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!
Stefano Lubiana Back Vintage Biodynamic Riesling biodynamic
Our first plot of Riesling was planted in 1995. Located on the right hand side of the entrance to our vineyard just past our ‘Monet’ pond. Here we have .2 of a hectare, with a second planting opposite the winery of .6 of a hectare, which was planted in 2006.
Of the 60 different Riesling clones available to plant our vineyards are a mixture of about 10 different clones developed by the Geisenheim Institute, based in Germany.
Steve’s father, Mario, was a very keen connoisseur of Riesling. Under his Lubiana Wines brand, he made ‘Rhine’ Riesling for decades in South Australia’s Riverland. Of course ‘Rhine’ is a Geographical Indicator so only winemakers in the Rhine Valley, Germany are now only allowed to use the word ‘Rhine’ on their labels.
Stefano Lubiana Wines is set on a hillside, 100-150m above sea level, with rows planted to a North/South orientation. Our site can be very windy, more so around the equinoxes. Given the exposed site and its elevation, the decision to plant Riesling rested with its reputation for handling the wind and for setting fruit even in difficult, drizzly years. We now know how to reduce climatic impact in our vineyard. Since we implement organics/biodynamic systems. Our use of manures, composts to the exclusion of the use of synthetic (artificial) fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides on our soils. The vines have strengthened their immunity and built resilience. This fortifies the vines in difficult climatic conditions.
Two standout Rieslings at that time, pre 1995, were Moorilla & Meadowbank both grown in the Derwent Valley. Based on those wines Steve took an educated risk believing Riesling would make a very good fit for our site and the rest, as they say, is history.
There are many famous Riesling growing regions around the world. Tasmania produces Rieslings of equal, if not higher quality. We produce Rieslings that are highly perfumed with unmatched balanced natural acid. Our style shows tons of middleweight texture and they finish with an ultra soft, refreshing mouth-feel.
Riesling made at Stefano Lubiana is always hand picked, sometimes whole-bunch pressed, sometimes crushed first, depending on the season. Chilled overnight and then racked before inoculation, with a cold long ferment ensuing. These days a portion is matured in seasoned foudres on extended lees before bottling 9 months after harvest.
Here is the vertical tasting notes by Steve & Christopher 26/8/21
2017 Riesling Biodynamic - Field flowers on the nose. Think chamomile, daisies, Iris. The pallet has a mix of lemon and oranges topped with a little syrup/icing sugar and long dry refreshing finish.
2015 Riesling Biodynamic - Lemon rind bounces from the glass, sherbet melon with a creamy texture lime citrus finish.
2013 Riesling Biodynamic - Honey, ice tea and lanolin on the nose. The texture is glossy and the palate features honey straw and musk finishing with racy acid and great palate length.
Oysters is an excellent food pairing for these perfectly aged Rieslings.
How picturesque is the Huon Valley?? Exquisite to say the least! Reminiscent of a fairy tale landscape, the reason why so many people fall in love with the Huon region. The hills roll on forever, the grass is a deeper shade of green, thicker and longer. The trees are that much taller and more majestic. There are ponds and dams everywhere you look and in the late afternoon, the water glistens in the sun. The air is full of moisture and particles dance through the air in the haze of summer. In winter the Huon River flows at around 9000ml/day producing a strong current almost bursting its banks. In summer, the gorgeous, clean, fresh water still flows at an astonishing rate. Anything and everything is happily growing in the Huon Valley.
Nestled in the little village of Cradoc is the Lucille vineyard. Here is where 9 hectares of pinot noir and one hectare of chardonnay fruit are grown. Originally planted on sloping ground with a north south orientation in 1973 by Steve Ferenze. The land at the edge of the vineyard continues for about another 500 metres until it hits ‘California bay’ an inlet of the Huon River.
The composition of the soil is grey clay; containing oblong riverbed stones mostly the size of quail’s eggs and slightly larger, covered by sandy loam topsoil. This site’s soil is much poorer than the surrounding plots that are mainly planted to apples.
The soil’s hard crust forces the vines to struggle, developing slow growth and tough foliage. The vineyard is mostly dry grown with 1-2 irrigations per year. The skins of the berries are tough and the berries are small. Small berries produce juice that is highly concentrated due to the skin to juice ratio.
The winery and vineyard have recently been renovated and the vineyard is now producing extremely high quality fruit at very low yields. In 2018 Steve decided to make a Huon Valley Estate Pinot Noir from this fruit as it too has the depth and quality that is produced at our Granton vineyard in the Derwent Valley.
The 2018 Estate Pinot Noir Huon Valley is a wine that is starting to emerge from its cocoon. The colour is deep crimson, very much like black cherry juice, and the nose is very elegant, floral and sweet. The palate offers more of the same with vanilla, bright cherry and spice. The tannins are plentiful but balanced. They are long and lean but dry, balancing the abundance of sweet cherries.
This wine will cellar well for many years to come. It is only now, after 2 years in the bottle, that it’s shy but impressive personality has appeared. Enjoy this wine for years to come. Hopefully it will be one of the wines that will cement Tasmania’s reputation as Australia’s most highly prized and celebrated Pinot Noir Capital.
