We love to notice and mark the changing of seasons, the sighting of a new birds' nest, or our unceasing wonder at the seamless enrichment that biodynamic viticulture provides our pristine environment. Working in rhythm with nature ensures we're vigilant in the vineyard, and follow that attention to detail through to the winery and the table. As fifth and sixth generation winegrowers, we value family, tradition and progression, and we hope our stories strike a chord with you – hopefully so much that we're lucky enough to one day hear yours.
Steve and Monique Lubiana.
It is hard to believe there was a time before Covid 19 where Steve and I were fortunate enough to travel abroad (semi) regularly. With travel off the cards for the moment we find ourselves reminiscing about our most memorable experiences abroad, naturally wine and the pursuit of making exceptional wine was a large focus of our trips. Before Covid-19 upturned the world, in late 2018 Steve and I attended Millesime Bio before heading east to the Rhone Valley. Millesime Bio, is a certified organic/biodynamic wine fair held in Montpellier and is evidence of the rise of “clean” wines.
In its infancy Millesime Bio would attract a small handful of like-minded producers, now almost 30 years later it attracts hundreds, if not 1000 mostly French Organic and Biodynamic Wineries. This fair is open to wine buyers and producers from around the world. Steve and I were pleased to find our wines well received with many European winemakers curious to taste ‘Tasmanian’. We are pictured in the link below and if you are interested to know more about the rise in demand for Organic/Biodynamic wine, see the article below.
After this event we travelled east for 2 nights to the home of Syrah, the Rhone Valley. We grafted our first few rows of Syrah (Shiraz) in 2014 and were about to release the 2017 vintage (our first release) so we were interested to compare styles. Steve having first visited this region shortly after his graduation from Roseworthy in the late 1980’s. Along with inspiration and tasting Syrah from the most prestigious houses domaines, we also wanted to understand more about how the vines were pruned and the orientation of the vineyard sites.
We stayed in a little B&B at Tain-L’Hermitage that was more like a mini hotel right on the edge of the Rhone River. The river was easily as wide as the Derwent but the edges were concreted. The amount of water that flowed down the river was mind blowing and fast, carrying what I estimate at least 5 Olympic swimming pools per second. However, the river seemed strangely quiet for such a huge flow of water.
Given that it was late November, and very cold there were very few tourists around. Many of the world-renowned cellar doors were closed and the sophisticated hotel style river boats as advertised on Australian TV by Harvey World Travel, were moored for the winter.
The highlight of our visit was a walk to the top of the Hermitage hill, all the while discussing what our future vintages of Syrah might taste like and how Steve was going to go about the vinification. The most highly sort after Rhone Valley Syrah’s come from the highest slopes of the Heritage hill where the vines are mostly terraced and staked rather than trellised. The rows are very narrow and only allow for small machinery, (think domestic mower width) or for a horse to pass. After descending Hermitage Hill we visited the centre of Tain and tasted as many wines as we could.
At Granton we have a small parcel of land similar to what we saw on Hermitage Hill, that has cemented our decision to stake out some close-planted Syrah vines in the future.
Two and half years later after our wonderful trip to Southern France we are releasing our third vintage of Syrah.
The limited quantity of the 2017 vintage sold out in a matter of months and was warmly received by all who tasted. Our 2018 Syrah was equally successful earning 95 points in the most recent edition of Halliday Wine Companion. A Votre Santé with our 2019 Syrah.
Vintage 2021 is rounding the bend and will soon be at the finish line.
This winter the vineyard was pruned by total pros, myself included, and the result is even growth with well spaced internodes.
Early cover crop seeding that germinated well and grew profusely over winter plus the addition of trace elements set the vineyard up for excellent canopy coverage. Grape bunches will fill out slowly and evenly as there are plenty of leaves to photosynthesise through summer and into autumn.
This growing season we trialled a new method of mowing one third of vegetative growth at flowering and allowing more growth and mowing before its final cut to the deck. The idea of cutting one third of the green manure is to increase the root mass and to drive it deeper. It seems to have worked as the vines exploded during spring, possibly due to increased water penetration as well as the sinking of more carbon to feed the microbes that store nitrogen.
