"No Shiraz in Australia has reflected its site and its vintage with more fidelity down the years than Ron Laughton's Jasper Hill, the wine which first sprung a spotlight onto Heathcote."
Andrew Jefford, Decanter (August 2013)
Minimal intervention is applied during the fermentation and maturation, allowing the individual paddocks’ terroir to fully express itself in the resulting wine. The grapes at harvest are importantly fully ripe, regardless of sugar ripeness. As an indicator of site greatness, the grapes at vintage retain high levels of natural acidity; there is never a need to adjust, even when the sugar levels may be 25 Brix or higher.
After complete de-stemming, the fermenting Shiraz wines are given long maceration times, generally around six weeks, to polymerize and moderate the skin and pip tannins into a more supple form. Indigenous yeasts have been used solely over the last decade and the must is deliberately not cooled, usually peaking at 89-95° F. No yeast nutritional supplements are ever used.
Pressed lightly, all pressings are added back for completeness and the wine is allowed to settle, then racked off gross lees into small French and American oak barriques (20% new each year). The oak maturation period is about 15 months in the naturally humid, cool and stable underground cellar, without any racking, fining or filtration.
Emily’s Paddock Shiraz /Cabernet Franc is matured in small French oak barriques. Georgia’s Paddock Shiraz is matured in both American and French oak barrique barrels. Malolactic fermentation occurs spontaneously in barrel in late spring, after which, the first light sulfur dioxide addition is made. After assembly, the reds are given only a course filtration just prior to filling on our own in-house, modern bottling and packaging line.
The aim throughout is to preserve maximum flavor and natural balance and complexity, by minimizing input damage to allow the individual vineyards to express their personality, with little interference from the winemaker.
30 acres planted to Shiraz, naturally low yielding at approximately 1.2 tons/acre – 7.5 acres planted to Riesling, yielding approximately 1.2 tons/acre
7.3 acres planted to Shiraz, naturally low yielding at 0.8 ton/acre
Bud burst commences early in October, with flowering during December. Both vineyards were mainly planted in 1975/76 with small plantings in Georgia’s Paddock after it was ravaged by bushfire in 1987. Both vineyards are own-rooted, ie not grafted to Phylloxera resistant American root stock. Both vineyards are unirrigated and rely on natural rainfall only.
Vineyards Cultivated Using Organic Practices
No synthetic chemicals have ever been applied to the soil or vines; the vineyards are totally organic; no insecticides, no herbicides, no fungicides other than an occasional elemental sulfur or Bordeaux mixture application, and no artificial fertilizers. Jasper Hill produces their own organic compost for vineyard dressing. The soil surface is either covered in mulch derived from vine prunings, leguminous cover crops and native grasses, or is lightly cultivated, with aeration. Minimal tillage is practiced, within and between vine rows, using lightweight 4WD tractors to minimize soil compaction.
Summer pruning, leaf plucking or crop reduction are not necessary, in the balanced, open canopy. Soil organic matter is high, allowing great bio-diversity in micro flora and fauna and supporting large earthworm populations – all beneficial for natural soil fertility.
Over the last few years, Biodynamic principles have been slowly introduced as they accept and learn more about this holistic approach to agriculture, first articulated by Rudolph Steiner early in the 20th century.
All pruning is done by hand. Although labor intensive, Jasper Hill favors cane pruning in this climate. The vineyards are picked by hand, utilizing the skills of a dedicated team of locals.
Both Emily’s Paddock and Georgia’s Paddock soils are derived from rock of Cambrian age (500 million years). Generally, the deep bed rock is Basaltic in nature. The soils are unusually deep, over 9 feet in most places, friable red brown ferruginous gravelly loam, on well drained slopes.
Unique in Victoria , the Cambrian soil occurs in a narrow, non-contiguous North/ South strip between two parallel faults and is typically only around 900 feet wide. The faults give rise to a complex mineralogy. (Gold is still mined in Heathcote, but the vineyards are not in the auriferous zone).
Both vineyards are on elevated hillsides at an altitude of 1,000 feet and are approximately 1 mile apart. Emily’s Paddock has a NE aspect and shallower soil, while Georgia ‘s Paddock has a NW aspect and deeper soil.
The annual rainfall of a low 23 inches is winter / spring dominant, with dry summers and little or no rain from December, until after vintage in April. Situated on the inland slopes of the Great Dividing Range, the climate is Continental, with low humidity during the growing season.
The deep soil enables healthy, low vigor vine growth, without irrigation. The climate can be classified as cool/warm, with a Heat Summation of 1420 Celsius Degree Days. Frost during the early growing season is normal in the district, but not on the high vineyard slopes. Vintage commences during the first half of April, indicating a relatively cool climate.