Wrattonbully adjoins the Coonawarra area in the southern part of the Limestone Coast wine zone. The prominent viticultural feature of the area is the series of ancient beach ridges and dunes which run roughly north-south through the area. These ridges are made up of soft crumbly limestone which weathers to produce the red and brown 'Terra Rossa' clay loam soils so highly prized for grape growing. The ridges and dunes have elevations of up to 30m compared with the Coonawarra 'Terra Rossa' 'high' of less than 5m. The extra elevation on the Wrattonbully dunes produce the advantage of cold air drainage which reduces the risk of frost during the growing season.
The area has a cool climate with 1350-1550 degree days heat summation which is ideal for Cabernet and Merlot. Shiraz also ripens to high sugar & flavour levels and produces wines with spicy cool climate characters which are different from the more common Australian warm climate styles.
Although mainly a red grape area, Wrattonbully produces Chardonnay's of great character and flavour. The flavour profile typically encompasses apricots, grapefruit and bready characters with good acid structure.
Pepper Tree's Wrattonbully vineyard covers 100ha of plantings, mainly Cabernet (48 ha) Merlot (23 ha) and Shiraz (20 ha). Cabernet is planted on the highest dune areas where 'Terra Rossa' soils overlie shallow limestone. Individual blocks are given separate canopy management, cropping structure and moisture control according to soil depth which can vary from a few centimetres to over 1 metre. Flavour maps constructed for the vineyard have shown considerable variability for both Cabernet and Shiraz, and have allowed our winemakers to isolate individual sections of the vineyard to produce parcels of outstanding quality.
Merlot is planted on heavier clay soils at the toe of the main dune as heavy clays have proved best for Merlot in its traditional homeland. Merlot produces soft rich fruit driven wines with more power and flavour than those of Coonawarra to the south.
Shiraz from our vineyard is grown on red soils with gravelly ironstone layers on the lower slopes of the dune. The dominant characters of the wine are its spicy white pepper flavours and exceptional palate length. The long cool growing season leads to Shiraz with more finesse and structure than traditional warm climate Australian Shiraz. A small trial block of Tannat rounds out our red grape plantings. Tannat is traditionally grown in the Madiran area of southern France where it produces long lived wines with strong tannins. Wines from our Wrattonbully vineyard show complex spice and herb flavours with the characteristic tannic finish. The colour is deep purple. Tannat shows promise of producing some outstanding and unusual wines from this area.
Chardonnay from our Wrattonbully vineyard produces wines of great palate length and flavour with apricot and grapefruit characters dominating. Our Chardonnay is grown on a section of deep sandy loam soils which allow strong, even growth with very little supplementing watering.
Despite its proximity to Coonawarra, the Wrattonbully area has only been planted to vineyards in the last 30 years with most of its vineyards less than 10 years old. The quality of the wines produced to date from relatively young vines indicates that the area will very soon challenge its more famous neighbour to the south.
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