Producing a bottle of wine is a bit like a self-portrait. A confession of sorts. An unspoken attempt to portray ourselves to others as we see ourselves, however deluded and flawed that might be.
The wine I grow to put in an Iona bottle, pretty much includes everything I have thought and done for the past 16 years. It is the practices that I have chosen to include and those I have chosen to leave out. It is the paths I have chosen to follow and the garden paths I have been led up! Most of all it is my sincerest attempt to express my own intent, which is manifested in how I pay attention to my vineyards, to my cattle, to my soil, to the people who toil for me, and then to marry this intent with the relationship I have with our winemaker who takes over these grapes, and in turn applies his intent, intellect and craft through the wine making process to try and echo or dove-tail his intentions with those of my own.
Our 100% Elgin Shiraz, a wine we call SOLACE from Iona is such a portrait. I believe Werner Muller, Iona winemaker, has fully understood my methods and sometimes daft deviations in the farming of this Shiraz, and has made a wine which is a genuine reflection of my philosophy and sometimes flawed ambitions. Solace began as a portrait of pain, a vineyard planted in the wake of the death of a husband, followed by huge optimism and high spirits in the finding of another, then patience, many years of rather dull perseverance and finally luck. SOLACE also reflects the great kindness from all those who helped and inspired me- too many to mention in general and the Biodynamic society in particular. Despite being their most unfaithful practitioner- I fall off the wagon with regular monotony- yet return like an addict to these incredibly kind and nurturing people who bring a serenity, gratitude and life to farming which I have never encountered in the chemical realm of farming.
If I wished that this wine looked like someone I would choose Isabella Rosselini – more interesting than beautiful. More demanding than accessible. More poetic than real. More elegant than obvious. Um, so basically there’s still a bit of work left for us to do……..!
For the technically minded, the grapes are grown in our Brocha Vineyards in the Elgin Valley. Soils are stony and sandy with lots of white quartz. A dry farm by Elgin standards making disease control using Trichoderma and Bacillus with Sulphur and Copper Soap relatively easy. No pesticides are used. All compost is made by us. No synthetic fertilizers are used. No topping of vineyards and minimal leaf breaking is required. I still use one herbicide spray a year which really is unacceptable to me and when I am truer, nobler and richer and can afford even poorer yields than I get at present, I still dream about eliminating this awful stuff from my farming practice. (I say this having very unsuccessfully eliminated it from Brocha from 2007 to 2010 and nearly bankrupted myself and lost most of my yield to competitive grasses.) Werner in turn does not inoculate the grapes, uses no enzymes, does not filter or fine. All barrels are French oak and wine is matured for one year.
Having said all this at the end of the day it’s just a glass of wine I suppose, but that won’t stop me banging my head against firm objects and trying just a little harder to put a message in a bottle. Good health to all those who drink our wine.