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Wines & Vines

Verdant Staindl Wines vines sit in mist with purple wisteria framing them in the foreground

Before European colonisation and the advent of industrialised agricultural practices, the Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin nation lived here. They cared for swathes of land around what is now referred to as the Mornington Peninsula.

As custodians for thousands of years, the indigenous population managed the territory in harmony with the rotations of the sun and the change of seasons. They understood nature’s rhythms and invested in the environment’s long-term prosperity – what we might now call 'sustainability’.

When we established the vineyard in 2004, our aim was to make fine wine imbued with the essence of the soil and honouring the respect for the land held by those who came before us.

Close up of white bunch featuring a happy yellow-and-black ladybug perched on a grapeWe introduced sustainable agricultural practices to the existing St. Neot’s Estate vineyard and its vines. Planted in the 1980s, these are some of the oldest vines on the Peninsula.

No harmful chemicals are used on the property, giving the flora and fauna of the area the opportunity to thrive. We mulch around our vine base and use milk or a copper-sulphur composite to control powdery mildew. It might sound strange, but it works. And since 2017 Staindl Wines has been bio-dynamically certified by the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia.

A bulbous artichoke from the Staindl Wines biodynamic vegetable patch

If you’ve ever visited the Mornington Peninsula, you’ll know it’s a very special place. It has the perfect climatic and geological conditions to make some of the best wines in Australia.

When we choose our site at Red Hill, we recognised it as a great cool climate location with nutrient-rich soil and cooling maritime breezes that would help us to emulate the Burgundian viticulture style we admire.

The elevated ridge the runs the length of the Peninsula’s spine allows our vines to sit on a slope with an East-North East aspect, catching the morning sun and with a clear view to Phillip Island. The altitude brings cooler evenings which help lengthen the ripening process. Slow ripening allows the fruit to build flavours, bringing the fine perfume, the delicate, red fruit and the length on the palate that we look for.

Much like the inspiration for our wine-making style, we looked to Burgundy for the layout of our vineyard. French trellising of vines is far denser than Australia’s - up to five times as dense. Emulating the European technique, our canes sit low, at 1m off the ground, and the trunks are more closely packed in.

Pickers reveal Staindl Wines vines to remove grapes on a sunny day while poplars tower in the background

Working on metre-high vines is sweaty and back-breaking work. However, it is a labour of love and the French insist this viticulture produces the best results. We’re inclined to agree. Each vine vigorously competes with its neighbours for nutrients, resulting in smaller berries and a smaller crop, but with more intense flavours.

Further still, we do not irrigate. Our experience tells us that irrigation alters the specific attributes of the vineyard, which define the character in the wine. The challenge is to keep the vines in sufficiently good health to survive even the driest periods. Happily, the friable and sandy loam layers atop the clay level at the vineyard allows the tap roots to access water below ground.

Following vintage in April, our team meticulously collects the cane prunings to create the base for our biodynamic compost, re-introducing nutrients to the soil over a 4-year cycle. 
Picker with their back turned from the camera stands amongst rows of vines, working in the sunThe site’s soil derives from a weathered-down flow of tertiary basalt rock following a volcanic eruption of nearby Arthur’s Seat some 340 million years ago. Red Hill earth is deep, chocolate-brown with traces of iron buckshot. Like bones, the iron helps the skeleton of the grapes’ flavour-structure stand taller. You may experience this as minerality in your glass.

As a member of the Mornington Peninsula Vignerons Association we have assisted scientist Dr Erica Winter to conduct field tests in our vineyard. We regularly test for trace elements in our petioles (the stalk between the leaf and the stem of the vine) as well as soil, salinity and temperature tests. We use two temperature monitors placed at different positions in the vineyard to monitor the ‘bunch zone’ temperature. 
Staindl Wines harvest of white grapes are loaded onto the back of our truck by winemaker Paul Staindl
Precisely where the fruit bunches are hanging, the temperature is measured every 20 minutes throughout every day of the growing season (December to April). The data is collected to understand the effects of varying temperatures and the diurnal range of the temperature in the ‘bunch’ zone.
Much like our vineyard, we believe our house located on the property should be as sustainable as possible too. To help cut carbon emissions, we installed solar panels on our roof which produce electricity, we collect our own rainwater and we use septic tanks for recycling waste.

It’s not only the vines who profit from Red Hill’s rich soil. Year round, our family harvests our quarter-acre vegetable patch and an orchard comprising citrus, fruits and nut trees to munch on as we work. Even our vegetable scraps get fed to the chickens and ducks to turn them into eggs. The two dams at the base of the property are used to irrigate our vegetable patch and orchard (and not our vines - but you already know that).