This is a brief overview of one of the most exciting developments in Ten Minutes By Tractor’s history; a once in a lifetime opportunity we have had to acquire an outstanding new vineyard site and to combine many lifetimes of experience of like minded people to help question everything we do, question every accepted norm and to be guided by only one overriding goal; quality. And to work backwards from there!
The outcome is that Ten Minutes by Tractor is now home to Mornington Peninsula’s first high-density organic Pinot Noir vineyard and has also submitted its plans to now build its own purpose built winery and cellar door on the same site.
Planting began on 5 December 2016 on the new Main Ridge site, just a stone’s throw from our current cellar door and restaurant. We have already planted over 18,000 vines covering just 1.5 ha.
Owner Martin Spedding says these developments are two of the largest and most important evolutionary steps in Ten Minutes By Tractor’s history. “We are incredibly excited by our plans for the new vineyard, winery and cellar door. Over the next few years we will see the culmination of over 14 years of hard work and investments we have made in our vineyards and wine making. The 2015 and 2016 vintage wines in many respects represent the beginning of an exciting next chapter for Ten Minutes By Tractor. It will culminate with the opening of our new winery and completion of our plantings in 2 years time”.
The new vineyard is on typical Main Ridge red, volcanic soils, has a lovely gentle north easterly slope and ranges in elevation from 186m in the south west corner to 173m in the north east corner.
As for the name, well, we have followed the same tradition that Ten Minutes By Tractor has followed from the start, by naming the vineyard after the family who first planted it.
Historically, vine density and row spacing was a function of available land, equipment and techniques of the time. Pre-phylloxera vineyards in Burgundy were planted using a mass layering technique that resulted in very high planting densities (30,000 vines per hectare or more). Vines were arranged in a random pattern with all work in the vineyards done by hand.
In the late 1800s phylloxera destroyed the ‘own roots’ vines in Burgundy and the vineyards were subsequently replanted on American rootstock and arranged in the trellised rows we see today. This replanting coincided with the use of the horse as a labour-saving practice so vines were replanted in rows in the ‘classic’ 1m x 1m spacing. The row width was determined by the width of a horse; machinery that followed later was adapted to suit.
In Australia, as in France, vineyard density has also been determined by available machinery. However, in Australia commercial vineyard tractors are typically based on farm or orchard models with an overall width of 1.5m to 2m; this has necessitated vineyard rows of between 2.5m to 3.5m for adequate machinery access and clearance.
Over the past decade, many cool climate wine growers in Australia have learnt that vines grown with closer spacing between plants and rows have greatly improved quality outcomes. However, the density limit remains dictated by the tractor’s minimum width.
Around the world, consumers of high quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay look to Burgundy as the benchmark region for the highest quality expression of the two varieties. This highlights the need for Australian producers to examine current practices and techniques and look for areas of potential quality improvement. Recently, commercial vine nurseries in Australia have begun importing new selections of highly regarded Burgundian Pinot Noir and Chardonnay clones that have been widely planted and credited for positive increase in wine quality and complexity.
In an ongoing effort to explore the influence of best viticulture practices on wine quality we have established this new HD vineyard, made possible by importing some specialised European vineyard equipment able to work in 1m rows and allowing us to plant our vineyard at the same density used on the best slopes of the Cote d’Or.
Very early indications are that the new plant densities will have very positive impact on fruit quality which will help elevate the wine quality and structure to a higher level. Based on experience with other HD vineyards we expect to see…
These are all key attributes for quality wine production and help to counteract climatic challenges such as sunburnt fruit and vine stress from dry soil and low humidity.