As I write we are finalising crop levels by green harvesting where necessary and tidying up the canopy to put out the last sulphur spray for the season readying for netting. Can’t wait for technology to catch up here. It would be fantastic to have a drone in the shape of a bird that’s programmed to chase away starlings & silver eyes from the vineyard.
Covid-19 has interrupted our business but we have still received many visits from existing and new customers over the summer, mostly from Queensland and many from Victoria. They’ve been tasting our wines and enjoying our rustic food offering with the most popular dish being our onion tart that matches very well with Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and ‘Primavera’ Pinot Noir. Another favourite has been our Zuppa Inglese (English soup) Northern Italian version of tiramisu.
Update on our new close-planted vineyard 1mx1m! Again growth has been good and our management systems are improving. We predict this vineyard will eventually make the highest quality Pinot Noir & chardonnay from the entire vineyard, watch this space!
Kiss the Ground is a ‘Big Picture’ film a biopic in association with 7 other entities.
Woody Harrelson is the Narrator; other prominent film, sports and fashion identities provide low-key contributions.
The golden message of the film is that we can all contribute to saving the earth from global warming and the solution is ‘under our feet’.
The star of the film Ray Archuleta, a Conservation Agronomist, is employed to teach farmers about how to sequester carbon. Sequestering carbon takes carbon from the atmosphere and stores it in the soil where it feeds the microbes. They multiply creating a sponge for water & nutrients. Both these are required to grow crops.
In the USA the bank of carbon that existed in the soil prior to the 1930s has been destroyed, mostly through tilling. Artificial fertilisers, the separation of rotation cropping from animal husbandry and pesticides use have also impacted the soil’s capacity to store carbon by killing off microbes.
The film follows a farmer who tells his story of going broke using modern farming methods. He returns to how farming was done prior to the agricultural revolution and we see a comparison of his farm compared to his neighbours and the ‘proof is in the pudding’.
The film shows us how to store carbon, 1% of organic matter equals 10 tons of carbon per acre, how animal husbandry done correctly can help the soil, how food waste can transform soil and finally how a smaller more thoughtful footprint helps everyone as well as the environment.
This affirming doco avoids laying blame yet acknowledges the legacy load of fossil fuels. The film focuses on what we can do and opens our eyes to a solution everyone can contribute to and gives examples of cities around the world making it happen.
At Stefano Lubiana Wines our soils measured up to 7.5% organic matter. Organics/Bio-dynamics is our key to success. The use of natural fertilisers, minimal tilling, and cover cropping increase the microbes in the soil banking more carbon whilst increasing water-holding capacity and all the while avoiding synthetic pesticides and fungicides.
Kiss The Ground five stars!
With the warmer days upon us, and Christmas just around the corner, it’s time to drink ‘Aromatic’ wines from Tasmanian’s true cool climate. We love them here at Stefano Lubiana! We make small parcels of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and the quick to sell out Pinot Gris. We also make 2 alternative varieties, Gruner Veltliner from Austria and the newly available Malvisia from Croatia. It is fair to say that we adore perfectly balanced aromatic crisp white wines on a warm day and we know you will love them too!
We find the topic of aromatic winemaking a great conversation starter in our Cellar-door. People are intrigued to understand the method. Unlike red wine production where the grapes are destemmed and fermented on their skins, later pressed and barrelled into the cellar. White wine production is much more sensitive from the get-go.
It is crucial in all winemaking that grapes are picked disease free as well as free of bird damage. This stops often unseen, wine spoilage and promotes clarity and precision. At our gravity fed winery, grapes are picked into half tonne plastic bins and are emptied into a hopper and sorted by hand on a mechanical sorting table. The sorting table allows us to remove any damaged or imperfect berries, leaves, stalks and the odd spider (harmless money types).
