Buying an existing vineyard without really knowing its potential is something you could lose a lot of sleep over. Dig all the holes you like and analyse the soil to within an inch of its life but no amount of tests can tell you what these vines will do under the influence of your own guiding hands. In the end you just have to go with your gut. Like choosing a life partner, when you know you know.
Just seven acres planted to eight varieties meant not only could we pretty well manage the farm by ourselves, but have some fun with the varieties to boot. And being just 50km from the southern most point of mainland Australia meant we had become stewards of some seriously cool climate fruit to make the wines we both love to drink.
All the vines are planted on their own roots meaning the site expresses itself more truly through the variety, not via the roots of another – something that excites Neil in particular having worked with vines in France, South Africa and New Zealand where barely a single one taps its own roots.
To the west of the property lie mineral-rich red soils derived from ancient volcanic mass. To the east, grey loam. In line with ancient folklore, a natural spring has formed at the convergence of these two soil types, meaning The Wine Farm is blessed with a small, perpetually full dam from which we draw water to irrigate our veggies.
One advantage of purchasing an existing vineyard is that for once age is on your side – in our case 20 to 25-year-old roots trucking up the all-important minerals from deep within the soil profile. We farm the vines without the use of insecticides, just copper, sulphur and a pair of hands to combat the mildews. With more emphasis on the latter pair than the former we harness nature’s predators, sun and air, to control powdery and downy mildew respectively.
With a focus on soil rejuvenation and controlling weeds with nothing but a whipper snipper below the vines and a mower deck between them, the essential micro-organisms are allowed to thrive and aid the transfer of minerals from soil to vine and ultimately glass.
Under no circumstances whatsoever will we use herbicides, systemic fungicides or insecticides in our vines/on our property. The most important life on The Wine Farm (family and pets aside) is what crawls beneath the soils.