There’s no rest for the wicked
Some weeks are jam-packed that I am grateful for my supportive family and my day job. This past week was exciting on a number of levels so I cannot focus on just one:
Bringing soil to life
“Approved by Mother Nature” is an audacious claim to make but Avondale does not take it lightly. Subscribing to the ethos “Terre Est Vita”, which means “Soil is Life”, the wines of this certified organic estate are a true expression of terroir, thanks to the dynamic farming methods practiced be Avondale proprietor Johnathan Grieve. For Grieve, everything in life is part of a complex web of relationships and networks – which includes soil, water, energy, plants, animals and people.
Grieve, the youngest son of the original owners John and Ginny Grieve who also own Vital Health Foods, is now the face of the business. After a fire ravaged the estate in 2000, Grieve, an artist by training, seized the opportunity to transform the land into a robust, balanced vineyard ecosystem by reintroducing natural fungi, microbes and organisms into the soil which had been depleted by monoculture.
Having combined biodynamic methods and science to improve soil fertility and plant new vines matched to soil types, the farm is also Biodiversity in Wine certified.
To skeptics, the philosophy can be a bit hard to swallow – over lunch at Bistro Michel in Birnam, Grieve explains how the moon and planetary cycles influence our enjoyment of wine on particular days. And that the lunar calendar’s root, fruit, flower and leaf cycles affect our enjoyment of wine. Apparently flower days are best. Dousing rods, pendulums and cow horns are tools of his trade.
I’m not much of a believer in the esoteric, so find it all a bit airy-fairy, but the wine’s glorious and I love the names: Armilla (a classy chardonnay Cap Classique, inspired by an ancient astronomical instrument used to show the position of stars around the Earth). Anima (a rich chenin, taking its name from the Latin for vital life force), Cyclus ( a white blend, inspired by the spinning, turbulent flow of the vortex to energise and revive fluid in Nature), Camissa (a Muscat de Frontignan, mourvedre and grenache blanc de noir, named after the Khoi-San word for Table Mountain – “place of sweet waters”), Samsara (a fruit-driven syrah, Samsara means “to flow on”, passing through the states of life and death), La Luna (a supple Bordeaux blend in honour of the moon as a symbol of the way the universe influences our living system) and Navitas (meaning energy, their flagship wine, is a limited-release syrah, mourvedre and Grenache blend).
As Nature is central to Avondale’s philosophy, natural methods are used from vineyard to the cellar, with the organically grown grapes hand-harvested (according to the cycles of course), whole-bunch pressed and naturally fermented in a state-of-the-art gravitational cellar. Very little sulphur is used too, which will make Avondale even more appealing to those who are sensitive to it. For more information on Biodynamic winemaking, read Johnathan’s blog