Making wine the organic way
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.