Why do we grow mostly Italian Varieties ?
Mark’s Answer: ABC – Anything But Chardonnay
Whenever Mark is asked why we grow Italians? His answer is often literally ‘ABC, anything but Chardonnay’ and not because he dislikes Chardonnay, far from it. There are some great Chardonnays out there to enjoy. Instead Mark enjoys the challenge of growing something different, producing unique wines and sharing them with those amongst you curious about wine.
There is something like 10,000 grape varieties in the world, 3,000 or so in Italy alone, and most people would only be able to name 5-6 at best.
30 years ago, you would find Mark & myself roaming the Victorian countryside looking for elusive, unique wines. This was a time when Brown Brothers and a few other smaller wineries were starting to experiment and beginning to plant lesser known varieties. It was these ventures that encouraged our curiosity about wine, beyond the world of Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet.
How did we stumble upon the Italians?
We were on holiday back visiting family in Western Australia 25 years ago, when we stumbled upon the Three Hills label produced by Erl Happ, and in particular a grape variety we’d never heard of – Nebbiolo. It was so different, sort of like Pinot to look at, but a different shade of red, and tannic and dry, with a rich palate. This led us on a journey to find out more about this grape and where it came from.
Move on a few years and we had decided to move back to the West from Melbourne, leaving behind the corporate world, and look to raise our then 18 month old Bailey with family around him. We had discussing the dream of having our own vineyard and making wine, and the move to the West made this a reality when we purchased our 10 acres on Bagieau Road, establishing Vineyard 28.
In all honesty, we didn’t know much about growing grapes. We knew lots about drinking wine and all the styles, and what it was like to be on the other side of the cellar door counter. In 1997 we started planning; we’d plant a vineyard first, sell fruit to make some money and then build a cellar door and make wine. The grape glut of the latter 90’s – early 2000’s squashed that idea fairly quickly. Selling grapes wasn’t going to be viable, so we revised our plans and dived in to winemaking and building a cellar door.
A few conversations with Erl on how Nebbiolo grew resulted in us planting our first block in 1999. From there on, as they say, it’s history. The love affair with Piedmontese varieties began and we started investigating what other grapes we could grow from that region.
It was a lot of fun trying different wines, researching what could grow here and it still is today. Our vineyards doesn’t stand still. There are always new things to be learnt whether it is about the clone of a particular grape we are growing, the way we are making wine, or a shift to another variety that appeals more to the wine consumer. A great site we can recommend to learn more about lesser known grapes is Vinodiversity.
Today we grow Arneis, Fiano, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Muscat Petit a Grains Rouge, Brachetto and Cabernet Sauvignon on our coastal property at Vineyard 28. In the hills above Harvey at the Wildwater Vineyard we grow, Pignoletto, Barbera, Montepulciano, Dolcetto and Muscat Petit a Grains Rouge.
2021 is our 24th year in the wine industry, from a very small beginning in 1997 – 11 years of making wine onsite, and 16 years for our Cellar Door operation. Each year is an adventure as we’re never quite sure what the climate and elements have in store for us. We are now preparing to embark on our 2021 vintage journey – from picking the grapes to crafting the wine- and look forward to seeing our wines enjoyed by our loyal customers.