Mak­ing wine the or­ganic way

Central Leader - - NEWS - By ROSE CAW­LEY

Mandy and Wayne Allen are glass half-full kind of peo­ple.

And their glass is full of wine.

Wine that they have cul­ti­vated from the clay soils of their or­ganic win­ery, Tu­ranga Creek, in Whit­ford.

The cou­ple bought the prop­erty some 20 years ago as a for­got­ten horse stud.

‘‘We lived here for quite a few years and it was run­down so we de­cided to do a bit of land­scap­ing and thought we’d plant a few grapes,’’ Mrs Allen says.

That non­cha­lant de­ci­sion soon gath­ered mo­men­tum and the cou­ple hired a con­sul­tant to help guide them through the start-up.

She says even­tu­ally they em­ployed a vine­yard man­ager who changed the en­tire game.

‘‘Rather clas­si­cally we said to him ‘ we want the vine­yard look­ing gor­geous, it has to al­ways look beau­ti­ful and per­fect’,’’ she says with a wry smile.

‘‘He said ‘well I can do that but you are go­ing to have in­fe­rior wine’. He went and dug up some of our soil and said, ‘the soil is dead and you need to put life back into it and the only way to do that is to go or­ganic’.’’

No longer was it about land­scap­ing and looks, it be­came all about the se­ri­ous busi­ness of or­ganic wine­mak­ing.

They stopped us­ing chem­i­cal spray to make the rows look pretty and started down a path which even­tu­ally led to bio­dy­nam­ics.

‘‘Or­gan­ics is ba­si­cally her­bi­cide and pes­ti­cide free, bio­dy­nam­ics is a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent,’’ she says.

‘‘It is based off Ru­dolf Steiner and it is go­ing back to the old days where they learnt to do things be­fore sprays were even known about.’’

She says it took a while to get her head around it and she is still learn­ing from ex­pe­ri­enced vine­yard man­ager Mar­garet Boswell.

‘‘We fol­low the bio­dy­namic cal­en­dar – ev­ery­thing we do in the vine­yard re­volves around the moon and the con­stel­la­tions of the stars,’’ Mrs Allen says.

Within that cal­en­dar there are dif­fer­ent rhythms from sea­sonal to daily, she says.

‘‘If we were spray­ing the soil we would spray in the af­ter­noon be­cause the earth breathes out in the morn­ing and in the af­ter­noon it breathes in so it draws into the earth.

‘‘It is like how a dan­de­lion will open up in the morn­ing and then in the evening it closes up like it is draw­ing back into the earth.’’

She says while other vine­yards use con­ven­tional sprays, theirs are bio­dy­namic – Prepa­ra­tion 500 for ex­am­ple.

‘‘We take the ma­nure of a lac­tat­ing cow and we put that cow ma­nure in­side cow horns that we have col­lected and we bury them in the ground for six to nine months. It sounds weird, I know.’’

She says when they open the horn they have a po­tent live fer­tiliser.

‘‘You only need a small amount per hectare to en­liven the soil. We use it and make a fer­tiliser tea out of it and we spray that on the soil.’’

She says be­ing able to sip their own wine at the end of all the hard work makes it worth­while.

‘‘The sheep help us leaf pluck, we hand pick – it is a lot of man­ual labour, each vine is prob­a­bly touched by hu­man hands 10 times within its grow­ing cy­cle.’’

She says Tu­ranga Creek is now en­trenched in the Allen fam­ily’s way of life. Their daugh­ter Laura is set to be­come a wine­maker and their other two chil­dren are em­ployed at the win­ery.

‘‘We didn’t see this in our fu­ture, not in a mil­lion years,’’ Mrs Allen says.

‘‘We love our wine, we love the win­ery. How it got this big who knows? But it is re­ally sat­is­fy­ing.’’

Grow­ing life: Mandy Allen stands among the vines they first planted back in 2004.

Hard work: Laura Allen, left, shows some work­ers how to graft another va­ri­ety on to the trunk of a vine.

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