Next we visited the Barossa Grape and Wine Association. We were guided by Nicki Robins from Barossa Australia. It was great to finally meet Nicki, who has previously over email helped me a lot with data on Grenache from the Barossa for tastings and presentations I had given. And as efficient as she was over email, in real life she was even better. We learned a lot about the Barossa Valley, the history, traditions and personalities. A great venue to showcase the region and history
I would have loved to taste all that wine in there! But, the day was already very long and we had one final visit.
Then Henschke vineyards.
This was a real treat. It is a vineyard that Eben Sadie had introduced me to a few years ago. Our obsession with viticulture is the same glue that binds ourselves and Dylan and myself. Hill of Grace was definitely on my “to visit” list. And here I was, standing amoungst those vines. Crazy. Big, chunky Shiraz vines, decades old, some more than a century. These twisted trunks and arms made me think of the Semillon in ‘T Voetpad in the Kapteinskloof back in South Africa. The Vineyard planted in the late 1890’s, own rooted, co-planted with Palomino, Chenin blanc and back then Muscat d’Alexandrie (or plainly called in Afrikaans “Hanepoot”). Every time we work there it is almost a spiritual experience. Much like I felt here in this vineyard.
Prue explained that she is interplanting the vines with natural vegetation (Hope I recalled this correctly). This, yet again, made me think about some viticulture experiments in South Africa. I find myself in this conflicted world sometimes. There is so much talk about “regenerative” viticulture, I don’t even know the name for planting indigenous vegetation in between the vineyards, and so many other “green”, “organic” or “ancient” ways, and I stand and ask myself why we are farming vineyards at all? Didn’t we domesticate it for a reason? Why don’t we then just go and plant random vines in the forests, hillsides, valleys and plains, so that the vines can co-exist in these environments? Why do we then spend so much time, money and effort in establishing these vineyards, only to re-introduce natural vegetation as a mean of competition for the vines? I don’t know, I’m just thinking out loud.
Personally I believe in balance of the vine. Not one site is the same in the world. Why can the guys in Europe cut back the roots of the vines to basically non-existent during planting? If we did that in South Africa, not one single vine would survive. We have much lower C%, less nutrients and lower rainfall. Very hot summers and unforgiving winds.
I look at vineyards across the world and then I look at our vineyards in the Cape. Our climate has driven us hard to make changes. We have been cover cropping for decades – controlling weeds with winter crops, protecting soil moisture with it, mitigating top-soil evaporation with it. We have done extensive trials in all the regions and we even have a cover crop handbook. We fight mealy bugs with predators and with IPW we clamped down on any harsh chemicals. We are world leaders in solar radiation studies on vineyards and we extensively test new varieties to tackle the ever-changing agricultural scene. I would like to think that we are quite ahead of the curve in that sense. I just think we don’t give ourselves credit for it sometimes..
And it reminds me why I fell in love with viticulture. It’s unpredictable, ever-changing and always challenging. Every morning when you wake up, you face a new challenge, or learn something wonderful.
But enough of this philosophic thoughts. Thank you very much to Prue Henschke and Adam Pietch, and definitely a big thanks to Nigel. It was an amazing day.
And back to Adelaide we went. I had a lot to process and take in.