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TATIARRA images

THE WORLD'S OLDEST SOILS -
CAMBRIAN EARTH WITHIN THE HEATHCOTE DISTRICT

The Heathcote district is quite extensive and covers some of Victoria’s most picturesque countryside. In 2002, the Geographic Indication Committee (G.I.C.) passed a declaration defining the Heathcote Regions boundaries. To the south, the district starts at Tooboorac and extends north to Rochester. To the east, the boundary is around Graytown whilst to the west, the boundary is around Lake Eppalock. Within these boundaries, there are different sub regions that will eventually be defined by the style of wine that each sub region produces. The soil profiles vary from granite outcrops to sandy loams and the most coveted of all, Cambrian earth.

The Cambrian earth is limited to two parallel strips that follow the Mt William fault line. These two strips are not continuous and run to the left of the Colbinabbin-Rochester Road, following the Mt Camel Range. The Cambrian soil starts approximately 8 kilometres south of Heathcote township and extends north for approximately 35 kilometres but varies in width and in parts is little more than a few hundred metres across.

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Above, a polished Jasper stone from the vineyard site. Above right, a 'film' of Jasper sliced to less than a hairs width.(Courtesy of B.H.P.)

 

There is much discussion as to why Shiraz vines thrive so incredibly well in the Cambrian soils around Heathcote.
The science is not entirely clear, however clues may be found in the peculiar mineralization of the soils. Further research will undoubtedly reveal the secrets behind the qualities of Heathcote Shiraz. Perhaps the explanation will be more complex than soil profile alone, with all aspects of ‘terroir’ making a contribution. In the meantime, observation and comparison of Heathcote with other Shiraz growing regions, not to mention the unique taste of Shiraz derived from Cambrian Soils, clearly indicates that there is indeed something special about Heathcote’s ancient earth. Quite simply, the flavour and structure of Heathcote Shiraz is unmatched in Shiraz wines from other soils.

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SOIL PROFILE OF THE TATIARRA VINEYARD

Over the last few vintages, the Tatiarra Vineyard site has revealed its own special ‘terroir’. The vineyards idiosyncrasies became particularly apparent during the onset of prolonged draught. Beneath a large section of the vineyard, there exists an extensive area of imporious subsoil rock covering approximately two acres. This dense mass of rock creates a barrier that the vine roots cannot easily penetrate. During a heavy summer storm, water accumulates on top of this rock rather than draining evenly through the subsoil. The result is that some vines uptake a sudden and excessive amount of water. This water is drawn into the berries, expanding them and causing the berries skins to split. Needless to say, this is a minor disaster and in the past up to 10% of the crop has being lost to such ‘splitting’. As a result, certain sections of the vineyard must be managed differently, particularly with regard to irrigation. As the years roll on and new plantings occur, no doubt more ‘mini’ terroirs will be discovered within the Tatiarra Vineyard site.
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