June 3

Wine Day! Many students have looked forward to this day all trip long. The weather was sunny and perfect all day as our tour guide Flick drove us northwards into the famous Barossa Valley.

Our first winery stop took us to Elderton Wineries in the Barossa Valley. Chad the public relations coordinator for Elderton led us into the vineyards and wine storage facility. Richard, the wine maker, also joined us in the wine storage facility after we learned about the history of the property and looked at some of the one hundred year old vines in the vineyard.

Using his “wine thief” tool, he extracted several samples of Merlot and Shiraz for students to try. He even included samples of tainted wines that had cracked barrels to show us how proper storage affects the wine quality.  Elderton’s main focus in recent years has been to become a more bio-dynamically grown vineyard. They use minimum chemical inputs and irrigation. Their only water source for irrigation is the rain water runoff from the rooftops of their building and recycled water from washing the wine making facility.

Another sustainable attempt by Elderton was the recent attainment of a $70,000 grant to install solar panels. The grant from the Australian government promotes renewable energy and fronts 80% of the cost required for enough solar panels to run the wine making machines. Elderton will cover the rest of the costs, so they may use 100% renewable alternative energy in the wine making process. Officially, Elderton Wineries can’t become bio-dynamically certified because their neighbors still use synthetic chemicals and the drift may affect their product; however, they have made significant strides in the direction of water reuse, renewable energy, and sustainable farming practices.

Langmeil Winery, a short drive through town, is located on the site of the second oldest German settlement in the Barossa Valley. Settled in 1842, the first vines were planted in 1843. These Shiraz vines still exist and may be the oldest Shiraz vines in production in the world. They are still producing on average a bottle of wine per year at 167 years of age. Langmeil uses minimum irrigation techniques by watering no more than four times per year up to the first 15 years of a vines life. After 12 years of growth, Langmeil prefers producing dry grown grapes which is possible because if the plants receive no water they send roots downwards to 40 or more feet. The large tap roots gather water and minerals from deep in the soil which negates the need for irrigation. They also conserve water by recycling and reusing over one million liters of water annually for irrigation and watering of the grounds. Not only does this program conserve water on the driest state on the driest continent, but it also creates a fantastic, bold tasting wine. Langmeil strives to create great wines that continue to get better after bottling.

We took a break for lunch at the Tanunda Clubhouse of traditional Australian foods. After an hour of wandering around town for souvenirs, students returned to the bus and to give our tour guide Flick a surprise. For being such a great tour guide during our stay in South Australia, we gave her a framed picture of our group and her, plus a signed Michigan State University flag.

Loan Wineries is one of the up and coming organic wineries in the Barossa Valley and was the last wine stop for the day. Rick and Jessie Loan started their vineyards in 1992 and were making vintage wines shortly thereafter. They use the land and natural environment to support and protect the vines. They uses natural ground cover and weeds to retain moisture and attract bees for the vines. After removing 10 acres of grapes a few years ago, they replanted the area with native trees and shrubbery for the birds and wildlife which gives them ample food so they don’t feed on the grapes. The Loans believe in doing wine the traditional, sustainable way and age barrels of wine in their cellar from 18 months up to five years depending on the type. They truly believe in organic agricultural production and have made a success story of their family farm.

We made a quick stop at the Whispering Wall on the way out of the Barossa Valley. Students had fun whispering “Go Green!” at one end of this dam and whispered “Go White!” at the other end. Even a whisper could be heard loud and clearly across the great length of the dam because of the engineering and acoustic effects.

Our last night in Adelaide finished with a celebratory dinner with Flick our tour guide and Wayne and his staff members from the Blue Galah Hostel at a Korean barbeque. Everyone was able to cook their own Korean food on grills set into the tables. It was a new cultural and dining experience for everyone. Most students decided to polish it off with some fresh made gelato to end the night. It was a fantastic end to our stay in Adelaide and the state of South Australia!

