Brothers Michael and Graeme Fechner grow our Fechner Vineyard Shiraz at Moculta, Eden VALLEY.
Graeme: Grapes have been grown on this property pretty well since settlement back in 1852. It was a typical German mixed farm subsistence: cows, pigs, a few grapes, apricots, fruits. The oldest surviving vines here were planted in 1906 by our great grandfather – and they’re still producing. We’re sixth generation on the property.
Michael: I still remember the horses in the vineyard going through with the dodger behind, before tractors emerged, although it’s a vague memory because I was so young. Even when I was at school we still used a hand-drawn dodger to dodge out the grass and weeds around the vines because we never sprayed.
G: My brother and I took over in 1978. Shiraz was a variety that was already here and did well. The family was selling grapes to Cyril Henschke and he said the Shiraz was good, so that’s what we concentrated on. We knew it produced quality, so we thought: “Stick with something that goes well on your soil.”
M: We’ve got a mixture of soils here. There’s a marble seam that runs east to west and we’re on the edge of it. It’s turned up limestone, quartize and a mixture of other schisty soils. So we’ve got a big mixture of minerality in our soil that makes it a bit unique, I suppose, because once you travel outside the band on the edge of the marble, it turns to one type of clay.
G: Those soils have a huge impact on the flavours we’re getting. We can certainly pick our juice or wine from others around – they have this big minerally backdrop.
M: Our vineyards are predominately east-facing, as well, which you don’t find much in this area. That makes us handle the heat a bit better, not having the intense afternoon sun for quite as long, yet having the early morning sun straight on the vines.
We also get a lot of south-easterly cooling winds at night that travel down the big gullies. So the nights are cooler. Your average mean temperature is actually quite low compared to the Valley floor.
G: Yeah, you drive in from the Barossa Valley on a hot night and you feel the temperature. You get up to the hills and it’s a bit cooler, then you come over that crest line and down this side and suddenly there’s a two-degree change in the air temperature. You feel it. It changes drastically.
So a lot of factors have gone into the decision making of what we’ve planted where. Soil type would be the biggest influence, followed by the direction aspect. We started developing the vineyards from the late 1970s and 80s onwards. At that stage we only had about 13 acres of vines and now we’ve got 100. These (CRFT Wines) Shiraz vines were planted in 1999 so they’re heading for 20 years old.
M: It’s been a lot of hard work. We went through the “recession Australia had to have” in the 1990s, when interest rates went up to 20 per cent and Shiraz was an average price of around $180/tonne. That was enough to drive people away. So much old Grenache, Shiraz and Mataro got pulled out because it was pointless wasting your time on it.
We were close to not surviving. We’d started up a truck and transport business in the early 80s and that really pulled us through the bad times because we had another source of income. But now it’s just so competitive, every man and his dog’s got a truck. So the vines are certainly the better end of the stick these days.
I reckon our ancestors would be really proud of what’s here now, and they’d probably be even prouder of the quality that we’ve been able to produce.