Grampians Estate features in the latest Winestate Magazine (March/April 2016) in a five-page feature article and a dozen wine reviews.
TWO decades ago, Tom and Sarah Guthrie at Grampians Estate celebrated their first vintage. It followed a frustratingly long gestation period, one so drawn out it must have seemed to the Guthries that the ability to grow grapes simply wasn’t in their collective genes. Planted in 1989, the vines were slow to grow at their vineyard site, set against the Grampians near Mafeking, and when fruit did arrive, so did the birds. Money was poured into netting but the following vintage humid weather caused an outbreak of powdery mildew and the crop was lost. A spray unit was bought and then the following year, finally, success! “I told Seppelt (Great Western), ‘I’ll have a tonne of grapes for you,’ and we rock in there and I’ve got just 52 kilos,” says Tom Guthrie. “I knew at 52 kilograms I wasn’t going to make any money out of selling grapes.”
The challenge was then to diversify, to value add, to create a business that could step up when lamb prices were chronically low, which is often, and that could keep his young family on the land. So Grampians Estate the grape grower became a maker of premium wines – chardonnay and shiraz. It was a bit of a risk. Still is. Grampians Estate is not a vineyard easily accessed. Roads leading to the Guthrie farm are mostly unmade, signposts are few and people to ask directions of, fewer. The home vineyard is planted 300m high on the north side of the Muirhead Range on basalt, a soil type much in demand by winegrowers for the mineral edge and natural structure its volcanic qualities can give to wine. With such an isolated site the Guthries wisely invested in a cellar door on the Western Highway close to the Great Western township. Wine lovers with long memories will recall it is where Garden Gully had its cellar door before it closed in 2002. PERSISTENCE pays off.
When it came to wine styles, the Guthries took inspiration from their neighbour, one of the great historic Australian wine names – Seppelt Great Western. “I have always loved sparkling shiraz,” explains Tom, “ and, of course, where do you learn that? Seppelt, of course.” They learnt well. The Estate’s Rutherford sparkling shiraz – which represents about 60-65 per cent of its wine sales – is in the new sparkling red style, less confectionery sweet, more structural, highlighting chocmint-herbals with loads of spice. In 2009, the Rutherford ’06 sparkling shiraz was named Winestate’s Sparkling of the Year, not a small thing. One of the brand’s great strengths – and its biggest secret – is old vine riesling from 80 to 100-year-old vines (the actual age is unknown), once part of the Garden Gully repertoire and planted close by the cellar door. The riesling is persistent, pretty florals, lemony bright, with soft acid highlighting an elegant beauty.
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