Marco Lubiana launched his eponymous label from the 2018 vintage, making a chardonnay and pinot noir, which will remain his focus, with a gentle hand in the winery and tireless year-round work amongst the vines key to his approach. Those wines were made from the Lucille Vineyard, which had been recently purchased by his family and converted to biodynamic farming.
The Lubiana name is a justly famous one in Tasmanian wine, with Marco Lubiana’s father, Steve, first planting vines in Granton in 1990. The family estate, Stefano Lubiana Wines, has become one of the state’s most prestigious, with classic styles joined by more adventurous ones of a natural bent, with the farming certified biodynamic.
“I am very lucky to be able to work with old (1973) plantings, which is very rare in Tasmania. I often think Australian winemakers can sometimes get a bit carried away with making many varieties and styles and sometimes lose the essence of the variety. By only having two wines, I know I can do my best to make them into something special.”
The family heritage of winegrowing stretches back further still, though, with Marco Lubiana’s grandfather growing and making in South Australia, and at least another three generations doing the same in Italy. That he would follow in those family footsteps was never in doubt.
“I am doing it because I love it,” Lubiana says, “and It just feels natural. It’s hard work, especially when you’re growing biodynamic fruit, but for what good it gives back to the planet, it is completely worth it. Life is too short to drink crap wine, so that is why I only make the best wine I can.”
Lubiana finished his winemaking studies in 2018, completing his vintage placements at the family winery, which he says was his full vintage at home. Lubiano has stayed on, too, completing two years of vineyard and cellar management, but he’s managed to fit in travel as well. “Finishing university, I was left with a strong interest in Burgundy, so I went on to find an internship in Côte d’Or for the 2019 European vintage at Château de Chamilly, located in the Côte Chalonnaise.”
That first vintage at home also gave Lubiana the chance to make his first wines solo. “Well, it kind of just happened,” he says. “I wanted to try and make my own wine, and there was the new vineyard down in the Huon Valley that my parents had just purchased and were managing, so I decided to have a go. I had a plan to focus on two cultivars – which also happen to be the only two on the Lucille Vineyard – to keep it simple and allow me to slowly build a brand based around premium cold climate pinot noir and chardonnay.”
Lubiana believes that with enough attention to detail and patience, those varieties – Tasmania’s key grapes – have extraordinary potential, and they’re more than enough for him to tackle right now. “I am very lucky to be able to work with old (1973) plantings, which is very rare in Tasmania. I often think Australian winemakers can sometimes get a bit carried away with making many varieties and styles and sometimes lose the essence of the variety. By only having two wines, I know I can do my best to make them into something special. Another reason why I like having only two wines is because I am too busy in the vineyard to worry about making other wines!”
Those two wines aren’t quite the whole story, though whether a third pinot-based wine will join the stable is yet to be seen. “I have made a very small batch of sparkling in 2021 from grapes harvested in 2020 from the Huon,” says Lubiana. “It has been in the back of my mind for some time now. It’s not a typical sparkling, being old-oak-barrel-ferment pinot noir on full lees for 18 months. It’s sitting on lees now and will wait some time until it is ready. Maybe a few years, who knows. I put aside another barrel of sparkling base in 2021.”
The 2019 vintage brought devastating bushfires, with smoke impacting many vineyards in the south, so no wines were made, but ’20 and ’21 are both strong despite challenges, with Lubiana suggesting the latter could be a great year in the Huon. “The recent years have been a challenge for me, the weather has not been kind, frost has been a problem in spring. Also, in the last two years rain has caused me to make difficult decisions at picking, but all in all it has been a good learning curve and the wines have come out on top.”
In 2021, the Lucille vineyard received its biodynamic certification. “I’m passionate about biodynamics and will only ever make wine from biodynamic vineyards that I work with,” says Lubiana. “Being biodynamic is one thing, but the wine has to be killer too, and I believe low yields and smart simple winery techniques are important elements. I really take my time when making the wine and this allows for lower sulphur additions and no filtering or fining.”
“I’m passionate about biodynamics and will only ever make wine from biodynamic vineyards that I work with. Being biodynamic is one thing, but the wine has to be killer too, and I believe low yields and smart simple winery techniques are important elements. I really take my time when making the wine and this allows for lower sulphur additions and no filtering or fining.”
With the work laborious and manual, the only help Lubiana enlists is from his family, working alongside his father amongst the vines, and with his mother helping him to sort the fruit, while both contribute in other ways. “The biggest influence for me would have to be my mother and father, who I constantly talk to and get feedback from which helps me develop my wines,” he says.
“I work in both vineyards and do everything from compost production, pruning, wrapping, shoot thinning, tractor cultivation, hand weeding, wire lifting, irrigation, biodynamic sprays, replanting, slashing, picking, netting, frost protection… I spend ten months of the year in the vineyard, and the remaining two months in the winery. The reason being, 90 per cent of the quality of wine comes from the vineyard.”
Lubiana says that his golden rule in the winery is to not touch anything too much. “My wine style is firstly defined by the terroir of the vineyard from where the grapes are grown. I listen to the vineyard and make it to the style which I think best suits the site. Harvest date drives the style and sets up the wines from the beginning. When the grapes are picked at perfect balance with low yields, it provides a wine style driven by soft tannins, fine natural acidity and great intensity.”
With the vineyard taking its rightful place at the core of his thinking, and a gentle approach in the winery Lubiana is happy to continue his exploration of his chosen grapes through the lens of shifting seasons, and it’s no wonder given his belief in their suitability to the state.
“I believe Tasmania has the highest potential in the country for high quality pinot noir and chardonnay. There are countless soil types and microclimates yet to be discovered. It won’t be long before the wines in Tasmania rival those of the top Burgundian wines – I am sure of it.”