September 11, 2023
Every year I set out with the intention of writing more often. I like to think that sharing regular news of our journey might make you feel more connected with what we’re doing here on The Wine Farm so that the experience of drinking our wine, when you do, is more meaningful. But once again, as the new year ticked over and the temperatures climbed, so did the workload and here I find myself once again sheltering from the wintry weather outside to write my first letter of the year.
So much water flows under the bridge between letters it makes me keenly aware of the passage of time. Before I put pen to paper I usually do a quick scan of the last few letters I’ve written to see where to pick up the thread. When I did this just now on our website I scrolled a bit further down than usual to a photo of my now school boys back in their toddler phase sporting teeny tiny gumboots and wielding far too big a hoe as they ‘helped’ us establish the veggie patch that has since fed us hundreds of meals. And my now 6-year-old cartwheeling, roller-skating, sassy little girl dressed as a mini Emma Wiggle learning from her brothers where to hop under the bird nets to pinch the best grapes before they’re picked. It seemed like yesterday but now she knows those grapes are worth more to her in the crate by way of pocket money. And while my three children are hurdling developmental milestones at a rapid pace, Neil and I are steadily collecting grey hairs and physio bills.
But with age, comes wisdom, right? Since taking on The Wine Farm in 2014 and releasing our first vintage a couple of years later we’ve learnt so many lessons; had our values challenged over and over again; honed our skills; sharpened our resolve… even questioned our purpose (does the world really need more wine?). And now we find ourselves doing what we do with far more consciousness, greater confidence and a nourishing dose of gentleness.
In the early days on our farm we had something to prove. Firstly, we had to show that our style of making wine was better than our predecessors – the litmus test in your first few years for anyone taking over an existing vineyard. But more importantly, we had to prove that we could farm our vines without the chemicals that our industry is taught are essential. We were told at the outset we had rocks in our heads but with nine vintages under our belt we’re satisfied we’ve made our point, and hope we can support more of our peers to follow suit.
We’ve grown up a lot, and so have our wines.
We grappled for a while there with the thought that we were producing a luxury good for an already crowded market. But then we reminded ourselves that we are farming ours in a way that gives more to our land than it takes. And we’re using our wine to start conversations with people who might not otherwise be interested in the positive impact regenerative farming – specifically in our case biodynamic farming – can have on the health of our planet, and why they should use their consumer dollars to support it. We also make our wine with the smallest footprint we can. But then we acknowledged why we really got into this business in the first place.
Wine brings us joy.
Drinking a great wine adds colour to your life. Savouring a glass of something you love, made with care you can taste, provides one of those rare moments of joy that are pretty hard to come by as an adult. The kind we see our children experience so regularly in their day-to-day play and adventures. And if grown-ups have to suffer the grey hairs and wear and tear, surely we deserve a glass or two of joy in the mix? For us, taking pleasure in a beautifully crafted bottle of wine every now and then helps us keep doing what we do: living consciously, farming for the betterment of our land, parenting mindfully and not shying away from the challenges that go with it all. Like music and art, fine wine helps us appreciate humanity a little more, and helps motivate us to be the best humans we can be.
So we’ve decided the world absolutely does need wine. Not the chemically-farmed, mass-produced soulless variety, but there is always a place on our table for gently farmed, consciously made, joyful wine.
So that’s what we set out to make. And the older we get, the better we’re getting at making it.
During our first four vintages on The Wine Farm we were getting to know the place. We made wines that were clean, pure and fresh with a solid acid drive and tension. Everything was primarily made in stainless steel tanks as we saved our pennies to gradually introduce high quality oak barrels into the mix, sourced judiciously and seasoned carefully so as never to mark the wines. We’ve always wanted our wines to respect our farming effort and fruit purity, showing place not process.
But those who’ve been with us since the beginning will notice a distinct shift in style from our 2019 vintage onwards. We made a conscious decision to pick a few days later, at a touch more ripeness, and this has added weight and length to the palate and increased the fruit density in the glass. We’re also fermenting and ageing the wines in those now well-seasoned casks. The Chardonnay and Pinot noir now have no stainless steel component to them at all making them a little more complex, a touch more opulent. We’ve always aged our wines on their lees for 12 months creating the texture and silky mouthfeel our wines are known for, and our use of oak in recent years has amplified this.
By 2020 our vineyard has also benefited from six years of organic management and two years of Demeter biodynamic practices. As we continue our biodynamic journey, and with it better understand our land and how it responds to the seasons, we are seeing more resilient vines, healthier fruit come harvest time and a continued increase in depth and flavour complexity in our wines.
Today we want to share with you our two flagships – Pinot noir and Chardonnay – that best demonstrate how our wines have come of age. They are both confident, gentle and joyful expressions of how these varieties perform in healthy South Gippsland soils.