Grapes slide into the press via gravity to prevent damage. We use a tank press; this technology is a very gentle process that squeezes the grapes gently with compressed air to release the juice. The juice then arrives in a tank where it is then syphoned to the underground cellar into a large oak fermenter called a foudre. As with all winemaking at Stefano Lubiana, oak selection is critical, and Steve has long been a fan of Austrian oak when making cool climate aromatic white wines. Foudres are large oak vats, usually 3000L naturally fine grained so that the flavour imparted is genuinely subtle. Wine that matures in these vats is more textured and the wine's natural acid is often softened.
Usually the natural yeast found on the grapes ignites the fermentation. We closely monitor and cool, if necessary, the ferment to ensure it does not get out of control. If fermentation is too warm then elegance, finesse and fruity aromatics are lost from the wine. When the fermentation is finished the wine is left on its lees. Lees are the sediment (dead yeast cells) that settles on the bottom, when stirred reinvigorating, charging the wine, making it cloudy again, washing through the wine keeping it fresh, reducing the need for preservatives. This technique has been used for hundreds of years. After a winter’s rest the wine is carefully retrieved from the underground cellar and is allowed to gather itself for a week or two before bottling. Once bottled the wine sits and recovers from that process before it is released for sale.
2018 ‘Estate’ Chardonnay
A wine with strong Tasmanian credentials including an inner energy, steely reserve and powerful acidity. That’s the groundwork for a long-lived chardonnay, right there. Immediately reserved and still youthful with a grapefruit pith, lemon curd, cut pear, fleshy mango. Good strong backbone in play with a line of citrus infusion. A waiting – game kind of wine, be patient. Screw cap 13% alc. Rating 95
2018 ‘Estate’ Pinot Noir
A rocking, rolling, fruit pastille-charged, filigree-fine pinot noir from a winemaker who always delivers. An upbeat entry with small red berries, toasted spice, orange rind aromas. Class act throughout from the tight coils of concentrated fruit and supple, even-handed tannis to smooth-knit oak. With texture and presence. Screw cap 13% alc.
2018 ‘Estate’ Syrah
The first Syrah produced under this label and what elegance! Takes a leaf straight out of the Lubiana winemaking school of pinot noir with great lift and expansive, pretty fruit and spice. Highly articulate approach to the grape allowing drinkers to see the Rhone-side of the variety with full 5-spice, nutmeg, pepper and Aussie bush notes siting under blueberries, stewed plums. Clean,
Recently, there has been a growing market presence of Organic, Biodynamic and Synthetic free products being produced not only in Australia but also around the world. You may have found yourself asking, ‘are organic/biodynamic wines a healthier choice?’
Logic says yes! The less synthetics consumed, the less additives the body has to process, the healthier the individual. This makes absolute sense to us.
The trouble being it is very difficult to find conclusive evidence to prove one way or another. In my own recent research, I couldn’t verify that synthetic free, organic/biodynamic wine is a healthier choice. There were many articles that allude or suggest chemical free is healthier but then contradict by saying that it’s not proven. This could be due to research studies being unavailable and expensive to undertake, afterall who is willing to pay for them.
I came across a paper from Environmental Health called “Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture: a comprehensive review”. Click here for the full article. The study abstract tells us that ‘Organic food consumption may reduce the risk of allergic disease and overweight and obesity, but the evidence is not conclusive….’. The paper reports that conventional fruits and vegetables constitute the main source of pesticide exposure to humans. Other topics discussed include organic dairy, higher omega-3 content, animal antibiotic use, and lower cadmium in organic cereal crops.
Another discussion point is about the subjects of the study. Do people who consume organic/biodynamic food have better outcomes as they may exercise more regularly than those who consume a conventional diet.
At Stefano Lubiana we are motivated to produce organic/biodynamic wine because we believe the environment and native fauna are better off, our employees do not have to handle poisonous chemicals and our customers hopefully experience an unadulterated ‘wholefood’ benefit from consuming our wine. If these advantages were not part of organic/biodynamic farming then we would not bother with the time, cost, hassle, administration, expense and energy it takes to achieve certification.
With the festive period just around the corner I encourage you to read this article for yourself and whilst you enjoy a glass of Organic/biodynamic wine from Stefano Lubiana Wines!
