viticulture and hand pruning to produce intense, rich fruit of unparalleled quality. Although the Zema family deservedly takes great pride in their achievements they have not lost sight of their original philosophies, estate grown, hand pruned, minimally irrigated and hand crafted. Premium Coonawarra estate bottled wines, consistent refined and exceptional