Bruce Bassham has worked the family vineyard since the tender age of 15 when he left school to help his father Jim who was spending an increasing amount of time caring for his own father who was ill until the time he passed away in 1964. Bruce took on the property enthusiastically making many changes. He later married his wife Val and together they built a third house on the family property and raised 3 daughters – Kelly, Jodie and Renae.
Bruce has witnessed many changes and challenges in the wine industry over the years – he has come from hand picking and pruning to machines, loading 8 tonne trucks by hand to 30 tonne trucks by tractors and tote bins. From flood irrigation and open channels to automated drip irrigation, and he has been through many challenges such as vine pulls, over supply, drought, poor prices, diseases, frosts, heat waves, and thunderstorms which once destroyed an entire apricot crop leaving the family in financial difficulty. He has also seen many Riverland icon businesses vanish.
Bruce has also been a pioneer within the wine grape industry of the Riverland, he was one of the first growers in the region to have plant Riesling in the 1970′s and later Chardonnay in the 1980′s. Bruce, Val and their girls spent many summer holidays cutting and drying apricots, drying 10-15 tonne a season. Their daughters grew up on the “block”, playing hide and seek in the cover crop in between the vines, taking a nap in the cot at the Cutting shed to setting an orange tree on fire. What a great care free childhood! Living on the land was so much fun. In the spare time that Bruce and Val had, they developed and built a tropical oasis the Highway Fern Haven, a retail nursery and coffee shop. The first in South Australia, and for which several Nursery awards were won, with a lot of hard work and commitment over 7 days a week, (with help from their 3 daughters). After selling the nursery in 1999, their daughters Kelly, Jodie and Renae purchased a retail florist business and named it “Flowers by Jodie Lee” which they still successfully operate today, as well as running their own homes and being mums and wives.
Bruce and Val’s next challenge was when they purchased a 100 acre wheat farm 5km from the Bassham road property in 2000. With the help of one of their son-in-law’s Neil Bourton, the wheat farm was developed into a majestic vineyard consisting of chardonnay, Shiraz and viognier, surrounded with Mallee and wildlife. With the down turn of chardonnay, Bruce decided to top work 23 acres to Alternative varieties in 2009, varieties such as Vermentino, Montepulciano, Fiano, Lagrein, Petit Manseng and Nero d’Avola. These alternative varieties are suited to a warm Mediterranean climate and are drought tolerant, so therefore would love our Riverland conditions. And then in 2010 saw the property obtain A Class Organic Certification status with NASAA, no 5337. With 2011 vintage approaching, and with Bruce’s mother having deteriorating health and with no brothers and no sons to continue the Bassham name, Bruce decided to produce a wine label “Bassham Wines”. We have now produced an excellent range of varieties 14 labels in total and many more to come. We currently have 26 alternative varieties in the ground. Bruce and Val were founding passionate members of the Riverland alternative wine group. They are devoted to their family of 3 daughters, 3 sons-in-law and 8 beautiful grandchildren. They also enjoy sport, football (Crows and Port Power), dancing, good food and wine and entertaining, and now follow the grandkids sporting careers.
Both Bruce and Val were A Grade Badminton players in their times along with their 3 girls and have many trophies to show. Their workplace endures hard work, passion and devotion to their vineyards. Love for the land, environment, Organic and alternative quality wine grape production is paramount for their future in the wine industry. They are dedicated to the link between soil health and human health. Always trying to improve the nutritional value of our soil, believing the break down in human health is due to the loss of trace elements in our soils. Thus, producing quality wine. Bruce has completed 53 vintages on the Family vineyard, and still live on the original property and will be celebrating 100 years centenary of the family ownership of their heritage vineyard (late 1919). We believe that business must make a positive contribution to addressing to challenges the world faces. We embrace the Riverland and the lifestyles it offers and are very proud an honoured to be called Riverland vignerons, passing on our knowledge to our children and grandchildren. Our dream is to one day travel this wonderful country we call Australia.