The vineyards that winemaker Rebecca and her viticulturist husband Tim Duffy own in the Tamar Valley are steeped with a rich Australian (and sporting!) history, making their site probably one of the most interesting and unique in the country.
The original and iconic use of their site was to grow Holm Oak trees to be used in making Alexander Patent Racquet Co. tennis racquets in the 1930’s.
Sadly, the wood from the Holm Oak trees didn’t meet the standards to be turned into racquets but that’s where this story takes a fortuitous turn for the Tasmanian wine industry; grape vines were planted in this rich and fertile land in 1983, making Holm Oak one of the older vineyards in Tasmania. Using the original Pinot Noir and Cabernet plantings, Bec and Tim now also cultivate Arneis, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.
They also drew inspiration from this tennis heritage to name their premium Estate-grown Pinot Noir, which comes from 6 specific rows in the vineyard ‘The Wizard’ after the famous Tennis Racquet used by Australia's Jack Crawford when he won Wimbledon in 1933.
Now that’s a Grand Slam!
Holm Oak is planted to 12.0 hectares. This consists of:
- 1 hectare of Riesling which consists of 3 clones established in 1991
- 1 hectare of Sauvignon blanc established in 2005
- 1 hectare of Pinot Gris established in 2007
- 1.5 hectares of Chardonnay made up of 2 clones established in 2007 and 2008;
- 5 hectares of Pinot Noir. Clones currently planted include: MV6, D5V12, 114, 115, 777, D4V2 and 521. The first two clones mentioned were established in 1983 making them some of the oldest Pinot Noir vines in Tasmania.
- 2 hectares of Cabernet established in 1983;
- 0.3 Hectares of Merlot established in 1987
- 0.3 Hectares of Cabernet Franc established in 198
Vine spacing varies from 2000 to 4000 vines to the hectare. Plantings from 2007 onwards are just over 2000 vines to hectare.
All plantings run North/South to maximise exposure to the sun.
We have found that arched cane VSP seems to produce the best results for us. We prune the majority of the vineyard this way. During the growing season we shoot thin, leaf pluck and remove shoulder bunches if necessary. We may need to trim tops of shoots just prior to veraison depending on the level of vigour. We only leaf pluck the Pinot Noir and Riesling on the Eastern side of the vine. Irrigation is used sparingly with some of our older vines able to maintain good growth with rainfall received during the year. Annual rainfall in the Rowella area of the Tamar Valley is around 600-660mm. All harvesting and pruning is currently carried out by hand. The majority of Holm Oak’s vineyard operations are done by Bec and Tim which ensures we keep in touch with vineyard changes and fruit quality outcomes.
Harvesting of Fruit
All fruit is harvested by hand – parcels harvested on any given day are quite small. This helps us to identify small nuances in different parcels of fruit and process it accordingly in the winery. Our fruit sorting is done in the vineyard. Any inferior or diseased bunches are removed prior to picking, or are selected our by our small, well trained picking team. To date we have found we can keep our fruit reasonably defect free in the vineyard so the need to use a sorting table is avoided. Generally all fruit harvested is free from major defects.
Tim has had quite a bit of experience in the agronomic field having worked for a major private horticultural firm for over 10 years and is a 3rd generation hands on grape grower. Together with Bec their growing philosophy is to produce the cleanest product with the softest management practices available. This involves using some organic and modern soft chemistry. We are in the process of adopting some organic measures on a larger scale. We have seen some disastrous results from the use of these practices so we are proceeding with caution believing they are more easily adopted in lower rainfall areas. We are also challenged by the use of the lunar cycle for vineyard management practices. In general, as a result of stringent export requirements, the Australian wine industry as a whole adopts quite a minimalist approach when it comes to chemical usage.
Tasmania has a moderate maritime climate, cooled by prevailing westerlies off the Southern Ocean, providing conditions that are generally free from extremes. Mild spring and summer temperatures, with warm autumn days and cool nights, allow the grapes to ripen slowly on the vine, resulting in maximum varietal flavour development. This is achieved without losing that essential natural acid that gives Tasmania’s wines freshness and balance. Tasmania has a climate suitable for the production of super premium wines and is one of only a handful of places in Australia regarded as producing superior Pinot Noir table and sparkling wines.
The Tasmanian landscape is dominated by dolerite-capped mountains that shelter the state’s vineyards from high winds and rainfall. On the lower slopes, the vineyard soils are formed from ancient sandstones and mudstones and also from more recent river sediments and igneous rock of volcanic origin. There are a few different soil types at Holm Oak but the majority is Acidic Grey Kandosol on Permian mudstone. Some of the land area is deemed too rocky for viticultural production with quite a bit of sheet rock that only blasting can penetrate.