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INNOVATIVE WINE MAKING IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Ageing wine in the earth
Gemtree Wines has unearthed (literally) a new gem with the launch of SubTerra, a premium quality McLaren Vale single-vineyard shiraz, and the first wine in the world to be ‘returned to the earth’ in a barrel to age. Aged in a wax-coated French oak barrel buried deep in the soil underneath the vines where the grapes for the wine were handpicked, the earth provided a perfect natural temperature controlled cellar for the wine to mature. It’s a technique inspired by ancient Georgian winemakers who fermented their wine in clay pots called Amphoras, which were sealed using a thick layer of olive oil at the top and buried in the ground to age. However, it has never been done in a wine barrel until now.
Gemtree’s Winemakers, Mike Brown and Joshua Waechter, said the original idea came towards the end of vintage while discussing winemaking with the team over a few beers after a long, day in the cellar. “We thought the winemaking process starts in the vineyard, why not return the wine to its roots to age and continue its connection to the earth,” said Mike.
“The idea fitted with the winery’s biodynamic and organic ethos, minimal intervention approach, so we thought it was worth a try while also giving ourselves the greatest chance of success.
“We’ve never been afraid of trying new things to explore what’s possible.” Brown says that when tasted against wine made from fruit from the same vineyard and aged above ground, the SubTerra had more “… freshness, vitality, purity and finesse”.
The hand-picked grapes for SubTerra were selected from a small, protected vineyard with alluvial soils and a geology dating back millions of years giving the fruit a very distinct and unique flavour.
The wine was fermented on its skins for five days until the tannin profile was balanced and then pressed before being transferred to a three year old barrel for the remainder of primary and secondary fermentation.
In keeping with Gemtree’s biodynamic philosophy, the barrel was returned to the earth on the March equinox, when the earth was breathing in, and buried two metres below ground beneath the original vines. It was then aged until the Spring equinox.
“The excavation was like an archaeological dig with great care taken not to damage the barrel which had by now been enveloped and protected by the earth through one of the wettest winters on record,” said Mike.
“After lifting the barrel from the earth, removing the chive then tasting provided the nerve-racking moment but we needn’t have worried – the wine was extraordinary.”
The wine was racked off its lees and decanted straight into bottles, where it was hand corked, sealed with beeswax and bottle aged for ten months. Only 240 bottles were produced.
For more information visit https://gemtreewines.com