In 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.
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!
With 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 stories 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.”)
The 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.
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!
Everything is ready for the arrival of the first cuttings. Lee and Chris (shown here with poly tunnel, planting boxes and dirt at the ready) will be callousing them at their Killiecrankie nursery just around the corner at Glengarry. Now all we need is to take the cuttings, starting this week, and atempt to avoid severe rsi in the process. I will talk about variety and clonal choices in a later blog but, needless to say, the decision process has been long and involved.
Soil results have finally turned up (click the link above) and were definitely worth waiting for. Incredibly, all measurements are within the acceptable range with no recommended adjustments. I was particularly keen to see the calcium:magnesium ratio at 5.5:1 which, while considered a little high for ground crops, is perfect for grapes and should ultimately assist with good skin structure and phenolics. Very excited now at the prospect of planting late this year.
The poplar cuttings collected last Spring have now made it into the ground. One day I hope they will form a beautiful southern boundary to the vineyard. I confess they are purely aesthetic and not planted as a windbreak as the prevailing winds are from the NW. However, planted on the opposite side of the property, they would have cast shade over the vines when fully grown.