Log In / Join Now

Sustainable Agriculture in Barossa Valley

Stuart Bourne couldn't have hoped for better ripening this year in the Barossa Valley.
2009 Southern Harvest Winemakers
See Also

Posted: Apr 6, 2009 4:28pm ET

By Stuart Bourne

Posted by Stuart Bourne

Week 9 of the 2009 Barossa Valley Estate vintage is now done and dusted, and the way it looks, there may even be a small Easter break for all of us this weekend. I think this will be good for everybody, as the last nine weeks, although very ordered and planned, have nonetheless been quite an adventure and very busy. I would imagine that the week leading up to Easter will be the last week of crush, but if the weather stays mild, we may wait until just afterward to get the last couple of vineyards in.

On that, the weather again has been picture-perfect for us this past week—mild nights and warm days—but a change has come late in the week, and the temperatures have dropped slightly. Nothing to be concerned with, it will simply slow down the last ripening of the few vineyards left waiting to be harvested. I really must thank Mother Nature who, after being a complete cow for a couple of weeks before harvest started with her little heat wave tantrum, has smiled sweetly on all of us here in the Barossa Valley since, with conditions I could only write about in a very good textbook titled "How to ripen grapes successfully in the Barossa Valley." Here’s hoping she continues to smile for a couple more weeks, after which I have ordered in a decent winter rainfall. (Crossed fingers for this one.)

So where are we up to now? It’s easy—we have a winery with a whole bunch of small-batch ferments, laying about at various stages of the winemaking process, fermenting away quietly, being settled out as they finish, before heading off for a little snooze in some lovely little barrels. I’ll wrap up harvest and summarize in the next few weeks, but still very buoyed up by what we have so far.

BVE staffers Will and Rauri are smiling ear to ear over 2009.
The first photo shows an indication of this, with Will and Rauri, the dynamic duo, beaming away at each other as we taste through the ferments on the bench. Just another great shot of daily life here at Barossa Valley Estate, and since I know what they are tasting, I can assure you that their smiles are very genuine, as we slurp away through the kaleidoscope of colors, flavors and ferments of 2009.
Recent additions Ryan and Pete have had a successful vintage at BVE.

The next photo is of Ryan and Pete, both of whom have joined our merry bunch of warriors to help us with the vintage. Hardworking, cheery chaps like these two are another critical part of the team that makes wine here, and both boys have beavered away for the last couple of months, each day pumping over the red ferments, to extract the color, tannins, body and depth that lie waiting within the fruit. Well done boys on a great job this year.

Next shot is the woodlot, and what is that I hear again, as a scream from cyberspace? Easy, the woodlot is the final resting place for our recycled winery wastewater. But what has that got to do with winemaking? Well, nothing in terms of the bottled wine you see from us, but everything to do with sustainable agriculture and recycling of resources. Our winery here is very environmentally friendly in so many respects, but I wanted to just point out one part for now. When we first set up this new facility, the question was raised as to what to do with all of the wastewater generated in the winemaking process, from washing down all of our equipment and barrels etc.
BVE's healthy woodlot is the result of sustainable aggriculture.
We came up with the concept that we would plant out a bare field next to the winery, that was once used for sheep grazing, and had been de-vegetated over time by the previous land users, to a large population of a native tree species. The species we chose was Casuarina glauca, a little bit like a native she-oak, and looks also a little like a conifer. These native trees are very drought tolerant, but can also use water up when it is available. The final reforestation project ended up at 25 acres, containing more than 13,000 individual native trees. What we do is to catch all of our winery wastewater, treat it and filter it, and then irrigate it out to the reforestation project. The trees will then use the recycled wastewater. We monitor the entire project very carefully, and do regular soils, tissue and water testing, to ensure we have only a positive effect on the land. The trees are also, of course, a great way to soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as we all know that forests are the key to our environment soaking up carbon dioxide.

The upshot is that as we make our wines, our attention to sustainable agriculture practices and maintaining our environment with a positive effect on it is of paramount importance to us here at Barossa Valley Estate. Australian wineries are very mindful of the need to be environmentally sound and long-visioned in our approach, and our efforts are up there with the best of them. The producers of the Barossa Valley take a huge amount of pride in presenting their wines to you, with care and attention paid to the earth from which it came. Look how healthy these trees are, and to give you an idea that even though you may only see a bottle of wine as the fruits of our endeavors, the work that goes on behind the scenes is very detailed, and spans so many different fields.

I could go on for hours about sustainable agriculture, etc., but will leave you again for now, with only the best wishes, and desire to share cold beer, good food and great wine with excellent company and look forward to reporting in again soon.

Be safe,

Stuey B and all the crew at Barossa Valley Estate

Brian Corcoran
Cary, NC USA —  April 9, 2009 12:49pm ET
Stuart,I just want to compliment you on the quality of your blog entries. They are far and away the best I've read for harvest time diaries. Your enthusiasm for your job is really evident. I can't wait for the '09 shiraz.
Stuart Bourne
April 13, 2009 11:02pm ET
Hi Brian in Cary, NC, many thanks for the lovely feedback. The enthusiasm comes from being one of the luckiest blokes in the world, to do what I do for a living. Barossa Valley, Shiraz and all that comes with it......how lucky is that? You will love the 09's, one day when they are released. Thanks for the support.

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.