Dirt to Glass
As a phrase, ‘Dirt to Glass’ may lack the romance of typical ‘wine-speak’, but it has a compelling purpose to it – to tell the story of a wine and the passage that it has taken from the vineyard to the glass.
The western ridge of the Barossa Valley is exceptional grape growing country, amongst the finest in the world. Located 41 degrees latitude south, and 65 kilometers (40 miles) north east of Adelaide in South Australia, vines were planted in the Barossa Valley with cuttings transported from France and Spain by the first European settlers in the 1840s.
Today, courtesy of the ongoing commitment of multiple generations of local grape growers and the continuing absence of phylloxera, the Barossa Valley remains home to the oldest vineyards in the world.
Australia may be the ‘lucky country’, but it is also the driest, inhabited continent in the world, with South Australia its driest state, and rainfall in the Barossa Valley rarely exceeding 500mm (20 inches) a year. With water a limited and costly resource in this part of the world, vineyard yields are low with the district average of less than 3 tonne to the acre (7.5 tonne/hectare).
While a journey to produce any wine invariably starts with a vineyard, when it comes to the task of producing something of exceptional quality, there are many other assets and elements to consider, too.
This is where the Barossa Valley’s ancient landscape, temperate climate of wet cold winters balanced by warm dry summers and blessed with old vines, elevates wine from this region to belong among the very best in the world, such as Hentley Farm, Seppeltsfield, Torbreck and Two Hands. It is the reason why some local families are now in their eighth successive generation of grape growing since those early pioneering settlers, and it is similarly the explanation for why our best is still yet to come – this is honoured, ancient land, and it demands and rewards patience.
At MSV we embrace a ‘Dirt to Glass’ approach to winemaking, a belief with its foundations in the notion that wine is grown, not made. Ownership and the ability to influence the vineyard at source is a huge benefit, and one that evolves each vintage as we challenge every decision we make with regards to the growing, harvesting, making and maturing of our wines.
Only through this approach can we be sure that our wines are a true expression of the Western Ridge’s landscape – this particular and distinctive escarpment in the Barossa Valley. Each vintage and every harvest is a challenge to transfer the inheritance from our vineyard to your glass, and to deliver the distinctive generous character that the reputation of Barossa Valley red wine is built on.
Our ‘Dirt to Glass’ story begins in our Greenock and Gomersal Estate vineyards, among our 250 acres located on the 12 kilometre stretch of ancient soil that forms the Barossa Valley’s Western Ridge.
From Gomersal in the south through Marananga and Seppeltsfield to Greenock, Kalimna, Ebenezer and Moppa in the north, these are amongst the oldest landscapes on the planet; riddled with ancient ironstone, calcite, blue slate, cracking black and sandy clay loams. And whilst Shiraz may well be the hero, it could equally be argued that the Barossa Valley is also home to some of Australia’s finest Grenache, Mataro and Semillon, and, the most sought-after discovery of all, small patches of exceptional Cabernet. The remarkable diversity of this landscape defines our estate vineyards and enables us to produce exceptional quality fruit from so many grape varieties.
The journey to produce wines of purity, detail and intensity starts with sustainable farming, demanding minimal external inputs to the vineyards in favour of organic practices that continually restore the old, weathered soils. The vines grow amongst a natural environment of bushlands, native flora and fauna reserves, and open-range pasture, with dams located in the vineyards to capture and store rainfall. This source is augmented by a limited allocation of bore water and irrigated water, the latter sourced from the Murray River, approximately 50 kilometers to the east of Barossa.
The vintage cycle begins in late September with bud burst, and flowering occurs in late November. We monitor the vineyards for downey and powdery mildew, and institute organic spray programs only when required. Certain areas of our estate vineyards are prone to frost, a risk most apparent in November and early December, and one we mitigate by placing portable frost fans in the vineyards. Harvest along the Western Ridge begins with our early-rising Semillon in February after the heat of summer; Shiraz hits its straps as the summer crests and begins to fade; Cabernet likes to linger as long as possible into the Autumn (Fall); and the whole cycle finishes with stubborn, headstrong Mataro in late March/early April.
Fruit grown in our vineyards at Gomersal and Greenock is both hand-picked and machine harvested. Our winemaker determines the dates for picking each vineyard block, with his decisions influenced by the balance of flavour he tastes in the fruit on the vine, and not by chemistry alone.
Our machine harvester features an on-board destemmer and optical scanner which ensures clean picking and sorting of high quality grapes, and ensures little or no MOG (matter other than grape) makes its way into the winemaking process. Grapes are carefully crushed, and then allocated to one of our thirty-four 6.5 tonne open-air, temperature-controlled fermenters.
Making wine at MSV is a hands-on endeavour with pump-overs and plunging all completed by our vintage team. On completion of fermentation, a sample is taken and tasted to decide if the correct structure is present before pressing to tank. Once wine has settled in tank, we then select oak to suit both the vineyard and variety with a view to enhancing structure, complexity and optimum longevity. Typically, our wines spend between one year and eighteen months maturing in limited new and mostly seasoned French and American barrels of varying sizes, before blending and preparing for bottling.
Ultimately, we believe that ‘Dirt to Glass’ is a journey unique to every wine, and one that can be shared only once.
We hope you enjoy your journey with our wines.