The Latin Quarter a.k.a Our Climate Change Vineyard
The climate in Mudgee is undeniably changing. This hasn’t just come from farmers’ tales of the good old days (although you can’t deny they’re a great first hand source of how their land has changed over a lifetime), but is backed by research across Australia, and the world. David has been paying close attention to the research from the Bureau of Meteorology in the University of Tasmania, which has charted what they expect to happen over the next 50 years.
Like so many in Australia, not only does David & Kim’s home and livelihood come directly from the land, but they are also driven by the desire to leave this country in better shape for generations to come. So it is no surprise David has taken this long term view to his viticulture practises as we expand our vineyards.
How is this different from our other vineyards?
The first step of thinking to the future is selecting varieties that are better suited to warmer climates than the typical French ones (like Shiraz & Cabernet) that dominate the Australian wine scene. Instead we are looking towards varieties originating from Southern Italy and the Mediterranean where it’s hotter and drier.
The first 4 varieties David has chosen to plant are Nero D’Avola, Ansonica, Vermentino & Pecorino. Later in the year these will be joined by Falanghina and Aglianico also. Four of these six varieties will produce white grapes, an atypical choice for David. As he explains:
I’ve never been much in favour of white wines in Mudgee, because they’re typically very heavy. So we’re trying to make a wine with more lightness and delicacy, matched to where the climate is going in 30-50 years. We’re using our understanding of trellis design and vineyard management to have less intervention, working with natural rainfall & organic pest controls.
When it comes to the planting, we’re gone old school. This new vineyard uses contour planting, a system that seems to have been stomped out with the popularisation of machine harvesting & mass production, leading to the straight layout you see in most vineyards these days.
When planting wheat on this same paddock prior to it becoming our new vineyard site, we put in contours to harvest the rainfall and stop erosion, as heavy rainfall can cause you to lose landmass as the soil washes away. With the climate predictions expecting rainfall to become less regular, but in higher velocity when it does come, this new vineyard utilises contour planting with the rows having ‘S’ bends to maximise rainfall retention and minimise soil loss.
While we establish this new vineyard and the vines gain strength, irrigation has initially been installed. However, in three to five years, like all our other vines, these too will become self-sufficient as we restrict the amount of water we apply and they ultimately become unirrigated. This is important to our minimal intervention and organic practises, and means our agricultural systems are more drought resistant.
Although most of our existing varieties, such as the Zinfandel and Shiraz, are un-trellised and based on a bush vine system to maximise airflow and increase disease resistance, many of these new varieties will be trained up the stakes to a trellis wire. This reflects the needs of these new varieties, as white grapes often need foliage manipulation to enhance ripening. The next few months are crucial in forming their growth habits, and next year we may start to see a few grape bunches before we prune them back. By vintage 2024 we should have a substantial amount of grapes ready to do our first trials. David claims if they fail, he’ll be out of here…
Looking to the future
Although this vineyard could be seen as a resignation to an impending and irreversible climate change, it is far from such. Now more than ever we are backing our operations with regenerative and sustainable practises including vigorous waste reduction, recycling and proactive land management systems, all to reduce our business footprint and ensure the longevity of the land from which we live & work.
However, as all our agricultural practises at Lowe Family Wine Co, from organics, biodynamics and permaculture, are designed to reflect, emulate and work in harmony with nature, we must still acknowledge the predicted warming climate here in Mudgee. And to continue producing the quality products we do, we must adapt. This is how David puts it:
We want to be fellow travellers with nature. So although we’ll continue doing our very best to reduce the rate of these changes where we can, we must also adapt if we hope to continue producing great wine that reflects this region.
Last week David took to the new vineyard to run our team through how it’s progressing, and what to expect from it in the future. You can hear all about from the master himself in the video following. And we look forward to you trying these new wines in 2024!
Words by Bronte Currie. Video & Images by Hannah Edensor.