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  • Sustaining Quality

    Using biodynamic principles, Tumblong Hills vigneron Simon Robertson is creating a sustainable future in a region rich with an historic past.

    Back in the late 1980s, Vigneron Simon Robertson attended the annual Biodynamics conference held at Linton Greenwoods orchard outside of Shepparton in Victoria. There, the knowledge of soil structure shown by pioneering biodynamic farmer Alex Podolinsky created a resounding impact to the way Simon would farm grapes. By the mid-90s he was an A grade Certified Demeter producer. “It became my lightbulb moment – soil structure gives you wine structure,” he describes. “Why not do what I love, and do it with minimal impact?” – a question he kept coming back to throughout his certification. Today, Simon uses his knowledge of biodynamics to create the healthiest of soils at Tumblong Hills vineyard, situated just south-west of Gundagai in the foothills of the New South Wales Snowy Mountains. This approach is the perfect fit for a Vigneron focussed on ecological practices. And whilst Simon and his team are creating benefits for future generations, they’re also ensuring a superior soil structure.

    To achieve this, they repurpose vineyard organic waste to encourage a diverse mix of pasture plant species, as well as invite sheep from the next paddock to graze the vineyard pastures. “When you create humus-rich topsoil that maintains soil health, you provide an ideal environment for vines to feed naturally,” Simon explains, “water soluble fertilisers are not even in your mind-set.” These healthy soils also mean greater moisture retention and therefore there’s less need to draw water from the mighty Murrumbidgee River. In this humus rich topsoil, Simon explains, “grows some of the most sought-after fruit in the southwest slopes of NSW. This includes several clones of Shiraz, which produce wines with purity and structure – some of the country’s finest, along with exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Sangiovese, Nero D’Avola, Grenache, Fiano and Chenin Blanc.”

    THE CONDITIONS FOR QUALITY

    While Simon and the team work hard to ensure the superior structure of the soil, Gundagai provides a quality starting point with its soils rich in ironstone. Combine that with cool evening breezes throughout the growing season that help preserve delicate, complex fruit characters, and you’ve got ideal conditions. But vineyard plantings are a small part of Gundagai’s rich history. As Simon describes, “The history of the once traditional meeting place, where drovers and prospectors alike gathered to cross the Murrumbidgee, speaks to you from the walls of the buildings on Sheridan Street. You feel the history.” “And they’re uplifting stories,” he continues, “enlightening your mood with tales of bravery and survival amid duress; that only the harsh Australian climate and an unpredictable river can dish up.” That’s why Simon is keen to see people exploring Gundagai. As he says, “It is the quintessential country town with a couple of old pubs, eclectic museums and great cafés – you will not forget a walk down the main street.” And let’s not forget its many outstanding wines!

    From Wine Selectors, Selector Magazine

  • Jack of all terroirs

    Simon Robertson of Tumblong Hills is a second generation pioneering vigneron with a reputation for harnessing terroir.

    As a child, Simon Robertson remembers, he says, “Siphoning wine from barrel to flagons in the cellar under the Barwang house with my family.” His father Peter established Barwang Winery in the Hilltops regions of New South Wales in the 1960s and along with it, a reputation as a pioneering winemaker and viticulturist. Having spent his childhood immersed in his father’s craft, Simon’s future was set. Having worked at Barwang and participated in viticulture and winemaking courses, he looked to Europe to expand his knowledge. There he discovered the likes of Château d’Yquem in Sauternes, France, and Tokaj in Hungary. “Spending time in Sauternes and Tokaj was a dream come true,” he says, “as my favourite wines are made from grapes affected with noble rot.” But it’s in an unlikely destination that Simon has found what he says is “pure inspiration.”

    “The Deccan Plateau in India with its magical formations and the remarkable soils created by the Deccan Traps lava flow is something to behold. To work with these soils is a privilege.” Some of Simon’s year is spent working in India, where, he says, “Getting your head around tropical viticulture, two prunings a year with no dormancy, involves a rethink of traditional temperate climate viticulture.” But even in this unfamiliar landscape he’s found reminders of home. “The passion of the people involved in the industry reminds me a lot of my father’s early days,” he says. “When he converted farming country in the southwest slopes of New South Wales to vineyard and his establishment of the Barwang cellar door and winery.”

    ON HOME SOIL

    It’s back on his father’s old stomping ground that Simon spends the majority of his days as general manager and vigneron of Tumblong Hills in the Southern New South Wales region of Gundagai. And like his father before him, Simon is known as a pioneer of his craft. But his know-how reaches far beyond the vine. From growing the grapes, to making the wine, to selling it and balancing the books, he’s seen by his team as a jack of all trades. However, he says, “You cannot be a jack of all trades without loyal, talented people around you and I am lucky enough to have that in all three processes, some of those working relationships spanning 25 years.”

    And his knowledge is expansive, stretching from the tropics of India to the low lying foothills of the Snowy Mountains. In these unique Australian conditions, he explains, “The effect of the katabatic winds from the high mountains can be seen in our wines, giving the impression they are from a cooler climate.” Simon’s ability to harness diverse terroir has contributed to an impressive portfolio of premium Tumblong Hills wines; a legacy he’s keen to continue. “Going forward,” he says, “with the luxury of 200 hectares of vineyard in its prime, I can only see growth for the Tumblong Hills brand and recognition of Gundagai as a region where quality marketable wines are grown.”

    From Wine Selectors, Selector Magazine

    Find the original article here: wineselectors.com.au/selector-magazine/wine/tumblong-hills

  • Family matters: Newcastle Herald columnist Jeff Corbet discusses Maginnity

    Excerpt from The Secrets Of Happy Caravanning, AUGUST 28 2017

    “The Tumblong Hills 2016 Maginnity Tumbarumba Chardonnay is so named in honour of police sergeant David Maginnity, who at age 40 was shot dead by the bushranger Mad Dog Morgan in June 1864. David Maginnity was my great great grandfather, who was returning to Tumbarumba from a 20-mile trip on horseback when he encountered Morgan.”

    Read full article>>

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