BROTHERS PETER AND MARK SATURNO AND VINEYARD MANAGER DINO COTSARIS GROW OUR LONGVIEW VINEYARD GRÜNER VELTLINER AT MACCLESFIELD, ADELAIDE HILLS.
Peter: A few years back I singled out Grüner as a very exciting variety and one that has a huge future in the Adelaide Hills. When I heard that Hahndorf Hill were bringing material in from Austria, we were one of the first to approach them and say: “Can we source this?”
Dino: Hahndorf Hill brought over three clones and selected something like five growers. They wanted to scatter those source blocks throughout the Adelaide Hills, allowing our Grüner Growers Group to determine how it grows in Macklesfield compared to Handorf, Kaitpo, Lenswood, etcetera. Our first patch here at Longview is 0.4 hectares and was planted in 2010. The parcel of Grüner that Candice takes from was planted in 2011, a one-hectare planting.
P: There was an underperforming block of Merlot here beforehand and we just ripped it out. It’s quite a steep southern slope so we thought it was just perfect for Grüner. All of our reds are on northern-facing slopes because they act as big solar panels – the sun moves on an angle so it just beams down on them. Whereas the southern slopes get a lot less sunlight, a lot less chance of burn, so it’s slower ripening, better acid retention. There’s a real method in the slope-y madness, I guess.
A hallmark of this area is the minerality in the soils – ironstone and quartz in particular. Millions and millions of years ago the Adelaide Hills used to be one of the biggest mountain ranges on the planet and over many ice ages, it’s just been weathered away. What’s left is this ancient mountain range, the Mount Lofty Ranges, so when you walk through our vineyard and dig down 30cm, you’re digging through a lot of rock, only to hit dense clay. There’s not a lot of top soil so it’s pretty hard viticulture. But that means you get lower yields, higher quality and better transition of flavours from the soil into the fruit.
Mark: Our family’s winemaking history goes back to our Italian grandfather. He used to go and pick grapes with Frank Potts down at Langhorne Creek, many, many decades ago, and make his own little bit of Grenache – which apparently was abominable. Peter and I grew up in a pub so we were working in the bottle shops and bars at quite a tender age, but our product knowledge was outstanding and we made friends with many a winemaker.
P: Our parents have cattle on the property next door to Longview, but no vines. So this is our first foray into having our own vines. We bought Longview in 2007, in time for the 2008 vintage, which was a baptism of fire. Fifteen days of over 35 degrees in a row in March. It was just: “Boom! We need to get all this fruit off as fast as we can!” It feels like just yesterday that we had that first hectic vintage, but I think we’ve come a long way.
At first we sold big parcels of fruit off to larger producers, but we’ve scaled that back a lot. It’s now to smaller producers that can come out, show us their insights, learn from us and vice versa. That’s really where we’ve seen a big benefit.
D: And everyone’s got their own way of doing things, so working with smaller producers means you can observe and share information. For example, Candice will this year (2016) pick her Grüner about two weeks behind us. So we’ll be able to look at two different parcels of fruit from the same vineyard, from the same plants, under two different winemaking techniques. That’s a lot of fun.
I run the vineyard and the boys look after everything else. But whatever decisions I make out there, we discuss as a group. I’m not part of the family, obviously, but we treat the vineyard as a family. There’s no: “This is your role.” We all get involved with every decision we make. That’s the best part about this job. You’re not just “bang, viticulturist”, and that’s it. You get involved with all operations.
M: Totally. Peter’s overarching title is sales director and I’m more focussed toward wine marketing and on-site events. But to be honest, it’s never that black and white. It’s a bit of a shuffle as to who can do what and it always morphs back and forth.
P: With the wine industry, nothing’s short term, it’s all long term and we’ve got a long way to go. We kind of feel like we’ve just dipped our toe in the water. We’ve just got so much more to give and so much more to experience.