Recently I came across an interesting book that Steve purchased online called ‘Organic growing with worms’ by David Murphy. It was sitting on the coffee table and I had a few minutes between the dishwasher finishing and hanging out a load of washing. (This is what I do on my days off as a part time domestic goddess!!)
One of the few challenges we’ve found in our vineyard is the imbalance of nitrogen. Why do grapes need nitrogen? Grapes with balanced ‘goldilocks’ nitrogen produce higher quality, flavoursome and stable wines that age well. Too much nitrogen is not a good thing as vines push to create canopy rather than fruit shading out bunches. This can produce unripe fruit characters with poor age-ability. One of the reasons Grand Cru wines are planted on hillsides rather than the valley floor is because hillsides have soils of less vigour and are generally warmer (less clay), and also can be of a higher PH. When we purchased our Granton vineyard over 30 years ago it was planted to a market garden producing mostly brassicas best suited to an alkaline soil type. The previous owner ran the market garden conventionally and, as a result, we inherited soils like concrete, which is a habitat uninviting to worms. Over the past 30 years we’ve set about reversing the harm done through the introduction of compost, compost teas, 500, 501, gentle cultivation and cover crops. We monitor our progress through soil testing. We’ve come a long way and we’ve increased the carbon content immensely but there is still some more work to be done. Worms can help us as they work around the clock with no overtime converting the carbon to nitrogen.
If you’re mad about gardening and want to do something to help the environment, especially if you’re keen to grow food, this is an essential book. What I learned was that worms deposit nitrogen in the soil through their burrowing and urine (wee). When worms burrow they shore up the walls of the burrows with their mucus. This is full of nitrogen that is excreted through the digestion of carbon, minerals and bacteria. Their wee is also full of nitrogen. When it rains, or irrigation is applied, this washes all the nitrogen through the burrows to the tip of the root system that is then taken up by the vine. Not only do the worms deposit nitrogen but their burrowing allows for oxygen to enter the soil. Along with carbon this is a key requirement for bacteria to flourish. ‘bacteria is agriculture’s richest source of nitrogen on the planet’ p112. Oxygen in soil feels squidgy underfoot, not like concrete. ‘Organic growing with worms’ explains how to start a worm farm, attract worms, keep them and increase their numbers. It’s an easy read full of great ideas. I give it 5 stars out of 5.
(Marco, Steve and Mario Lubiana 2008)
We are currently Tasmania’s only certified Biodynamic vineyard. With two vineyards located in Southern Tasmania - one in Derwent Valley and the other located in the Huon Valley. We have a focus on producing only premium quality Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and, of course, Sparkling wines. Over half of our vineyards are planted in the two great Burundian varietals.
Steve Lubiana, a fifth generation Italian heritage winemaker, hails from Moorook in South Australia. His father, Mario, a post war immigrant from Istria, established Lubiana Wines in the Riverland, South Australia, in 1953. It was always expected Steve would take over his father’s business when the time came, but as some young winemakers do, Steve travelled to Champagne for the 1985 vintage. During this time Steve developed his passion for premium quality sparkling wine.
This led Steve and his new wife, Monique, to Tasmania in 1988 on their honeymoon for a scouting trip. A couple of years after this visit they purchased the original 252-hectare parcel of land at Granton. The Granton vineyard was first planted to 2ha of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir during the spring of 1991. Over the years it has expanded to over 18.5 ha of bearing vines, and now includes Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, Shiraz and Malbec among others. An additional 7ha of Pinot Noir was added during the spring 2010. In spring 2019 a further 1.4ha of close-planted Pinot Noir was established.
After achieving Biodynamic certification in 2013 at the Granton Vineyard, Steve and Monique Lubiana purchased the former Panorama Vineyard at Cradoc, Huon Valley in 2015. This added additional10 hectares of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Huon Valley vineyard is in conversion and will be certified Biodynamic from 2021.
Much to the delight of Steve and Monique their son, Marco Lubiana, has followed in the family tradition by becoming the 6th generation winemaker. After graduating from Adelaide University in 2018, Marco joined the family business along with launching his own label “Marco Lubiana” marcolubiana.com.au.
