Roz Michelini, North East Farmer, September 2011
It is not by chance that this relatively young label, Rutherglen Estates, has emerged from one of Australia’s oldest and best known wine regions. The 260 hectare vineyard and state-of-the-art winery was established after careful planning with the intention of redefining the expectations of wine production in the Rutherglen region.
Just seven years on and Rutherglen Estates’ vineyards is as well established as the winery’s reputation for producing a range of classic varietals and innovative table wines. With plantings of grape varieties more commonly associated with the Rhone Valley and Italy, the established vineyards are now producing Viognier, Marsanne, Fiano, Savagnin, Shiraz, Sangiovese, Mourvedre, Grenache and Durif.
Creating a premium range of table wines from both traditional, Mediterranean and alternative grape varieties, which have all been selected for their suitability to the Rutherglen climate is the responsibility of a two pronged team. The state-of-the-art winery is the end of the process which is highly dependent on the viticulture team to supply the raw material, according to Rutherglen Estates’ winemaker Marc Scalzo.
“You can’t make a good wine without good grapes and that is where the viticulture team come into play,” Marc said. “As a company we know exactly what we want to produce and the way to get that is to work as a team.”
“I spend a considerable amount of time with our viticulturist Matthew Partridge planning and assessing each year’s harvest. As the crop matures, checking respective varieties for ripeness and condition is a daily routine. I like to taste test to make sure the fruit is taste ripe, not just sugar ripe to ensure we capture the flavour characteristics of each variety in the wine. Having a highly skilled team in the vineyard makes my job easy.”
The vineyard at Rutherglen Estates consists of a range of varietal plantings, all of which have been strategically positioned. Different varieties have been planted in different areas according to soil type, nutrient levels and water requirements.
Understanding the environmental requirements and the unique characteristics of each variety is an art form in itself, and is the domain of viticulturist Matthew. He said managing a vineyard was no different to any other agribusiness and the keys to success were communication, teamwork and planning.
“We have an amazing team culture that means every part of the process from pruning to bottling is reliant on everyone knowing what is happening all the time,” Matthew said. “Detailed planning, from start to finish, encompasses every detail to ensure the best outcomes are achieved by using the best of what we have.”
“The plantings are all about the right position for the specific grape type. Pruning is done to maximise the natural behaviours of the vines, resulting in the right amount of sun, air flow and water. In this way we achieve the best results in yield ratios and fruit quality with the desired flavours. Communication goes right down the line to everyone working in the vineyard. This means everyone is aware and everyone has their eye on the target of producing quality grapes so the winemakers can do their job.”
Rutherglen Estates’ wines are now internationally recognised, making premium table wines the most recent string in Rutherglen’s bow as an outstanding wine region.