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.
Bio-Dynamics Tasmania a Resource Handbook www.biodynamicstas.com
Bio-Dynamics Tasmania kicked off with a seminar held in Ulverstone in 1988, presented by Colin Cook. The subject of today’s blog is the Bio-dynamics Tasmania resource handbook. It has largely been written by Graeme Roberts and Brian Grayling both long time members of Bio-Dynamics Tasmania.
We signed a contract to purchase our Granton property in 1989. I remember Alex Podolinsky (guru and Australian pioneer of bio-dynamics) visited our property in 1992 around April. He surveyed the property with Steve to assess its capacity to convert to bio-dynamics. We were so eager to get started, but with a young family and plenty of debt, bio-dynamics sat on the back burner until 2008. It was around this time we knew that the business would not fail and that we were on the road to reaching our business and personal goals. We had made the decision to start to use compost and softer fungicides (non-systemic) knowing that bio-dynamics were our ultimate farming systems. With this in mind it was less scary to take the risk of completely moving away from synthetic farming and to trial bio-dynamics. The trial was successful and in 2010 we became certified in conversion. In 2013 we became fully certified.
When I think of bio-dynamics I think of ‘the garden of Eden’; imagine a beautiful landscape where there is random organisation and everywhere you look is breathtakingly lush, healthy with a bounty of flavour filled produce. Of course this is a once a upon a time existence, perhaps a fantasy and possibly unachievable in this day and age. Nonetheless it did not stop us from striving towards this goal where one day, through the use of bio-dynamic systems, our vineyard would enter into a natural balance where it would almost care take for itself.
Graeme Roberts stopped by on Friday to go through the Bio-Dynamics Tasmania resource handbook with me. The difference with this resource is that it relates directly to Tasmanian’s climatic conditions and farming experiences, rather than those in Europe or even on the mainland. Graeme discussed with me his biodynamic knowledge and how he applied it to his own little 5-acre vineyard at Bagdad which he planted in 1992. He said there were great benefits to be had when making 500 by adding 8ml of valerian to the mix. This is a great tonic for all plants. I believe this to be true as Brian Keats (Astro Calendar author) has also told me that 501, when combined with trace elements, helps the plant to take them up more readily and to assimilate them.
The Bio-Dynamics Tasmania Resource Handbook is for everyone. It is not necessary to be certified to practice biodynmaics. On any level there is something that each of us can do to improve the soil and the planet. The bio-dynamic preparations are readily available from Bio-Dynamics Tasmania (or your local supplier). You can purchase their Resource Handbook on their website www.biodynamicstas.com and action the very easy steps to create your own bio-dynamic paradise. Bio-dynamics is a little bit like parenting; the more of it you do the more confident and better you get at it. If you’re not a parent think of it as learning to ride a bike. You start out slowly learn from the stacks and near misses and then take it to the ultimate level. Any bike rider, if skilled enough and determined, can ride in the Tour de France!
Malvasia (Istriana), as far as it is known, originates from Greece. Cuttings were traded in the 14th century by the Venetian merchants, more than likely through the port at Trieste, less than an hour’s drive from the border of Croatia, and near the breathtakingly beautiful Istrian coast.
This variety is grown throughout Europe and the Americas, with small plantings in Australia. Traditionally the variety was blended with Trebbiano, a variety that was once widely grown in the warmer regions of Australia. In Italy, it is grown more around the Milano region. Malvasia was primarily grown to make a sweeter style of white wine, similar to white Tokay or white port, also known as Madeira.
Nick Butler, Steve’s very good University friend living in the UK, often vacationed in Istria from where Steve’s family originates. Nick raved about what a fantastical wine Malvasia made.
Nick motivated Steve to visit Istria and he too fell in love with the country and Malvasia. Soon after, a plan was hatched and 6 rows were added to our Yellow chardonnay block. 2018 was the first wine made and it quickly sold out. There was not enough fruit from the 2019 vintage to make a worthwhile amount so the faithful have been patiently waiting, until now! Steve has carefully crafted the next 100% Malvasia biodynamic Amphora from the 2020 vintage now available to those lovers of skin fermented whites and or those who enjoy thrill of trying alternative varieties.
Unfamiliar with term Amphora? This is the name of an egg shaped vessel used to ferment the white Malvasia grapes on their skins. Our Amphora is a ceramic vessel made by the ‘Living Forms’ folks based in the Byron Bay region. The benefits of the ceramic amphora are the ability of the shell to perspire, allowing self-cooling during fermentation. This is not possible in a concrete, timber or glazed clay amphora.
Let’s get back to how we make this wine and what it taste and smells like. Simple, natural and traditional winemaking is employed. The biodynamic grapes are hand harvested weighed then processed through the destemmer, removing the stalks but the berries remain whole this is now called must. The must is then conveyed into the Amphora where it sits until the natural yeasts spontaneously start to ferment. Once fermented it is basket pressed straight to barrel. It is then left on full solids until it’s ready to bottle.
The nose of the 2020 Stefano Lubiana Malvasia Amphora Biodynamic is one that is lifted with hints of musk, marmalade, and crème brûlée. The palate is rich and voluptuous with honeycomb, iced tea, sour plums and spice. This wine finishes lean and clean with a dusty minerality and some skin grip that lingers on the palate.
There is no rush to drink this wine once opened. It will keep for well over a few days, and is resistant to oxidation.
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!
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….”