Category Archives: Wine Philosophy

Aug 08 2012

Watching Biodynamics in Action at Cullen Wines: My weekend in the Margaret River

Posted on August 08, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

When I arrived at Cullen Wines, production manager/winemaker Trevor Kent suggested that we first take a look at the vineyards. His excitement in showing off the rich moist soil of the vineyard beds was palpable.

Passionate about the benefits of biodynamics, Trevor was very generous about sharing his knowledge of the subject and explaining how Vanya Cullen and he have implemented biodynamic practices both the vineyards and the winery. Cullen was certified “A” grade biodyamic in 2004, but innovation and refinement of techniques are ongoing.

Biodynamics is based on Rudolf Steiner’s spiritual science. Trevor explained that in 1924 a group of German farmers approached Steiner for help in revitalising their nutrient depleted, unproductive soils. Steiner recommended a wholistic approach that incorporated organic farming principles but also recognised that the movements of the moon and the planets have a profound influence on the soil and plant and animal life.

At Cullen, farm activities like planting and harvesting are timed to coincide with the optimal position of the moon in relation to the planets. And the biodynamic prepartions, which include naturally occurring matter like farm manure, are all prepared in a way that optimises energy forces.

The photo on the left shows Trevor standing next to a Flow Form machine, which is used to mix the biodynamic preparations with water. For the horn manure preparation (500), for example, small amounts of manure are stirred into large volumes of water before being applied to the vineyards. Steiner believed that the combination of vertical and horizontal vortices created by the special stirring process increased the vitality of the preparations and improved their effectiveness on the soils and plants. Trevor likened the preparation process to collecting fast flowing, oxygenated water from a fresh water stream. The Flow Form machine mimics the natural process of energising the water.

After touring the winery we tasted the Cullen range on the restaurant verandah overlooking the biodynamic vegetable patch. Trevor explained that since the introduction of biodynamics the fruit quality has improved to the point that only minimal intervention is needed in the winery to produce top quality wines that are now much more expressive of their terroir… [Read More]

May 05 2011

Château Latour: The Epitome of Great Bordeaux

Posted on May 05, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

This Thursday evening I’m attending a very special tasting of classic Bordeaux wines at Wine Vault in Artarmon. Sponsored by Bordeaux Shippers, our host for the evening is The Wine Front’s Gary Walsh. Thursday’s session is sold out, but I believe tickets may still be available for a second session on Thursday 2 June.

One of the highlights of a very special lineup is the Château Latour 2001. It sells for around $1,000 a bottle, so I’m sure Thursday night will be one of my only chances to sample this great wine… [Read More]

Mar 03 2011

Jasper Hill Vineyard: A Pioneer in Organic and Biodynamic Winemaking

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Jasper Hill Vineyard in Heathcote Victoria was one of the earliest Australian wineries to practice organic and then biodynamic agriculture. The vineyards, first planted in 1975 on unusually deep red-coloured gravelly loams derived from the rare, Cambrian age basaltic rock, have always been free of synthetic chemicals. All vines are own rooted (ie. not grafted onto non vinifera rootstocks), mulched with organic compost, never irrigated, hand-pruned and hand-harvested.

The two most renowned wines, the Georgia’s Paddock Heathcote Shiraz and the Emily’s Paddock Heathcote Shiraz/Cabernet Franc are named after Ron and Elva Laughton’s daughters… [Read More]

Mar 03 2011

Ngeringa: A Wholistic Approach to Winemaking

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Adelaide Hills is developing a growing reputation for first-class chardonnay, and the Ngeringa Chardonnay, now in its 5th release, is one of the leading examples. Owned and operated by Erinn and Janet Klein, this small biodynamic winery, founded in 2001, is also member of the La Renaissance des Appellations (see The Return to Terroir Tasting, Cellarit Wine Blog, 21 March 2011)

The Ngeringa Vineyard is situated below the Mount Barker summit where the cool evening sea winds, which blow in from the southern sea over the mouth of the Murray,.. [Read More]

Mar 03 2011

Castagna: True Wines of Place and Passion

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

One of the really fun aspects of writing the Cellarit Wine blog is the opportunity to learn about various wine personalities. The wine industry tends to attract people with very interesting backgrounds and skill-sets. This is particularly true of winemakers. I’m often in awe of the best, as they seem to possess a myriad of skills and talents: farmer, artist-winemaker, visionary, marketer, advocate, environmentalist – the list goes on!

Julian Castagna of Castagna Vineyard is certainly one Australian winemaker who is all of these things and more… [Read More]

Mar 03 2011

The Return to Terroir Grand Tasting in Melbourne

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In a week when a tragic natural disaster in Japan was compounded by the fear of a potential man-made nuclear disaster, I think many of us were grateful for the opportunity to attend the Return to The Terroir Grand Tasting in Melbourne. Here was a group of biodynamic winemakers, passionate about the benefits of working with the land’s natural rhythms and bio-systems, delighting our senses with superb wines and stimulating discussion.

Organised by Castagna Vineyard’s Julian Castagna, the tasting brought together 61 wine producers from around the world and more than 340 wines!.. [Read More]

Mar 03 2011

Artadi: The Winery that Reinvented Rioja Tempranillo

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Single vineyard wines, old vines, low yields, organic farming, ripe harvests, severe grape selection and non-interventionist winemaking. Today, we associate a lot of these practices with our best quality wines, but when Juan Carlos López de Lacalle, the legendary winemaker at Rioja’s Artadi, first began pioneering the practices in the mid 1980s, he was considered a revolutionary. Now he is regarded as the man who has changed the face of Rioja wines!

Artadi is not a boutique winemaker. Today the winery makes over a million bottles a year,.. [Read More]

Dec 12 2010

Australia’s Old Vine Wines

Posted on December 12, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The list of acclaimed wines made from old vines in Australia are many and would include, to name a few, such renowned names as Henschke Hill of Grace, Rockford Basket Press Shiraz, Torbreck RunRig, Wendouree Shiraz, Chris Ringland Shiraz, Clarendon Hill AstralisD’Arengberg The Dead Arm and Yalumba The Octavius Barossa Old Vine Shiraz.

So what makes old vine wine so special? Matt Kramer of the Wine Spectator addressed this very question in his article If it Says “Old Vine,”.. [Read More]

Dec 12 2010

Part 2: Ata Rangi, The ‘Grand Cru’ of Martinborough Pinot Noir

Posted on December 12, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In February 2010 the Ata Rangi Pinot Noir and the Felton Road Block 5 Pinot Noir were named  “Great Growths of New Zealand” at the New Zealand Pinot Noir Conference.

The honour, which is New Zealand’s equivalent to Bordeaux’s ‘Grand Cru’ status, wasn’t an audacious move on the part of the Kiwis to thrust their pinot noirs into the limelight. Rather, it was appropriate recognition that New Zealand pinot noir has come of age and is now the leading New World example of fine pinot noir… [Read More]

Dec 12 2010

Artisans of the Barossa: Breaking down the Stereotypes!

Posted on December 12, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In my article, Australian and New Zealand Wine: Telling a Complex Story!, 28 September 2010, I mentioned that 12 of the country’s most prestigious wineries have joined forces to create Australia’s First Families of Wine (AFFW) – an export oriented venture designed to explain and promote the character, heritage and quality of Australia’s family-run wine companies.

In the Barossa region another group of like-minded winemakers formed their own alliance in 2006 with a similar purpose. Today, Artisans of the Barossa consists of 12 wineries that are working together to market their small production,.. [Read More]