With just over 12 hectares of vines, the Warboys Vineyard has become the centrepiece of Angove Family Winemakers. Founded in 1886, the family’s historic vineyards were swallowed up by Adelaide’s urban sprawl in the 1970s, with the rundown Warboys Vineyard (named after a site that Dr Angove started to source from in the 19th century) acquired in 2008. Managed since then with strict organic and biodynamic methods, viticulturist Nick Bakkum has resurrected the old shiraz and grenache vines, as well as extending those plantings along with the inclusion of fiano to insulate against a warming climate.
In a bold statement for a large producer, the commitment to organics by Angove is absolute, with all 500 hectares of the family vineyard holdings either certified organic (ACO) or just completing their conversion and awaiting certification. The Warboys Vineyard, on McLaren Vale’s Chalk Hill Road, is certified both organic and biodynamic.
“When we purchased the Warboys Vineyard in 2008, the soil was heavy and compacted from years of tractor use,” says viticulturist Nick Bakkum. “We have farmed the site organically and biodynamically since day one. Now the soil is alive and healthy. …It’s packed with nutrients, insects, spiders and worms. The whole vineyard feels alive. This has transformed the quality of the grapes… Healthy vines and the best tasting grapes means we have realised the potential of this fantastic site.”
“The wines are supple and expressive, taking time to open up and reveal their true beauty – they have a richness in the palate but like the vineyard there is also a delicate note to them. We are now seeing the full potential of what we knew was a wonderful site but one that had been somewhat neglected for many years.”
The site was first planted in 1936 to 3 hectares of shiraz, with those plantings doubled in ’64, along with a hectare of grenache, with another half hectare added in ’72. All other additions have been made by the Angove family, with there now being just over 9 hectares of shiraz and 2.4 hectares of grenache. There is also just under a hectare of fiano, in an exploration of the variety from Campania, Italy, that has proven to perform well in the heat, such as in Sicily, and is finding some real traction in the Vale.
“Climate Change is real,” says Bakkum. “We take an approach of both mitigation and adaptation, reducing our carbon footprint where we can throughout the entire winegrowing and winemaking process and looking at alternative ways to grow our grapes and manage our vineyard, including alternative varieties and alternative management techniques.”
For Bakkum, evolving the viticulture to match a changing climate is a simple necessity, but the idea of mitigation is the greater issue, and the greater responsibility. “We always think about the bigger picture, about leaving the land and the greater environment in a better state than we found it for the next generation.
“Biodiversity in the vineyard is so important and is one of the reasons we farm organically and biodynamically. The soil and our site are the precious resources that deliver us a living; if we do not nurture it and help it thrive the sustainability of the entire business is in jeopardy.”
Bakkum leans on natural solutions to help control pests, with a colony of microbats tending to problematic insects and a flock of Indian runner ducks tasked with reducing the snail population, while all agricultural inputs are naturally organic. “Being certified organic and biodynamic, we use no artificial herbicides, pesticides or fertilisers. We have developed special under-vine mowers to mulch the weeds, and then fold them back into the soil. We also extensively use mulch under the vines to smother the weeds and provide nutrients back into the soil.”
The Warboys Vineyard is also home to the Angove cellar door, acting as the showpiece for Australia’s largest producer of organic wine. In keeping with their sustainable manifest, the cellar door is largely powered by solar panels, and given the abundant sunshine and daytime operating hours, it returns more power to the grid than the operation takes from it. Given the long history and meticulous farming methods, it’s no surprise that Angove wants the Warboys Vineyard to be front and centre.
“The earth has a spring in it that certainly was not there when we started practicing organic and biodynamic practices over 12 years ago,” says Bakkum. “This certainly flows through to the grapes that we grow and the wines we make from this sensational piece of McLaren Vale. The wines are supple and expressive, taking time to open up and reveal their true beauty – they have a richness in the palate but like the vineyard there is also a delicate note to them. We are now seeing the full potential of what we knew was a wonderful site but one that had been somewhat neglected for many years.”