Tell us in a few sentences about your experience as a viticulturist, how did you arrive here?
I’m actually a winemaker & consultant rather than a viticulturalist but engaged via Wine Network Consulting by the owner of Centare Vineyard, Simon Li, when he purchased the property in 2018.
The property had an existing vineyard – with ‘Old Block’ vines that were planted in 1998 which consisted of Chardonnay, Shiraz & Cabernet. I was engaged to manage all set-up, winemaking, vineyard, marketing, sales operations for the new wine brand – and a very exciting close planted Bordelaise variety project – which now sees 38,700 vines in 4.15ha – 12 clones (4 Cabernet, 2 Merlot, 4 Malbec, 1 Cab Franc, 1 Petit Verdot) planted in 4.15 ha at 1m x 1m spacing, our first crop was this year.
Centare = 1 metre x 1 metre (1/100th of an Are as a Hectare = 1 Are).
Why did you decide to apply to be an EcoGrower, was there something specific that influenced your decision and/or had you attended a previous EcoVineyards session?
I attended the first EcoVineyards Yarra Valley session which focused on mulching & composting which also piqued my interest, given it seems likely that previous land-use has diminished the natural balance of the soil – particularly in the Old Block.
We are very much focused on sustainability, minimal intervention (particularly herbicides and insecticides), and would ideally like to be organic, but it is difficult to do that completely in the Yarra Valley climate, so we have always had the plan of developing an insectarium on the edge of the new plantings to improve biodiversity and integrated management.
Has there been a defining moment or catalyst for you to move towards more ecologically driven viticultural practices?
Wine Network Consulting now also employs viticulturalist Sam Scarratt, who has a PHD based in biodiversity, and the EcoVineyards opportunity and involvement is timely for both CV and Wine Network Consulting as is Yarra Ranges Council ‘Ribbons of Green’ initiative to supply regenerative plants this Spring.
Can you provide a brief overview of your project ideas, and what you wish to achieve over the 3 years and why is this important to you?
Details and key objectives of the project are yet to be fine-tuned; however, the trials and tribulations of the close-planted, high-density, and high-input vineyard are ongoing and likely of value to the broader industry, perhaps we can look at a trial that specifically considers the intense layout?
Tell us about your hidden superpowers, something that others don’t know about you or a practice you would like to champion?
Maybe Sam can be our Superpower?