Good friend of Renzaglia wines and prominent ecologist Johannes Bauer, recounts his time spent on our Bella Luna Vineyard picking Chardonnay fruit over the weekend from the unique lens of a passionate conservationist.
A juvenile bearded dragon in the Renzaglia vineyards posing between chardonnay grapes during the harvest Sunday the 5th of March. One suspects the attractions for this beautiful and harmless reptile in the vineyard habitat consists of insect life (for example the big fat hawk moth caterpillars) as well as the grapes with their high content of sugar and the good cover provided by the vine foliage in a vineyard that is minimally sprayed.
One can be sure that the ‘damage’ caused by eating grapes by that territorial and not very abundant species is minor and more than offset by the good it does in devouring insects eating grapes or grape leaves. This species is also big enough especially when adult (up to and more than 600mm) to scare-off even large grape-eating birds, which manage to get under the net. Like the sacrifice of part of the crop to a god, a small ‘sacrifice’ to wildlife is acceptable to most farmers and but a small tribute to a rich and beautiful environment.
Bearded dragons are not very common in our area any longer in cleared out and overgrazed landscapes, especially if dead and down timber is also removed for firewood, are not the only precious wildlife one finds. Even on my property with its plentiful cover and insect food they are special and we suspect that fox predation plays a large role in their scarcity. Apart from the 10 species of Parrots in the area, of which at least four like grapes (Crimson Rosella, King Parrot, Sulphur crested Cockatoo) which make netting a major factor for a good harvest (and a good night’s sleep), we can also see, as we did this afternoon, beautiful, endangered Diamond Firetails whose documented presence in the Renzaglia vineyard, make it an important conservation site.
A vineyard can be an important place for wildlife conservation, especially if its surrounded by a good number of pasture trees and in proximity of extensive forest areas such as the “Wisemans Creek Remnant. Watching the insects, birds, spiders, kangaroos and reptiles in the Renzaglia vineyard it is clear that this small area settled in a cleared yet tree rich and recovering landscape is a quite distinct little vineyard-ecosystem which, throughout the years, provides shelter, a certain stability/protection and a variety of foods to quite a range of species. One of the major determinants for the survival of wildlife & biodiversity in a rural landscape which is dominated by agricultural crops, is the remaining suitability of the crop and the presence of adjoining areas to wildlife (source areas). We know well that in traditional agricultural landscapes, where small areas, diverse crops and great variability through ownership (e.g. a lazy (absent) farmer next to a very busy one) leads to the diversity necessary for an often astonishing number of species to be able to survive in even modern agricultural landscapes. This is of course particularly the case if farmers minimise the application of herbicides and abstain e.g. from using insecticides against this year’s abundant yellow winged grasshoppers, great food for birds and attracting ibises which eat many other things also.
As we approach the 2017 vintage, we come to a time when decisions must be made regarding the types of wines we want to make. Do we try something new or refine tried and tested processes?
The old man in me wants to keep everything the same. After all what’s wrong with tradition and stability, that is “you know what you’re going to get from Renzaglia Wines year after year”?
So, Sandy, the boys and I have been talking about the idea of introducing an early drinking, preservative free wine to the portfolio. Well, I should say Sam, my oldest, is the main culprit. Preservative free, organic, chemical free, orange, pet nat are names for “new” styles of wine that are today becoming more and more sought after. It’s a bit mind boggling to an older wine guy like me…. why would you want to compromise the longevity of a wine for some kind of “ideology”? Or, maybe there is some substance to these new wine trends and at least one is worth pursuing?
In fact, there is no such thing as a “preservative free” wine. All wines contain preserving agents including tannins, alcohol, acidity, carbon dioxide and, yes you guessed it, sulphites. When winemakers call a wine preservative free, they mean no preservatives have been added, sulphur dioxide or SO2 being the most common. SO2 has been around for centuries and seems to take the blame for most people’s bad reactions to wine; including nausea, headaches and rashes.
Conscious consumerism, as something that has come about in the last decade presents it’s pros and cons. In a very similar manner to the “Gluten Free Movement”, there are people with legitimate allergies to certain additives in wine. But are the rest of the crowd just going along for the ride? In fact, most experts think the phenols in wine (like tannins and flavour compounds) are to blame for people’s negative reactions to wines (red wines being more phenolic).
Organic wine making is widely embraced around the world, I think it is important that people feel the products they are consuming are not born from industrial agriculture and the organic brand provides this piece of mind for many. Organic wines very often contain added preservatives like SO2, fair enough right? Who in the wine community doesn’t want to crack open a wine they made 20 years ago and be awe struck that it is still drinking well.
We, at Renzaglia Wines, have made many changes to our grape growing and winemaking practices to minimise unnecessary chemicals and revitalise the soils.
As we move forward in our vineyard management practices, one top priority is holistic management of the land, as we build an ecosystem that supports all types of life (spiders, beetles, kangaroos, etc.) we hope the resilience of our sites will too develop and in turn nullify the need to use chemicals. Whilst we do not brand ourselves as organic, our philosophy and resolve to produce high quality wine in a holistic and sustainable manner is at the core of what we do.
There is something incredibly energising when I walk around the garden to see what has come out to greet me each day.
You know how all true gardeners love to share their plants and associate plants in their gardens with people, places and times in their life…. I had to take flower photos so I could share my pleasure and a few of my memories. Pity you can’t smell them!
These iris were shared with me by my neighbour several years ago. Good neighbours!
After an amazing 596mm of rain from January through to September the flowers have been cheering with great splashes of colour.
I remember buying one Dutch iris bulb at a fete in Perthville many years ago. This is one of several patches from that one bulb.
These poppies take turns like the bang and spread of a firework in the sky. They only last for a couple of days but are replaced by the next and then next.
My mother gave me poppy seeds years ago along with many of the plants in our garden. She’s gone now (but not really).
And these roses. I can’t wait each year for their romantic, full bouquet of deep claret abundance, gracing our trellis. My sweet hubby gave me a rose plant each time one of our boys were born.
“Look up here, we’re here”.
Corsican Sweet pea seeds were given to me to try to grow. So excited when they came out in bloom. They have the most delightful fragrance. The same sweet hubby is complaining because I planted them on the vege patch fence and he cant eat them!
And my sole, struggling, unwavering tulip. I bought several bulbs more than 13 years ago and being a lazy gardener have never treated them the way I should.
This guy popped out to say “I’m still here”.
What a year for the Ceanothus. The bees were in pollen heaven! Am glad I captured this before the hail storm which knocked all the tiny saphire florettes to the ground.
Then there’s the white chiffon of the poppies, looking out over the vineyard….
And the daisy bush….. It has come back into its full glory after almost dying during the last drought.
Lastly, my Augustus Pembroke Eaglebeak Kanga lavender garden….the last time my dad came to stay (he’s gone now too), he helped me gather rocks, dislodging them with his home-made walking stick and we built this garden around an old tractor tyre (a brainwave to solve our disposal problem).
We planted this lavender, which he had previously struck for me and named the garden after the nick names he had been given throughout his colourful life.
Mark & Sandy Renzaglia
38 Bosworth Falls, O’Connell NSW 2795
Cellar Door at O’Connell vineyard BY APPOINTMENT
Cellar Door OPEN SUNDAYS at Algona, Mount Panorama Estate
phone: +61 02 63375756 or 0413 196 036