The Invercarron Vineyard is a bit of a trailblazer, a young vineyard in an area of Tasmania that has never had grapevines planted to it – the Jordan River Valley. In its brief history, the grapes from the 6 hectares of vines on the Jones family’s historic grazing property have both gone to make their own lauded wines and been in demand as contract fruit. Pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris and a rosé are currently produced under the Invercarron label. Vigneron Andrew Jones manages the property with viticulturist Marty Smith.
The Invercarron site in Broadmarsh is the first in the Jordan River Valley, in Tasmania’s south-east, to be planted to vines, but the Jones family are no strangers to the district. With a history of farming in the region that stretches back to the 1860s, Andrew Jones’ parents ran a successful Merino stud for many years. When retirement came around, in 2011, Jones bought 500 hectares of the property from his parents and eventually decided to diversify into wine, enlisting the help of viticulturist Marty Smith to plan and plant the vineyard.
“We’re very proud to establish the first vineyard in the Jordan Valley,” says Smith. “We didn’t get hung up on the risks of being the first vineyard, we embraced the challenge. We applied solid viticultural science when designing the vineyard, picked varieties and clones that matched the soil type, and we now manage the site for highest quality we can achieve. The results have even amazed us!”
The site was only planted in 2017, with three clones of pinot noir, including the Abel clone, which is finally finding its place in Australia after long being celebrated as New Zealand’s most vaunted vine material. Chardonnay is also represented by three clones, including Mendoza, which thrives in Margaret River and New Zealand, but is uncommon in Tasmania. Pinot gris rounds out the selection.
“We have matched the varieties and clones with subtle soil profile changes. The aim of this was to put the vines in areas where they would do best, but to also to give us some subtle variations in fruit favour, tannin and colour, all of which will add something to the final blend of pinot noir or chardonnay. We are also quite excited about our pinot gris. Planted on shallow fractured ironstone, the soil type will limit yield and berry size, ultimately creating intense fruit flavours with incredible depth. It could be the most unique pinot gris block in Tasmania.”
“Our family has been farming the Jordan Valley for six generations, my kids will hopefully be the seventh and then their kids,” says vigneron Andrew Jones. “Sustainability is very important to us. I want my grandchildren and their grandchildren to be able to live a life like we do, so it’s so important that we look after the environment that we live in. So, we are big believers in trying to cancel out the environmental damage that you do.”
No glyphosate or insecticides are used on the property, with a mix of organic and chemical treatments employed to manage fungal disease. The mid-rows are populated by a permanent mid-row sward of fescue, clover and medic, with the grasses slashed to spread the cuttings under the vines.
“We only use organic fertilisers,” says Jones, “no insecticide and mulch pruning materials into the mid-row grass cover crop. The next project is planting around a hectare of native plants and shrubs in a large washout area. These plants will not only prevent further erosion but also provide habitat for beneficial insects and birds. We have locked up 100 hectares of our farm to Landcare and recently applied for a further Landcare Action Grants Program, and I have spent most part of the past 10 years rehabilitating degraded pastures.”
Annual soil testing is conducted to direct nutrition applications, including liquid seaweed, fish emulsion and certified organic trace-element fertilisers. These are applied both by fertigation (via the irrigation system) and through foliar applications (via the leaves). Additionally, the soil pH is assessed to maintain microbial health and to ensure that the minerals are effectively taken up by the vines. The site is drip irrigated, with soil moisture probes – measuring every 10 cm to a metre into the profile – helping to better direct applications and avoid overwatering and taxing the minimal water reserves.
“Last year we experienced serious drought,” says Jones. “The Jordan River, which is the heartbeat of our vineyard, now only runs in winter. When I was young, it ran all year, was full of fish and was a river. Last year, it barely ran in the winter. If the river ceases to run, we will not have water to irrigate the vineyard, so this plays on our minds a lot. All the farmers in our valley are working very hard on an irrigation scheme… I believe more vineyards will appear in the Jordan Valley, and this will also secure the future of our vineyard as well as expansion opportunities.”
Jones says that if the irrigation problem is solved, they intend to expand the vineyard to 10 hectares. “This will give us the opportunity to sell more grapes in the short term and potentially grow our wine brand in the long term. It will also create more employment within the local community, which I am proud off,” he says, noting that they have two fulltime workers “who were both previously unemployed, as well as a part-time worker with a permanent disability, which has benefited the local community from an economic and social perspective.”
Jones says that he is extremely proud of the results of their enterprise after such a short time, noting that the first vintage of pinot noir just missed a trophy at the Royal Hobart Wine Show, falling short by half a point. “We received one of only four golds, and we were the only small family-owned Tasmanian vineyard to take out a gold.” Jones puts this success down to both the sympathetic winemaking and Smith’s viticulture.
“Our winemaker, Justin Arnold, is very humble. He keeps telling me that it’s the vineyard that defines our wines, not him, and that he is only 10 per cent of our wine and the grape quality being the other 90 per cent. This essentially means Marty Smith our viticulturalist is 90 per cent of our wine. …If it was not for Marty, we wouldn’t have a vineyard and we wouldn’t have a wine brand. He was there from day one, mapped out our vineyard, selected the varieties, clones and volumes.”
That vineyard is still naturally evolving, with Jones noting that many of the intricacies of the site are still to be revealed. “We have matched the varieties and clones with subtle soil profile changes. The aim of this was to put the vines in areas where they would do best, but to also to give us some subtle variations in fruit favour, tannin and colour, all of which will add something to the final blend of pinot noir or chardonnay. We are also quite excited about our pinot gris. Planted on shallow fractured ironstone, the soil type will limit yield and berry size, ultimately creating intense fruit flavours with incredible depth. It could be the most unique pinot gris block in Tasmania.”