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