In the 90’s we began an exhaustive search for the right ‘terroir’ to produce wines like those produced by our extended family and ancestors in Burgundy. Much is written about the qualitative aspects of terroir – the culture, knowledge and techniques used at a specific vineyard location. Some of these are understandable when you speak with French vignerons who have hundreds of years of growing notes covering most seasons they will experience. However, we set our sights on more quantitative measures that define the great regions of France and in particular, the great vineyards of Burgundy, upon which we could develop our own cultural aspects of terroir.
Starting at the top, there are two major climate types – continental and maritime. Maritime climates are well regulated by the ocean and experience very minor changes in temperature, regardless of location and season. Continental climates are inland and lack the temperature regulation, producing wild swings in daily temperature. In terms of viticulture, large daily temperature ranges (diurnal variation) is a major source of stress for vines. Much like any living organism, moving quickly from cold to hot, or even cool to warm, results in a response – in humans we put on and take off clothing layers. In grape vines, the stress makes them look to protect their offspring, their seeds, and in turn results in a thickening of the grape skins. Grape skins are where most of what we call ‘terroir’ is expressed. A good example of their importance is the difference between a red wine and a rosé wine and the use of skins in winemaking.
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are naturally very thin skinned varieties. This means that when grown in climate with large diurnal variation, i.e. continental, the skins thicken which can produce increased structure and intensity. It is for this reason that Burgundy and Champagne, with their continental climates, focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay; whereas Bordeaux with its maritime climate grows thicker skinned varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and not the other way around.
The combination of soil structure, climate and temperature range for our 53-hectare vineyard makes it arguably one of the closest approximations of Burgundy in Australia. Whether that is Grand Cru Burgundy or Premiere Cru Burgundy, only time will tell. We will also endeavour to create our own terroir winemaking style, as evidenced by the trophies and awards we have won in non-Burgundy / Champagne varieties like our Botrytis Semillon, Cabernet-Merlots and Shiraz-Viogniers. As we continue to flesh out our understanding of our very unique terroir, we will continue to update this page as we believe, when it comes to winemaking, ‘terroir’ is all-important
Terroir chart: The points reflect the averages for each region, based on published sources. Individual wineries may differ from the average on either scale.
National Land & Water Resources Audit, 2004; Bureau of Meteorology; Assessing the pH and pH buffering capacity of Australian viticultural soils, Ben P. Thomas, Doug Reuter, Richard H. Merry and Ben Robinson