Australia’s wine consumers are presented with very few opportunities to purchase or even sample ‘bio-dynamic wines’ produced from an Grade A Bio-Dynamic farm.
Rob and Pauline Bryans are farmers at Avonmore near Elmore just north of Bendigo.
After many years producing sheep and cattle grown under bio-dynamic farming methods which have always been keenly sought by butchers, the Bryans have turned their hands to viticulture and winemaking.
In 1996 they planted 2.4 hectares of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vines and have added further smaller blocks of Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc and Viognier.
They see their medium term objective as having about 14 hectares (or 40 acres) of vines in production, with a vintage of about 100 tonnes of grapes, or enough to warrant a decent sized commercial winery on their 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 confirming that they are serious bio-dynamic wines.
Bio-dynamic means that the vines are grown under environmentally friendly, eco-safe methods which activate and nurture both the soil and the vines.
Soil nutrition is boosted by what are known as the 500 series of preperations, the natural materials on which the Rudolph Steiner principles of bio-dynamics are based.
The Bryans use no synthetic pesticides, fungicides, weedicides and fertilisers or other chemical additives.
Specific viticulture techniques include growing a cover crop of grasses between the vines each vintage to aid in building up the soil nutrition.
In addition sheep are run in the vineyard for a post harvest clean up and a bit of natural fertilising.
Rob Bryans says that bio-dynamic viticulture which also requires the choice of optimum phases of the lunar cycle, tends to be much more hands on and labour intensive than convential chemical farming.
“We invest a lot more time in visual observation of the health and progress of our vines”
This all seems to be producing dividends.
The Avonmore Estate Cabernet Sauvignon won the Gold medal in the open Class at the recent Ballarat Wine Show, while the 2001 Shiraz and the 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon both gained Bronze at the Victorian Wine Show.
So how do bio-dynamic wines taste?
“When we show them to sommeliers, retailers and poeple who appreciate wines with distinctive styles we really gain their interest” Rob Bryans said.
They are available on the wine lists at some of Victoria’s leading restaurants.
Recently selected stores in the vintage Cellars chain have commenced stocking them.
“The answer” Rob Bryans said “is to ask for them”.