The agony and the ecstasy of cultivating biodynamic vines at Stefano Lubiana Wines is not without its challenges, but there is nothing else we would rather do and it brings us much joy. When we first arrived in pristine Tasmania, 35 years ago as a young couple, we could only dream that the vineyard would invoke so much passion in us and drive us everyday. Most days I walk the dogs, and stop along the way to tuck, weed or even simply admire the vines and their exquisite view. Spring is especially beautiful with the many shades of green drenching the landscape. Vines are like magnets they draw you in and once you begin to touch it’s hard to let go. I think the vines impart a gratitude, a healing and a calmness that is hard to find elsewhere, and it is an offering of thanks for looking after them. The feeling would be similar to walking through and admiring a botanic garden, basking in the wonders of its colours that leave an impression on both the conscious and the subconscious.
I must admit, the lifestyle of a vigneron is very selfish and leaves little time for much else. It is always a race to fit in as much as we can before the season changes, from pruning, to canopy management, to harvest and so the cycle continues. Having a vineyard is like having a child - dearly loved, there is never too much love or time that can be given to it.
At the moment we are racing to tuck the vines up into the trellis, directing the lush, supple vertical growth. Canopy management this way ensures the vines receive more sunlight and ventilation, securing the upcoming gradual and timely ripening as well as ensuring low disease pressure.
Terroir is the hero of Stefano Lubiana Wines’ story. In order to manage our soils we cultivate them. We mostly adhere to the biodynamic calendar’s barren phase during cultivation. Therefore, the day after the full moon, we commence working the soil with our Braun mid-mount cultivator with a blade attachment. After the next full moon we alternate with the Bruan star tiller. The tiller flicks the soil back to where the grass and weeds were removed by the blades. The blade cultivator attachment has wings, similar in shape to an aeroplane wing, one is attached to each side of the tractor. The blade action swings in and out between the vines cutting and pulling out some soil grass and weeds that have grown since the last till. This pattern of tilling and blading repeats throughout the year preventing grass and weeds from thieving the moisture and nutrients from the soil. Our homemade compost is full of bacteria and nutrients that replenishes the soils. We dress the vineyard with this material just prior to flowering ensuring the vines have the nutrients they need to set fruit.
As well as the cultivator, a mower is hitched to the back of my tractor. It slashes the mid-row, this singular action doing two jobs in one pass - saving soil compaction, diesel and time. An important benefit of cultivation is its capacity to impart oxygen below the surface and releases minerals and fertiliser from compacted zones, essential for improving our poor soils. Access to these elements stimulates the vines to push growth to the top of the trellis. Tall healthy organic canopies photosynthesis at an optimum level growing and ripening high quality fruit that imparts complexity, poise and precision to the wine. Tasmania’s cool climate ensures ripening happens slowly so that flavour and structure manifest along the way.
While I’m in the vineyard, Stefano is busy repairing machinery and fixing breakdowns, his problem solving aptitude and intuitive brain can apply itself to the workings of all sorts of technology. He is irreplaceable, and we are forever grateful. He also manages our little plot of, mostly, Chardonnay at our newly planted vineyard on Blacksnake Road. He is regularly in and out of the winery to mentor our son Marco who is stepping up to the winemaking role. He helps Phoebe and I with marketing, admin and contributes to the overall wellness of our little wine business. Stefano and I, Marco and Phoebe are only part of our team. Christopher, Chris, Bradey, Molly, Tim, Adelia, Keira, Isabella, Joel and many others contribute to our triumphs daily.
When you share a bottle of Stefano Lubiana, appreciate and know we’re working every day to create wines that carry the essence of our unique terroir and the soul of our Tasmanian estate.