Yalumba’s Patchwork Vineyard was destined to become a very special vineyard.
It had pedigree in its prized Shiraz and Cabernet vines, position in the acclaimed Barossa Valley and to top it off, some rather premium soils.
So, when Yalumba bought the 40 hectare block in 2012, Yalumba chief viticulturist Robin Nettlebeck said they knew they had a vineyard that would allow them to create a vineyard using the latest sustainable and precision viticulture methodologies.
“It was always earmarked as a secure source of quality fruit for Yalumba’s premium collection of wines,” Mr Nettlebeck said.
“But it meant more than that… it was the opportunity that Yalumba chairman Robert Hill-Smith had been looking for, which was to establish the most sustainable vineyard in the Barossa.”
That sort of commitment doesn’t come cheap. So in 2014, with the announcement of the $265 million South Australian River Murray Sustainability Program (SARMS), Yalumba submitted an application.
Funding was available through the Irrigation Industry Improvement Program (3IP), the flagship element of SARMS, which is funded by the Australian Government and delivered by Primary Industries and Regions SA.
“We knew we could achieve significant water efficiencies with the right irrigation methods and new technologies, so we were able to give back a portion of our River Murray water licence in return for the grant funding,” he said.
“With the addition of the 3IP grant, on top of the significant dollars invested by Yalumba, we took a giant leap forward and have been able to move a lot quicker through the plan’s phases.”
The vineyard was replanted to a mix of both ancient and contemporary clones developed or sourced exclusively by the Yalumba Nursery. Overall, around 72,000 young vines from 20 different drought and salinity-tolerant Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon clones were planted.
They used a modern recyclable steel trellis system and positioned vineyard rows to get the full benefit of the Barossa Valley’s evening foothill winds to help protect it from frost. Optimum row spacing will also allow for even sunlight and minimal row shading.
A new low-volume irrigation system, complete with soil moisture management technology has also been installed to capture real-time water application, along with salinity, rainfall and temperature measures.
The first grape crop is expected from the 2018 vintage.
“It’s not just a one-off, we want this to be a model for our other premium vineyards and something for our growers to learn from and employ in their own vineyards,” he said.
“We know we now have a vineyard with an outstanding opportunity to deliver the very best in the most environmentally ethical and sustainable fashion to take Yalumba forward another 165 years.”
SARMS is contributing to the South Australian Government’s commitment and implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The 3IP grants program is supporting the sustainability of South Australian River Murray communities through investment in irrigation efficiency, water returns and irrigation industry assistance.