Geoff Hardy grows our K1 Vineyard Grüner Veltliner from his beautiful property at Kuitpo, Adelaide Hills.
I started these vineyards in 1986-87 and named the place K1 since it was the first commercial planting of vines in the Kuitpo region. This plot of Grüner is a 2008 planting, and it was from the Tasmanian clone, which was brought to Australia in the 50s – we think. There’s not a lot of good records on it, unfortunately. I’m pretty sure it was brought in from Austria via California and it’s virus free, unlike the other clone that was brought into Australia. More recently Hahndorf Hill brought four new Grüner clones in from Austria and we’re starting to use those, too.
We were one of the first in Australia to go with Grüner, and we were the third to release a Grüner on the Australian market, after Lark Hill from Canberra and Hahndorf Hill in Hahndorf. Now there’s quite a push to get the Adelaide Hills recognised as one of the best Grüner spots in the world, hopefully. Certainly we’ve done well so far. With Jancis Robinson – she is one of the best wine writers in the world and knows everything about different varieties – we’ve been in the top 30 in the world twice in the six years since we released our Grüner, so it’s going really well.
We created the Grüner Growers Group in around 2011. Four or five of us were talking together in 2010 and then it started to grow into a group in 2011. We invited Candice and Frewin to join a few years ago. We’re all learning about the strengths and perhaps weaknesses of the variety in the Adelaide Hills, getting to know how to make the best wine from the variety and sharing our knowledge with one-another as soon as we can. We taste the wines together each year, once or twice, to get to know how to go about it better.
I’ve planted on top of ironstone and sandstone soils, which aren’t highly invigorating so they allow for slower growth and a little bit more sunlight. The site faces northwest and has east-west rows up and down the hill. I’m confident I’ve picked a really good spot here because it’s got that rocky, very flinty ground that gives Grüner it’s prowess. The drainage is all very good, which is really good for giving flavour. It’s a really good terroir, I think, for Grüner, and it’s starting to show. It’s just a really lovely drink.
Grüner also likes the diurnal range that we get in the Adelaide Hills – that’s the temperature range from the middle of the day to the middle of the night. So a large diurnal range is what you get in Austria, you might get 35 degrees in the daytime in the middle of summer, but still getting 10 degrees or so at night because it’s so far inland. The Adelaide Hills gets quite a large diurnal range as well, compared to the coast.
Plus the heat summation – which is a technique for classifying the climate of wine growing regions – is actually quite similar. The technique measures a climate for grape growing in degree days, which tells you whether a climate is able to ripen a certain variety of grapes. The heat summation of the Adelaide Hills is similar to the Danube, where a lot of the Grüner is grown in Austria.
My family winemaking history goes back to the mid-1800s, when Thomas Hardy came out from Britain. He worked with John Reynell for three years, then drove cattle to Victoria to make some money. In 1853 he came home to South Australia and planted vines. Hardy’s Wines grew into the largest wine company in Australia, before our winery burnt down in 1904.
I’m fifth generation Hardy’s and there’s seven generations now in Australia making wine, so there’s a few of us in the game. Australia hasn’t got a lot of history but we’ve got a bit! It’s a lovely way of life. Making wine and growing grapes is definitely in the blood.