|“le Gout du Terroir”|
|In 1991 my family purchased a farm at Moondarra in the Gippsland Mountain Rivers District. My parents wanted to grow beef cattle and I wanted to grow Pinot Noir. The farm needed a hill facing North East, in a cool, continental situation and with deep, free-draining soil.
Pinot Noir was planted that year in an old spud paddock bordering Moondarra State Forrest. The aim was to grow small volumes of absolutely super quality fruit. Vines are close planted, 2 meters by 700mL, and dry grown. Fertilisers have never been used. The vineyard is cane pruned by hand with one cane running North.
The major cultivar is MV6, other cultivars include; Gm18, Beba, Martini, 777, 115, “Pommard”, Bests and Abel.
Harvest is typically late April at relatively low Beaume. The bunch stems are usually quite desiccated and dry and allow us to use a lot of whole bunches in the ferment, without getting green tannins, rather an “amaro’, bittersweet flavour. Typical bunch weights are around 50 grams.
Two cuvees are produced; “Samba Side” and “Conception”. “Samba Side” is from the West side of the vineyard, next to the State Forrest. This is the section of the vineyard the Sambar Deer used to come into and eat. The aspect is North West and the vines are more exposed to the South Westerly winds and the angry, afternoon sun. The fruit tastes more tannic and the wines are typically more robust. “Conception” faces North East and is more sheltered from the predominant winds and the afternoon sun. The wine is typically “prettier”.
There are six rows of Nebbiolo, planted after Maree and I worked vintage at Prunotto during our Honeymoon in 1992. It’s never ripened properly so far and we have not released a wine yet. Perhaps we’ll make some rosé from it this year. There is also one row of Picolit……
Inspired by Bailey Carrodus, I have begun experimenting with Pinot Noir grown from seed. Pinot Noir is indigenous to Burgundy and as late as the early 1900’s wild vines growing in the riverine valleys were marked and cuttings taken to replant vineyards. It is a common misconception that Pinot Noir mutates readily, this is a fallacy. The broad genetic diversity of Pinot Noir is due to cuttings being “harvested” from wild vines produced from seed.
Winemaking owes much to both Guy Accad and “Luddite” philosophy. Latterly Josko Gravner has also provided inspiration. Cold Maceration is employed prior to fermentation and some whole bunches are retained during fermentation. Regular plunging, or “pigeage” is employed and the wines are drained, rather than pressed to barrique. The oak is all new, a mix of Remond Tronçais, mostly MTL, and Domenic Laurent “Magic Cask”, thick-stave, old growth Tronçais barriques. The wine stays in oak for almost two years with minimal racking before being bottled without fining or filtration. As much as possible gravity is used to shift the wine, rather than pumps. I believe pumping Pinot Noir under pressure adversely alters the relationship between the aromatic and liquid compounds in the wine. Given that half of great Pinot is in your nose then it is vital these aromas are treated with respect.
Moondarra Pinot Noir is typically both elegant and powerful. The aromas and flavours an amalgam of Morello cherry fruit, “Gaminess”, Spice, layers of soft tannin, Red Currant/Raspberry acidity, Beetroot Autumnal/Etheral characters and slippery, supple, silky glycerol. They are intense, balanced and persistent and, I hope, speak loudly of the personality of its “Terroir” and the family who produce it.
New plantings of Pinot Gris and Mendoza Chardonnay are planned. Perhaps they will be blended with the tiny volume of Picolit to produce a “Beurot” inspired blended dry white.
Moondarra “beurot’ Pinot Gris has been produced since 2008 from friend’s nearby vineyards. The Beurot monks in Burgundy wear chapeaus the colour of Pinot Gris or “Beurot” skins.
Moondarra “fin” Pinot Noir has been produced since 2009, also from nearby vineyards. Pinot Fin is the noblest of the various cultivars of Pinot Noir.
Some Biodynamic practices are pursued, not for altruistic reasons, but to make better wine by growing better grapes. There is a lot of mystique and misunderstanding surrounding Bio Dynamics. If you want to know more it’s worthwhile visiting some good sites; www.biodynamicviticulture.com is one.
I came to Bio Dynamics through discovering that DRC, Domaine Leroy and Domaine Leflaive had been using these techniques for many years www.leflaive.fr, www.domaineleroy.com . I then began reading about Bio Dynamics and much of what I read reminded me of the agriculture practiced by my uncle in Gippsland. After talking to him, I discovered that he knew nothing of Bio Dynamics but had learnt his practices from his father, my grandfather. Farming by the cycles of the planets and the moon and using various tinctures derived from nature to help prevent disease and encourage beneficial microflora to populate both leaves and surfaces. There is much that can be construed as Alchemy in these processes. “Occult Science” is an exemplary description. My uncle explained that these practices were not to be spoken of and this knowledge had long been regarded as “witchcraft”, passed from father to son over many generations since the reformation of the church in Middle Europe. To me it is as much Pagan Viticulture as Bio Dynamic Viticulture and is an inherited, instinctive understanding. A part of my heritage.