Seven generations of the Jenke family have worked the fertile Barossa Valley soil, and they still proudly call this world-famous wine region their home.
Today, Mark Jenke tends to his family’s old vines and uses their premium fruit to craft small batches of single vineyard wines by hand. He is excited to write the next chapter of the Jenke Vineyards story along with his wife Rebecca and children Oscar and Matilda.
Mark and Rebecca feel immense pride in preserving their family’s grapegrowing traditions and the rich Barossan culture to sustain the Jenke blocks well into the future.
It is genuinely heartfelt work, and they take their role as custodians seriously.
A Journey from the Other Side of the World
The Jenke Barossa story began in 1854 when Johann Jenke left the small village of Rackel in Saxony, Germany, close to the Prussian border.
Along with his wife Magdalena, their son Johann (II), his wife Maria and her daughter Anna, they boarded a train to Hamburg. Then set sail on the ‘Steinwarder’. They arrived in Port Adelaide on November 5, 1854, after a voyage of almost four months.
As a family historian has put it so well…
“Johann (II), like his father before him, was a farmer. …who would have contemplated leaving established farms and homes to travel thousands of miles across the great sea to a strange, unknown land…unless the alternative was so unbearable, physically and spiritually, that it provoked this great decision.” ~ The Jenke Family in Australia 1854-1974
At this time, many Wendish people decided to leave their homeland to escape the threat of conflict, the ‘Germanisation’ of minority groups and dissatisfaction with the church.
But even more so, they were strongly attracted by Australia’s personal freedom – something highly prized by the Wends. The letters sent back home described how good farming land was readily attainable and how they could easily become landowners.
The original group of Jenkes made their way to the Ebenezer district, near Stockwell, where many Wends had already settled in the Barossa.
Then in 1858, Johann (II) entered into an agreement to buy 152 acres of land in the area then known as St Kitts for £319. This property remained in the Jenke name for ninety-seven years, where five generations lived.
Almost 100 Years of Grapegrowing
It was in 1926 that the Jenke family came to Rowland Flat, where they still reside today, four generations later.
Ben and Emma Jenke purchased a home and farming land from the Koch family, who had been part of the first wave of Silesian immigrants.
As Mark explains, “In this area in the early 1900’s, you were either a Koch, Gramp, Liebich, Mattner, Hoffmann or Jenke. Because my father, John had grown-up and worked extensively with the Koch family, they were happy to sell him a parcel of their land and entrust him to carry on with what their family had started.”
The original German migrant settlers had built self-sufficient Hufendorf farmsteads that cultivated livestock and grew many different crops including grapes, wheat, fruit and vegetables.
Over the years they converted their mixed farms to the vineyards you see today.
Wine is a Jenke Way of Life
From here, the Jenke Barossa story has continued to unfold.
Ben and Emma’s son, Kevin ‘John’ Jenke and his wife Lois Liersch, purchased more vineyard land from the Koch family in 1962. Then Mark and Rebecca did the same in the 1990s, further expanding the Jenke Estate.
It was in 1989 that John and Lois’ eldest son, Kym Jenke made the first wines under the Jenke Vineyards label.
Kym showed a passion and flair for winemaking, studying at Roseworthy before putting his stamp on the Barossa wine landscape as chief winemaker.
Their youngest son, Mark, preferred to implement and further evolve all of the grapegrowing practices he’d watched his parents carry out over so many seasons.
Since Kym’s sudden passing in 2016, Mark has guided Jenke Vineyards in the next era – with the same warmth, generosity and hard work his ancestors were known for.