Andy Schultz

Responses

  1. I had an AMAZING !! time with you all. I wish to thank each and everyone of you for your great spirit and again tell you just how AMAZING a time I had showing you around my home State. Stay in touch.
    Love Flick

  2. Thanks so much Flick! You are AMAZING 😉 After you wrestled that echidna off the ground I was really impressed. You made an awesome impression on us about how great and friendly Australians really are. You also taught us some awesome and important facts about the land you call home. I really hope you enjoyed our gifts! I wish you the best and take care!

    Andy

  3. The wine tour sounded very informative. I was impressed with how they tried to save and reuse the water. Were the vines on flat ground or hilly? Were you close to water — it seems that in the US most of our wineries are near lakes or the oean so that the temperature is moderate. Do any of the wineries you toured export their wine?

    • Hey Mom,

      The vines that we saw were mostly on flater ground but their were definitely some hilly patches as well. The primary concern of the wine makers tended to be the type of soil under the various areas of land on their properties and the amount of water that the vines recieved from the water underneath the soil. Yes, each one of the wineries we visited, including the Loan family winery exports thier wine. The Loan Wineries actually grow “organic wine” by Australian standards (which are quite rigourous) but can’t actually label their wine as organic when they export it to the U.S. because they have to add preservatives to it that the United States standards see as unorganic.

  4. Ok, so satisfy my curiosity, what latitude is the wine region (wineries) located at? And so do most of the wineries use limited water in the growing and processing of their wine grapes? Do they have water rights? Was the growning of wine grapes much different then it is in our area of Southwest Michigan? This was right up your alley Andy!

    • Australia has a huge problem with water and it is incredibly important to take every measure possible to work with the environment instead of against it. Most of the wineries we visited used a drip irrigation system limiting their water use by delivering water straight to the roots. Two of the wineries we visited didn’t water their vines at all choosing instead to encourage thier vines to grow deep tap roots. The last winery we visited employed a lot of holistic processes in their organic farming. To conserve water they tried to keep natural ground cover that held in moisture and (as an added bonus) attracted “good” insects that kept away pest insects.

    • Hi Mom!

      The Barossa Valley is just south of the 30th parallel which would be equivalent to the Carolinas in the U.S. The Barossa is more like the valleys in California though and have moderate to high temperatures ideal for growing grapes. Like Libby mentioned they are big into reusing water or rainfall in the wine making process. They definitely grow grapes different than in Michigan. The Barossa Valley is known mainly for its red wines which like the drier climate. The wineries we visited focused on longer fermentation processes for their reds and aged them longer than we do in Michigan so they continue to get better with time even after being bottled. Even I was surprised by how much I learned about how they make wine down here. See you soon!

      Andy

  5. Great post, Andy. That was an awesome day and I found it very interesting to go to different vineyards in succession to see how they run differently. There were many different styles of growing grapes and also their individual wine making techniques.

    And Flick, thanks again for everything. You are an awesome tour guide and chef and our group is very lucky to have had you. Take care

    Mark

  6. I agree with Mark, wine day was a lot of fun and very interesting to learn about. I really enjoyed the third winery we visited. Rick and Jessie were obviously very passionate about being sustainable and giving back to the environment. I liked learning about how they avoided mildew on their vines.The leaf cover on vines creates a very humid environment which is good for growing mildew, so to avoid that, Rick and Jessie heavily cut back their vines. This reduces the amount of leaf cover and mildew.

    I also enjoyed tasting the wine, they were delicious. 🙂

    Laura

  7. I personally loved Loan winnery and everthing that they were doing to be sustainable and more environmentally firendly. I thought it was really cool how they kept the green covering of weeds and grass in the pastures with the wine so they didnt have to irrigate because it would hold in moisture. I also thought how it was really cool that they were very good about keeping natural vegatation and native plants and species around for the reasons that they just didnt want to disrupt the natural habitiats and that if you keep the nautrual habitat, in theory the animals and insects will have everythinig they need to live off of right there and will not bother the crops. I thought that was a very intersting point and they said so far that was working for them and they were not having any major problems with pests. If they did have anyt problems they took care of it without pesticides. Overall I thought it was a great winery and a very interesting lifestyle.


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