&noscript=1"/>

Sorrenberg, Beechworth Barry Morey

Top Vineyards

Barry and Jan Morey’s Sorrenberg, in an elevated cool site in Beechworth, is somewhat of a Victorian legend, a family enterprise with a low-key attitude that has steadily seen their wines attain cult-like status, rubbing shoulders with some of their more ostensibly glamorous neighbours. It may be the quality of the wines that has built their reputation – one of the region’s finest chardonnays, arguably Australia’s best gamay, an equally esteemed sauvignon blanc and semillon blend, and an exemplary cabernet blend – but behind the label, the impeccable biodynamic farming and focus on addressing local and global environmental issues deserves just as much attention.

Barry and Jan Morey have three blocks of vines, all within close distance, but their home vineyard, the Sorrenberg Vineyard – the others being Rhino and Bindarra – planted to granite and sandy loam soils, is the heart of the operation. At a cool 560 metres, the site has 3 hectares of vines (the other two add 1.2 hectares), first planted in 1985, then each year to ’89. The vineyard is made up of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, semillon, gamay, cabernet sauvignon, and small amounts of cabernet franc, pinot noir and merlot, with three rows of sauvignon gris planted in 2015 as a trial.

“The home block is surrounded by forest and receives all the air drainage from the surrounding hills,” says Morey. “In summer, the cooler night air helps in ripening the fruit and allowing the vine respite. The soil is predominately granitic but there is a bit of mudstone mixed with the granite in the block close to the house. Mudstone brings strength and richness to the wine and increase water-holding capacity to the soils.”

Biodynamic methods have been employed since 2000, with Demeter certification granted in ’08 across the entire operation. This change was made because Barry Morey wanted to produce wine and grow food for his family that was simply healthier, as well as to actively improve his soil by “farming the land with minimal inputs, including minimal irrigation, with no degradation of the soils and environment, so the land is still productive for future generations.”

Morey credits the farming methods as being integral to the improvement in fruit and wine quality, as well as a general enhancement of the land. “I am proud of the improvements we have seen in our soils – the fact that we have been successfully dry-growing vines on granitic soil for over 15 years,” he says. “There has been an increase in fruit aromas and character and an increase in vine resilience to extreme conditions since we started biodynamic practices.”

The broader implications of working his land in this way have also become increasingly important to Morey, expanding to a more holistic imperative to not just adapt to, but to halt or reverse the impacts of a warming world. “Climate change is our biggest challenge,” he says. “It would be easy to change varieties or find another site. The big challenge is to be proactive in slowing this climate crisis. We need to change our practices and be adaptable, but most importantly, we need to be part of the solution.”

Above: Sorrenberg's tractors are run on fuel made on site, from recycled fish and chip oil. Opposite: compost is made from vine prunings, grape marc and office paper, along with animal manure and other organic waste.

Morey takes this environmental responsibility very seriously, going to great lengths to lessen the businesses impact and contribute to global solutions on a local level. This includes composting all vine prunings, grape marc and office paper, along with animal manure and other organic waste to annually apply to the mid-row cover crops. All vineyard posts for new plantings or replacements are recycled, while a keen focus is placed on reducing water use across all operations, with all but the youngest vines dry grown.

“The home block is surrounded by forest and receives all the air drainage from the surrounding hills,” says Morey. “In summer, the cooler night air helps in ripening the fruit and allowing the vine respite. The soil is predominately granitic but there is a bit of mudstone mixed with the granite in the block close to the house. Mudstone brings strength and richness to the wine and increase water-holding capacity to the soils.”

With over 40 per cent of the property managed as native forest, Morey stresses the importance of complexing the monoculture of grape-growing. “Biodiversity is very important, so we protect native grass areas, plant shrubs and trees around vineyard sites and cover crop the mid-rows with a large seed mix.”

Above and opposite: chardonnay.
“I am proud of the improvements we have seen in our soils – the fact that we have been successfully dry-growing vines on granitic soil for over 15 years. There has been an increase in fruit aromas and character and an increase in vine resilience to extreme conditions since we started biodynamic practices.”

Sorrenberg also produce their own fuel, with 35,000 litres made from “locally sourced fish and chip oil” since 2007. That biofuel is used on all tractors and utes on the property, and Morey is unceasing in his quest to refine and improve operations on all levels. “There are so many projects in my head and not enough time to do them. Increasing carbon in our soils through biochar is one I am starting to work on.”

Morey credits much of his approach to the community around him. “If you are always open to listening, you will learn,” he says. “People of all ages need mentors, and I have been lucky to meet, and have had worked for me, some great people.” It’s a neat encapsulation of his humble approach in an ever-evolving quest to improve his property along with the world around him.

And while Morey makes all the Sorrenberg wines onsite, he’s not one to talk overly much about the winemaking, with his passion for the land he has farmed for nearly four decades undimmed over time. “Watching nature take the vines from budburst to harvest is still amazing for me, and it gives me a great sense of satisfaction.”