In 2020 our gravity fed winery located onsite at our Granton Vineyard in the Derwent Valley has the capacity to process up to 300 tonnes of fruit. We produce 10 000 to 13 000 cases of wine annually. While Vintage 2020 has been dominated by a global crisis, we still have managed to produce high quality biodynamic wines. Currently our Vintage team is made up of Assistant Winemaker, Lauren, along with Batiste from France and Leo from Germany, plus the Tasmanian locals of Justin ......and of course Marco, Monique and Steve Lubiana. We look forward to releasing our first wine from vintage 2020 later this year.
Steve was introduced to Gerhard Pittnauer of Pittnauer Wines through their mutual friend and agent Patrick Walsh. Pittnauer Wines is based in the cool climate Austrian region of Burgenland along the eastern border with Hungary.
Steve had tasted the biodynamic Pittnauer Wines, and he found them to be bright, generous and authentic with a clear sense of place. Soon after, while Gerhard was visiting Australia for a wine exhibition they were introduced. Steve was in the process of certifying our Granton Estate to biodynamics and they found they had an immediate connection and shared similar environmental philosophies.
Steve was impressed by Pittnauer’s approach to organics, natural and unrestricted overall feel of their winemaking philosophy. Wine can be made using a scientific approach, made with numbers and equations to a formula. Whereas artistic wine styles are usually made by impression, touch and intuition, i.e. understanding the seasonal effects and leading with those rather than trying to insert a square peg into a round hole.
Not long after their initial meeting Steve travelled to Austria and undertook a sabbatical at the Pittnauer Estate. Here he witnessed a confident winemaker flowing with the vintage. Steve, a fifth generation winemaker, who trained at Roseworthy Agricultural College was looking to pare back a little of his mostly technical and academic approach to include a more empathetic methodology. He found that assurance through his experience at Pittnauer.
During Steve’s visit to Austria he also had the opportunity to taste the grape varieties in their environment and assess their suitability to our vineyard at Granton in the Derwent Valley. Steve decided that the two most suited Austrian varieties for our Granton Estate were Blaufränckisch and Grüner Veltliner and so planted a small plot of each. Many of you would have already tasted our Grüner Veltliner, that edges closely to a Pinot Gris and Riesling in style. Our Buon Gusto Club has already had the first taste of our Blaufränkisch and now we are excited to share this new release with you all.
Good friend and wine writer, Jane Faulkner, published an article on Steve Lubiana and Gerhard Pittnauer's relationship and complimentry wine making styles, which with her permission we have included below.
Biodiversity on Every Level
Through his understanding of how important biodiversity is in agriculture, Steve became aware of the significance of bees and he came to admire them. Steve built his own hives using a similar template to the ‘Warre’ hive. Steve’s thinking is to keep the hive construction as close to nature as possible so that the bees are free to truly express themselves.
Steve has stocked his hives through rescuing swarms. He developed a relationship with a local pest controller who would call him when a household required a swarm removed. Steve would arrive at the address with an empty wine box and some smoke, collect the bees and rehome them in one of his hives. Some of you may have enjoyed the sweet honey collected off our property whilst visiting our winery.
Vines are self-pollinators. Therefore bees are not essential to growing grapes. However we still need them to pollinate our cover crops and the surrounding native bush. Flowers that produce pollen and nectar attract beneficial predator wasps that help keep light brown apple moth at bay. Too many larvae from these little creatures produce less quality grapes, by damaging the stalks and creating nests between berries that invites disease such as botrytis.
Bees also pollinate the surrounding bush of which we have at least 100 ha. This bush-belt is home to many introduced and native birds amongst other native animals that use our vineyard as their Larder keeping insects in balance and bringing the life force with them.
We can recommend the ‘Honeybee Democracy’ by Thomas D. Seeley for further reading about Bees; this book is a true gift to humanity here is a tiny extract.
“….. He discovered that when a bee performs a waggle run inside a dark hive, she produces a miniaturized re-enactment of her recent flight outside the hive over sunlit countryside, and in this way indicates the location of the rich food source she has just visited….”