Mont Rochelle: Change is Afoot in the Vineyards

Friday, 27 October, 2017
Mont Rochelle Mountain Vineyards
At the end of a hectic day, when you find a moment to put your feet-up and enjoy a refreshing glass of Mont Rochelle, very few of us actually take the time to think about how this wine has ended up in our glass.

As a forward thinking winery, the team at Mont Rochelle are busy throughout the year tending the vineyards, producing the wine and developing new practices to make the winery as productive and quality driven as it can possibly be.

At the start of June, the team started on a huge vineyard replanting scheme which marks the beginning of a seven-year project. The first phase focuses on blocks 1, 2 and 3 which are situated near to the main entrance, in front of Country Kitchen. If you are visiting us soon, this is the reason why these three blocks will be looking different to the others over the next two years while we allow time for the new vines establish themselves.

Dustin, our resident Winemaker, explained that the reason for this vineyard removal project is to help bring more complexity into the wines, which is done by looking at the geography of the vineyards more closely to help choose more suitable clones and varietals. Not sure what that means? For example, alluvial soils (which are found near the bottom of the Mont Rochelle vineyard) are more suitable to certain clones of red varietals. Phase 1 will allow us to replant different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon, this, in turn, will allow for more blending options prior to bottling and ultimately more complexity in the bottle.

During the first phase, the existing vines are removed and the soil is left barren (fallow) to recover over winter. Next year’s plant material has already been decided and is currently being prepared for us (only the best material will do!). The new vines will be planted next year, around April depending on the weather. We don’t  pick the crop in the first 4 years as we want the vine to focus establishing itself and become a healthy strong plant. After 4 years growth, we will be ready to receive and process the first fruit coming in from these vineyards.

This is a huge milestone in Mont Rochelle’s wine production. Nothing of this scale has been undertaken since 1994 so it is very exciting to see the effect this change will have on the complexity and quality of the wines which we will get to taste in a few years’ time.

Linked to the replanting is another smaller project the team has been working on to help support local wildlife. This is the establishment of large T-shaped poles in the vineyards (bear with us on this one!) which are seven metres high with a cross-beam at the top. The idea is for them to help birds of prey, such as owls and eagles, which are hunting in the area. With this birds-eye view over the vineyard, they will be able to swoop down on any small vineyard pests living amongst the vines.