We (Candice Helbig and Frewin Ries) grow our Arranmore Vineyard Pinot Noir from our beautiful property at Carey Gully, Adelaide Hills.
Candice: The “Arran” homestead and property dates back to 1859, so it’s the oldest in Carey Gully, which is pretty cool. We’ve been really lucky as the previous owner researched the history of the place and wrote it all down for an archaeology assignment, then gave us a copy. The dining room in our house now was the original two-bedroom cottage and we’ve still got the original chimney from 1859.
Back then, it was all market gardens and fruit trees. I think they grew rhubarb and cherries, lots of fruit. I guess it’s always been a fertile ground for growing things. There’s been sheep and cattle run here in the past, too. The vineyard was planted in 1998 by John Venus, and we bought the property and took over this year (2016).
Frewin: The vineyard was planted with a lot of virus-free clones. The Vine Improvement Group actually source their cuttings from us because our clones are so clean. Our Pinot Noir is a French cutting, a Dijon clone, and it’s been certified that it’s a virus-free 115 Pinot clone. It’s not the thing I’d hang my hat on, but it’s definitely a bonus that it’s nice and clean and certified.
It’s a classic example of the right variety in the right place. The aspect, the soil and the way that the air flows through the area is really perfectly suited to Pinot Noir. The site is perched quite high on the side of a valley, about 550m high. That valley feeds into the Onkaparinga Valley, meaning there’s a lot of air movement and air flow. That’s why Arranmore is such a cold place, because there’s always wind. That wind not only cools the air down but also dries things out – like how your washing dries really quickly if you put it out on a windy day. When the grapes are hanging there, the airflow dries out the bunches, so it’s really good for disease-pressure. It means that we can get away with spraying less.
Also, because it’s an east-facing aspect, the site catches the morning sun. The Arranmore vineyard will be in shade by 6.30pm or 7pm. So in summer, when it gets dark at around 9pm, the vineyard has already been tucked into bed for three hours, which makes it cooler again. All of that leads to more intense flavours and better depth of flavour. It’s like how the best apricots or cherries always come from a very cool site – it’s the same with grapes.
We’ve got a real mix of soils here. It’s a sandy loam as the main soil, but it does have a lot of quartz and ironstone. There’s an ironstone band at the top of the hill. Of all the Pinots that we take fruit from, it’s probably the richest soil. We see a lot of mouth feel coming through in the wine.
C: Yeah, it kind of gets more broody characters, dark and smokey. That gamey, dark spice character comes through, which you don’t really see so much in other Pinot vineyards that we take from. There’s a weight and a warmth to it. The block produces wine with a real weighty mid-palate because of that richer soil.
F: We’re now changing the trellis system over from double cordon spur prune to a single cane – so one cane, one spur. We’re hoping to get more consistency through the canopy but with a lower yield of Pinot. So we’re aiming for more leaves per bunch, which will increase the solar panels that each bunch gets. We’re also using a vertical shoot position system. So the vines are growing on four wires – one that the grapes grow on, that fruiting wire, and then there’s three wires to keep the vines nice and straight and upright as they grow. That also increases the amount of sunlight that can get to the leaves, so it’s all about capturing that sunlight on the leaves and not directly on the fruit.
C: It’s a real different connection living next to your own vineyard, just being able to experience all the different stages that the vineyard goes through. You feel very connected and you have a real understanding of what’s going on when you’re living 20 metres from your block. You can watch as the weather rolls in and see how the seasons change the vines. Vintage is the best time because you can taste the grapes as they’re ripening.
We love that it’s something we have from the very beginning, something that’s our own – we watch the vines go dormant and then can see them the whole way through the cycle to fruiting. And then that turns into a wine that we could still be drinking in 50 years’ time and we’ll hopefully have the memory of what that vintage was like, or what happened that year. Frew and I have always dreamed of having our own vineyard, but I don’t think we realised how awesome it would be until we moved here. We’d love to have a few more vineyards, too, so hopefully it doesn’t end just here.