Rob and Pauline Bryans are farmers at Avonmore near Elmore, just north of Bendigo in Victoria. After many years producing sheep and cattle grown under bio-dynamic farming methods, the Bryans have now applied their bio-dynamic skills to viticulture and winemaking.

In 1996 they planted 2.4ha of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vines and have added further smaller blocks of Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc and Viognier.

“Our medium-term objective is to have about 14ha or 40 acres of vines in production, with a vintage of about 100 tonnes of grapes,” Rob Bryans said, “enough to warrant a decent-sized commercial winery on our property.”

Under the name Avonmore Estate, the Bryans recently released their 2000 and 2001 vintage Shiraz and their 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon. The bottles carry the Demeter certification of the Bio-Dynamic Research Institute to confirm the credibility of their bio-dynamic status.

“Bio-dynamic means that the vines are grown under environmentally-friendly, eco-safe methods which activate and nurture both the soil and the vines,” he said. “Soil nutrition is enhanced by what is known as the 500- series of preparations, the natural materials on which the Rudolph Steiner principles of bio-dynamics are based.

“The spraying of the living 500, along with other practices produces the necessary soil development to allow the stable humus to activate, forming a colloid within which soluble nutrients are contained. This allows soil micro-organisms to remove the nutrients when required by the plant and prevents artificially-stimulated growth.”

The Bryans use no synthetic pesticides, fungicides, weedicides and fertiliser or other chemical additives. Specific viticulture techniques include growing a cover crop of grasses between the vines each vintage to aid in building the soil nutrition and in addition, sheep are run in the vineyard for a post-harvest clean-up and some natural fertiliser.

Small young branches and leaves from the female Casuarina (Sheoak) tree sourced from Avonmore Estate are simmered in water on heat for a short period and the resulting light tea liquid is sprayed onto pruning cuts as required. This acts as a mild healer and natural fungicide.