Stephen Pannell has been a trailblazer in the Australian wine industry since his earlier days at Hardy’s and Tintara. He launched S.C. Pannell in 2004 and the Pannell Enoteca umbrella has since grown to include Koomilya in 2012, and the newest addition of Protero in 2019. Having made Protero wines for Gumeracha vineyard owners Rose and Frank Baldasso for many years, Steve was poised to buy the site as soon as it came for sale in 2019; the name Protero was retained out of respect for the great stewards of the land that Rose and Frank were.
Steve and his wife Fiona were initially attracted by the five clones of Nebbiolo planted in 1999, which they have been working with since 2005 under their S.C. Pannell label. Nebbiolo has always been an obsession of Steve’s, and the goal of Protero is to show what is possible in Australia with this grape. The rest of the Protero vineyard was planted to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Viognier, which were of little consequence to Steve. He ripped those out, opting instead for Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Barbera, Dolcetto and a lot more Nebbiolo. These are the varieties that Steve and Fiona love to drink and, they feel, have a better affinity to region and site.
We have worked with Steve since 2018, and we’ve consistently been in awe of his winemaking acumen. There is a constant theme of experimentation with Steve’s wines. His S.C. Pannell line explores how the Mediterranean climate of McLaren Vale and a complex mosaic of ancient geology can foster a palate of varieties (Grenache, Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional, Aglianico, Nero d’Avola and Fiano, among others) with the potential to become future signatures. Protero maintains that spirit of seeing what’s possible, but instead focuses on Northern Italian styles in the cool climate of Adelaide Hills. Besides Nebbiolo, the grapes are sourced from various sites around the Adelaide Hills, as the newly planted vineyards need time to mature to quality fruit-bearing age. The winemaking remains of the same ethos as S.C. Pannell: fruit grown in the right climate and with the right attention requires little cellar intervention. Steve is on a mission with Protero to showcase distinctly Australian renditions of some of his favorite wines, but, as he says, “Ultimately, it will be Protero that decides which varieties it most faithfully expresses.”