“Just when you think you’ve learned everything you need to know about managing these old vines, they’ll teach you another lesson…”

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… a colleague said to Andrew Holt when he took the reigns of the 140-year-old Poonawatta “The 1880” Shiraz vineyard from his parents 20 years ago.

Says Andrew: “This remains true today, with new lessons learned every season – some of them positive, and some of them painful. But that’s farming. Every lesson is one I can learn from and pass on to the next generation.”

An intense, passionate character, whose hobbies include nature photography, Andrew possesses a huge heart and community spirit that is hard to beat.

Less rainfall in recent decades has challenged Andrew to utilize every viticultural best practice available to mitigate this. He applies organic, composted mulch under-vine to improve moisture retention, cool the soil, and improve soil and vine health. Permanent grasses mid-row increase soil microbial health, minimise compaction and support biodiversity. Grazing sheep in winter convert the grass to manure. Andrew has also introduced dung beetles to bury the manure, which turns over over the soil, aerating and allowing moisture deep into the soil.

THE SINGLE VINEYARD

Poonawatta Vineyards

Eden Valley

Poonawatta ‘The 1880 Shiraz’ block

First planted: 1880

Vine age: 140

Old Vine charter: Ancestor

Variety: Shiraz

Poonawatta ‘The Eden’ block

First planted: 1972

Vine age: 48

Old Vine charter: Survivor

Variety: Riesling

Like many centenarian vineyards, the 0.8 hectare Poonawatta 1880 vineyard was planted in a location that best ensured survival in the early years; deep loam soils adjacent to a water course. Over the decades those deep soils have sustained the remarkable old vines through many a drought, supporting balanced crops of beautiful fruit. The vineyard is in a particularly cool spot, and while frosts present a challenge in spring, the site cools down quickly after hot summer days, allowing the vines to recharge overnight.

“The Eden” Riesling is planted on a north-east facing slope; on lean, sandy loam over broken rock. The lean soil profile modifies both vigour and yield. Row direction compliments the contours of the site, ensuring good bunch shading during the hotter parts of the season. While not as cool a site as the 1880 Shiraz vineyard, the exposed hillside aspect is cooled by afternoon and evening gully winds, even on the hottest of days.

THE WINES

Poonawatta

The 1880 Shiraz

“The character of the wine is determined by every aspect of the 1880 vineyard. Consistency of quality across the seasons reflects the deep roots and generous soil profile, delivering wines of balance, structure and intensity, while the cooling influence of the site delivers a seam of elegance and finesse.”

Andrew Holt, Winemaker, Poonawatta

“The ultimate lesson from Poonawatta is the sheer brilliance of the wines.”

James Halliday *****

 

Poonawatta

The Eden Riesling

“This (1999 vintage) is a majestic wine, filling every corner of the mouth with layer upon layer of lime and Meyer lemon juice flavours. A great bargain, that could command twice its price.

James Halliday