Firing at Both Ends

I have a confession….With around 6,000 cuttings in the nursery, all the sore hands and aching backs it took to collect them were nothing to the hours of worry and angst brought about waiting for them to callous and throw some roots. To be on the safe side, we ran controls of every kind: different soil mixtures, different temperatures; inside/outside; and so, when ABSOLUTELY NOTHING happened, your’s truly could be seen pacing the floor, tearing his hair out like a nervous expectant stock-broker.  Advice and reassurance were sought across the state, (thanks Fred, Shane and AP) with plenty of the former and not enough of the latter.  We agonized over whether they were warm enough, cold enough, if they had enough sand in the mix, if there was too much sand in the mix, if poppy meal had been a bad idea after all, if they were too wet, too dry, or whether we’d taken them too early,…

vine floral buds (640x480)In the end, Lee rolled out the heat mats and rotated the potted cuttings in batches, with the result that most are taking around a week to go from stick to rootling…in fact, any longer and the size of the root ball is going to make it tricky to get them into the planting trays.

Of course, in the meantime, the rain has finally eased, the frosts have (almost) ceased and we have even had a few days of beautiful Spring sunshine.  In response, the cuttings are now firing at both ends and have not only sprung into leaf, but some, (yes, I’m talking about YOU pinot blanc,) have even thrown flower spikes, as you can see in the picture.  At this rate, we may be the first vineyard to take in a crop BEFORE the vines are actually planted.  (Terry Pratchett fans may call to mind the existence of wine made from REANNUAL grapes planted the following year. The snag was that you got the hangover the morning before and had to drink a lot to get over it.)

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.

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.