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.
Historically Malbec grapes were widely grown in Bordeaux France. However this variety amongst others, was decimated by Phylloxera. Phylloxera is a louse that eats the roots of the vine, and was introduced to France from America in the 1860’s. Phylloxera was overcome in France and across Europe by grafting healthy canes onto rootstocks of grape varieties that are largely resistant to phylloxera. Today in Bordeaux Malbec is only grown on rootstocks and is mostly produced as one of the 5 key Bordeaux red varieties namely Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.
Cheval des Andes is a famous Malbec producer located in Mendoza, Argentina. Here you will find their high altitude vineyard close to Lujan de Cuyo Valley in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, between 900 & 1500 metres elevation. It was the dream of the Founder of Cheval des Andes, Pierre Lurton to plant the original Malbec vines from Bordeaux to Argentina. A vineyard originally planted to Malbec, on their own roots, in 1929. A joint venture between Terrazas de Los Andes and Cheval des Andes established in 1999 produces the expensive and very famous Malbec, Bordeaux-style blend that has become the signature wine of the Cheval des Andes.
Malbec on their own roots provide the purest expression of the variety. We are lucky here at Stefano Lubiana Wines like at Cheval des Andes to be able to grow our Malbec on own roots.
There you have it, a little history lesson on the Malbec variety. A relatively new variety to Tasmania and not yet widely grown throughout the many and varied viticultural regions of Tasmania. Here at Stefano Lubiana Wines we have been growing Malbec for some 10 years. Up until recently the grapes have found a home in our Bordeaux blend predominantly made up of Merlot. In 2018 we decided to make the blend 100% Malbec and the wine has not disappointed our many Buon Gusto club members, visitors to our eatery and those visiting for a tasting at our Tuscan inspired cellar door.
We are growing our grapes in soil similar to those found in Bordeaux, grey silty loam over small rocks and stones that have washed up over many millions of years, a product of river-bank drift. Our climate is cool like that of the Andes but not a result of altitude but a product of Tasmania’s southern latitude. Here the cool sea breezes ebb and flow along the tidal banks of the Derwent River creating perfect ripening conditions for Malbec.
Our 2018 harvest of the Stefano Lubiana biodynamic Malbec produced a wine that exhibits a highly expressive perfumed style with rich supple body. Forest floor, spice and Autumn fruits dominate the nose whilst the palate is a balance of rich plums intermingled with spice and ripe soft tannins.
Not long now until the shortest day of the year or the longest night depends how you look at it! Many locals are either heading to northern states to enjoy a warmer winter or eagerly awaiting the return of Hobart’s busy winter events calendar. While Hobart prepares for the onslaught of Dark Mofo we Vignerons are busy doing the necessary work to set the vineyard up for 2022.
Now that we have moved into the colder, darker days of winter, vintage is but a memory with all our barrels safely ‘tucked away’ in the cellar. Our vineyard crew has commenced the mammoth task of pruning across our Derwent and Huon Valley sites. An absolute crucial step in producing layered, vibrant wines. Pruning of our 37.5 hectares is by hand and is as labour intensive as you might imagine, as with previous years ‘all hands on deck’ are required to complete this task by Spring.
With vintage completed and pruning under way we also have a batch of homemade compost fermenting. All green waste from the winery, vineyard and larder (when not being fed to our chooks) is used in our compost. Once finished and rested, the brew will be broadcast throughout the vineyard, garden & orchard at the end of winter/early spring to give our vines, vegetables and fruit trees the nitrogen & nutrients to push them on their way to vintage 2022.
We sowed Tic beans in the vineyard just before April’s full moon and they are now breaking through the soil. The native Hens are feasting on the tender green shoots. However cute they are, we're not very happy about them greedily consuming our cover crop. To gently persuade them to stop we’re erecting a fence to keep them out. FYI native hens are commonplace throughout Tasmania, sometimes known as turbo chooks as they are very fast to escape upon approach and look like a prehistoric chicken.
As with previous years our cellar door and larder will remain open for the winter months and we will once again be showing our biodynamic wines at the Winter Feast. If you are in Hobart during the Dark Mofo period, do drop by our stall (adjacent to the heavy metal kitchen) and taste some wine, we would love to meet you all.
Our award winning 2018 biodynamic Estate Chardonnay has now sold out apart from a limited number of Magnums available. Purchase through our website if you want to enjoy the taste of the ‘incomparable’ 2018 Estate Chardonnay, recently named the top wine and trophy winner at the 2020 Australian Organic wine show. We are equally happy with our 2019 Estate Chardonnay and expect it will showcase the exceptional depth achievable in Southern Tasmania.
On release the 2019 Estate Chardonnay shows restraint but will express more of the lemon cream, biscuity, mealy flavours and stone fruit layers as it ages in the bottle. Enjoy this wine now, however we recommend to decant for an hour or so at room temperature to reduce this wine’s shyness (longevity) and encourage its shape to bloom adding texture and lifting the aroma to the ether.
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!