Friday, March 25, 2011


Toby Bekkers has launched a viticulture and wine business consultancy service. Bekkers has an impressive academic background, with a Bachelor of Applied Science, Agriculture (Hons) from the University of Adelaide, and a Graduate Certificate in Management from the University of South Australia. On the practical side, he played a key role in the successful growth of Paxton Wines in McLaren Vale, David Paxton himself having an even longer career in viticulture.

I have to worry about the blithe assumption that it has been established organic and biodynamic grapegrowing results in greater wine quality. Organic maybe, but the packaging of the two practises as if they were one is not on in my book. The press release announcing the establishment of the consultancy says ‘After recently living for six months in France, Toby warns that the Australian wine industry is lagging behind its competitors in the adoption of organic and biodynamic viticultural systems, which could impact the industry’s future earnings potential.’

The press release then goes on to quote Bekkers ‘Organic and biodynamic practices offer the potential to improve wine quality and should be viewed as smart, low input farming systems. They are no longer solely the domain of the idealist. Many sophisticated and successful wine businesses around the word are benefitting from these techniques. My goal is to encourage mainstream adoption of “natural farming” systems whilst recognising that for organics to be truly sustainable it must also be profitable.’

This is not an attack on Toby Bekkers credibility or knowledge, but I think he is drawing a very long bow in suggesting that biodynamics will increase Australia’s earnings potential. The 2010 vintage in France, and the 2011 vintage in South East Australia, suggest the opposite.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The start of vintage at Coldstream Hills

Vintage finally got (seriously) underway yesterday at Coldstream Hills, almost one month later than last year. The small House Block chardonnay produced eight tonnes of immaculate fruit, with great flavour and balance. This is the greatest amount off this 25-year-old block, which has always been a cornerstone for the Coldstream Hills Reserve Chardonnay. With all the rain (needless to say, irrigation has not been used in any of the vineyards this growing season) the concern was that berry-size would be inflated, and the ratio of juice to skin and pip reduced. In fact, the berries are small, but very even. It was the even nature of the bunches, and their number, which gave rise to the crop.