Through others’ eyes

Batman BridgeI thought that, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing this amazing place in which I have chosen to live my dream, it was appropriate to show you what others see when they come here; in this case Winsor Dobbin, an excellent wine and travel writer.  Follow the link and see what he thinks.


A Taste of Things to Come

Meslier base wineAs many of you will have read in previous posts, Petit Meslier is one of the varieties I will be planting this year and I am extremely grateful for the generosity of the only known grower of this variety in Australia, James Irvine.  He recently sent me a bottle of his 2013 Meslier base wine which I have now finally had the opportunity to give some attention to, so I thought I should share my tasting note with you while it is still fresh in my mind.

Petit MeslierThis variety is a cross between Savagnin and Gouais Blanc.  The latter has been the mother for almost as many better known varieties as it has synonyms, (and believe me, there are plenty,) including Chardonnay and Riesling, so it is hard to pinpoint any particular inherited attributes.  Perhaps the more citrusy elements may come from this side, and on the nose at least, the wine shows some similarities with Riesling, with aromas that include wild flower and orange blossom.  The faint but noticeable spice and rose petal notes are more easily traced to it’s Savagnin parentage, (one of the Traminer family,) as might be the marked yellow colouration.

Unusually for a young base wine, (which can often strip the lining from your throat on the way down,) the palate has some sappy, almost fatty textures on entry, which soon give way to searing green apple and lime flavours.  I am genuinely impressed with this wine and it will be intriguing to see if Tasmania produces the same combination of acidity, texture and primary aromatics.  Once again, a thousand thanks Jim.

A dog, a compass and a measuring wheel…

Measuring up 3
…two of which at least were useful as we set off to make a survey of the block so that an order for the trellis posts can be placed next week.  This represents the biggest investment since buying the land and I have thought long and hard over the right way to go, not only in terms of the training choices, height, end assemblies etc (of which their will be much more in future posts,) but about what materials I would use.

The standard choice is CCA (copper, chromium, arsenic,) treated pine.  It lasts well, although it tends to brittleness, and is relatively inexpensive.  While there have been few issues with chemical leaching, I have encountered the occasional whisper that, in areas of intensive planting, the arsenic residues in the soils are building to levels that might become a concern in the future.

As everything involved in building a vineyard must be done with an eye to the future, I have settled on a new product from the wonderful Ashley Davidson at Woodshield comprising an untreated machined pine post sheathed in a recycled 6mm plastic outer.  These posts have higher breaking strains than treated pine and are suitable for organic viticulture.  While admittedly there are higher initial costs, hopefully they will be offset by long-term savings and minimal environmental impact.  And I feel that I am doing the right thing.
WoodShield brochure

Funding paradox

Some of you might raise an eyebrow at the subject of this post, but after all, the idea is to provide a real-time diary of the highs and lows of establishing a small vineyard and winery.  It is in no way intended as a whinge or criticism; just an observation on one of the many obstacles along the way.

In Australia, as in many other places, an aging population compounded by earlier retirement has led to the likely prospect of governments being unable to support pension payments for the elderly before too much longer.  Therefore, and very sensibly, increasing onus is being placed on individuals to manage their own financial security in their declining years, including federal encouragement for responsibly self-managed superannuation funds.  All well and good.

So being a responsibly minded citizen (allegedly) with an eye to the future, the land for this project was purchased, at no inconsiderable expense, with the assistance of my super fund.  As many businesses do, I then required some extra finance in order to responsibly grow my investment, not forgetting that we live and work in a lending based economy.  Unfortunately, none of the lending institutions feel they can supply the very modest level of gearing needed, primarily because, as the main asset is protected under federal superannuation laws, the banks cannot include the value in their risk assessment.

While logical, I feel that there is a chasm between the stated intent of government and the ability of private industry to deliver.  I am sure that many of you have had similar experiences, but for those that have better access to government than I, perhaps you might like to point out the apparent paradox and suggest the need for some much needed attention to the matter.  One solution that springs to mind might be a loan insurance scheme underwritten by treasury which, to my mind at least, would appear to satisfymoney the needs of all parties concerned.

All this aside, everything else is continuing smoothly.  The cuttings are callousing nicely and I am eagerly waiting for the arrival of the Petit Meslier cuttings.  This week’s duty is to accurately measure out the proposed blocks and to place an order for some very special trellis posts.  More news very soon.

Cheers, Anthony

Help from the big island

Irvine MeslierIn my search for the full Champagne varietal pack, I managed to track down the wonderful Mr James Irvine from Eden Valley in South Australia who is, I believe, the only grower of Petit Meslier in the country.  Not only did he very kindly send me 2bts of his exceptional wines to try for myself, he has taken cuttings from his vineyard and, with the help of Nick Dry at the Yalumba nursery, has arranged to ship them down to Tas.  I cannot tell you how excited I am at the prospect of seeing  these rare cuttings alongside the others.  Thanks Yalumba and a massive thanks to Jim Irvine who is a true icon of Australian wine.  Go and check him out here to see for yourself.

Spreading the Word

Matt looking cccccool
Matt looking cccccool

Although this journey is still very much in the early stage, it appears the news is spreading far and wide, with readers not only from around Australia, but also in  New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Spain, Italy, Sweden, UK, Ireland, Canada, USA and Chile.  Spread the word everyone and let’s see if we can cover the globe.

Thanks must go to the Tasmanian Government for supporting the Digital Ready program, designed to assist small Tasmanian businesses grow their online presence.  Special thanks though for all the help from Matt Mercier of Grafik Design, pictured here when we visited the future vineyard together, learning that “cool climate viticulture” means just what it says!

Why Pinot Blanc?

Pinot Blanc cuttingsWith the tremendous success of Champagne as a region has come the re-emergence of growers own brands, especially in the Vallee de l’Aube.  Some of the more enterprising families have decided to place renewed focus on the varieties which have fallen out of favour with the large houses, among them Champagne Drappier, Laherte Freres and Champagne Moutard Pere & Fils.  (Click for a video tasting of Champagne Moutard’s Arbane.)

This, to me, seems like a really strong direction to take, creating fascinating wine syles and interesting Prof David Kilpatrickstories which differentiate these growers from the dominant and hugely well funded brands.  It also seemed to me that Tasmania could take a leaf from their book and look at these varieties a little more closely as part of the Tasmanian sparkling wine story.  And so….  I am intending to plant all SEVEN of the permitted Champagne varieties.  (For more details, read the post “The SEVEN varieties of Champagne – coming soon.”)

Clarence HouseThe first of the “lesser known” (at least for sparkling wine,) varieties obtained is Pinot Blanc.  For the life of me, I cannot understand why Tasmania has not embraced this variety more as it seems perfectly suited to our climate.  The enigmatic Professor David Kilpatrick, owner of the magnificent Clarence House Estate, (pictured below,) is the only grower so far to recognize and realize the potential for this grape’s ability to produce fresh, delicate but well textured white wines.  He graciously allowed me to take around 500 cuttings which have now joined the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the callousing boxes at Killiekrankie Farm Nursery.  Three down, four more to go.



Cutting Comments

Now I have a clearer idea of the mix of varieties and clones I will need and with the callousing boxes all set up at Killiekrankie Nursery, it just remains to motivate the team and start taking the cuttings.  Two days of corned beef sandwiches and coffee later, we have taken around 4,200 cuttings of 2 clones of chardonnay and one of pinot noir.  Next week will be the first of the “lesser” permitted Champagne varieties, pinot blanc.  Hope the hands heal up before then!