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Small batch, cool climate, Gippsland wines

Individual parcels grown on unique sites across Victoria’s most southerly, pristine, diverse, maritime region.

Gippsland Wine Company Pty Ltd

6835 South Gippsland Hwy, Loch, VIC 3945, Australia (Open Friday to Sunday 11 am-5 pm) 0477 555 235 or cellardoor@gippslandwinecompany.com

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“After a life in wine, I chose Gippsland.”

 

Gippsland Wine Company is halfway to Wilsons Promontory on the South Gippsland Highway, around 100 km south of Melbourne. The roaring Bass Coast winds keep the air crisp and tractors moving hay bales slow the winding roads down to a crawl. The fertile, rolling pasture make it prime dairy and beef cattle country and there are plenty of weekenders with untapped vineyards on their properties, planted from the 1970s when the region experienced a resurgence. Rather than an agricultural monoculture, the region boasts natural biodiversity that is celebrated on the local flora and fauna on Gippsland Wine Company’s wine labels.

Gippsland Wine Company is based on the Loch Village Vineyard and Cellar Door in the unofficial appellation of South Gippsland, marked by rolling hills and valleys, maritime influence and dark loams. Long, cool seasons make it ideal for the early ripening varieties, including GWC’s award-winning Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. And, elegant, savoury examples of late ripening grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese.

Gippsland Wine Company vigneron, Mark Heath spent 40 years’ working across wine sales, marketing and production in Barossa Valley, Clare Valley and Yarra Valley before venturing into his own vineyards in Gippsland, finally settling at Loch. Mark’s long experience and knowledge of the industry prepared him for his role as Associate Judge at the Gippsland Wine Awards. As well as Loch Village Vineyard, Mark sought out neglected vineyards for long term contracts, coaxing them back to life rather than revert to grazing pasture. Site selection is invariably north-south planting to provide a bit of westerly leaf cover from the sun and wind.

“Loch Village Vineyard - the home block.”

Mark Heath has selected a collection of sites with interesting microclimates best suited to the varieties planted, taking a minimal intervention approach to viticulture and cropping at a limited two to three tonnes to the acre to keep fruit concentration. Mark works with award-winning winemaker and local Wonthaggi-raised, Marcus Satchell (Dirty Three/Satch Wines) during vintage, who takes care to let the individual parcels of Gippsland terroir express themselves.

In South Gippsland, Loch Village Vineyard is the mature home block, sloping north-facing vineyard planted to Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay first planted in 1999. The vines are planted 1.5 metres apart and are traditionally cane pruned to achieve optimum quality fruit. Moyarra Vineyard is planted to Pinot Noir Clone 115, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon bought as a weekender and carefully managed by Mark and his team.

“Discover & nurture mature sites.”

Also, in South Gippsland, Lochonia Vineyard is planted to Riesling, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. It was the established Bass Valley vineyard that fell into disrepair after its original owner passed away. Position on the crest of a steep hill, it is on grey loam with clay and sandstone subsoil. Jeetho Vineyard is a parcel of 600 vines planted on a steep northerly aspect to Pinot Noir Dijon Clone 777, a dark, rich, velvety, Burgundian clone, that Mark plans to make into Sparkling Blanc de Noir over three years (2021). Rhyll Vineyard is on Phillip Island, the westerly edge of the region and quite close to the Mornington designation. It sits on basalt derived, clay loam over clay soils, 500 metres from the Bay and two kilometres from Bass Strait.

In East Gippsland, Wyanga Vineyard was planted in 1970 to Riesling and Gewürztraminer, close to the Victorian Alps and Lakes Entrance on gravelly loam soils over volcanic clay. Maffra Vineyard with the Victorian Alps to the north and Gippsland Lakes to the south east on yellow and brown sandy clay loam. Calulu Vineyard on the Gippsland Lakes and near the 400-million-year-old limestone Buchan Caves in East Gippsland is planted on red, silty clay loam over limestone subsoil.

Gippsland, Victoria, AU

Heat Degree Days: 1300-1470

Season Rainfall: 420-500 mm

Mean January Temp: 18.1-19°C

Harvest: Early March to end April

Chief viticultural hazards are drought and flood, bird pressure and mildew (necessitating the use of traditionally biodynamic copper sulphate spray)

The sweeping Gippsland zone stretches from Melbourne to the south-eastern tip of Australia. As Oz Clarke noted, ‘The distance between its westernmost winery, Phillip Island Estate, and its easternmost Wyanga Park (at Lakes Entrance), is 240 kilometres as the crow flies.’ The region had wine production stretching back to the 19th century, ceasing during WWI and experienced a revival in the 1970s. Although, total production is still very small preventing the official designation of the sub-regions South Gippsland, West Gippsland and East Gippsland.

South Gippsland, the coolest of all, runs from Phillip Island, the regional centre Leongatha, down to Wilson Promontory national park, with Loch Village some 100 km south east of Melbourne (37° 30'S latitude). It’s often rolling, green hills (20-50 m altitude) are prime dairy country, folding in on one another to create a collection of microclimates. These vineyards are influenced by Westernport Bay (15 km to the west) and the onshore winds of Bass Strait (30 km south-west) making rainfall higher and more predictable, too.

Windy and often wet along the Bass Coast, historically the very cool maritime climate has tended to early ripening varieties such as Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. But as the climate has changed, Cabernet Sauvignon now reliably ripens producing highly perfumed, refined examples. Soils vary significantly, ranging from dark black loams to lighter sandy soils in the grey to grey-brown spectrum with mottled, yellow to red clayey subsoils.