The beginnings of "Rosnay" are a classic Australian tale of tradition, multiculturalism and environmental passion. Its is the blend of decades of farming without chemicals in a different industry, and an old family tradition of growing grapes in the french Beaujolais. Former wool and cattle producers from Barraba, in northern NSW, Richard and Florence Statham moved to what is now "Rosnay" in 1995, after searching south-east Australia in search of the best site for a new vineyard and olive grove. They had no regrets leaving a farm that had been drought stricken for more than half the time, the rest of which stricken by poor wool prices, in favour of good soils and good water supplies for horticulture. With the advice of Peter Hedberg of Orange Agricultural College, they found a patch of picturesque, gently north sloping and well drained soils, just 8km south-west of Canowindra on the Belubula River, in the Cowra Wine Region, south of Orange. They called it "Rosnay".
The first vines, planted as rootlings in September 1997, were organic and biodynamic from Day One. These are the original Chardonnay and Shiraz blocks, totalling 7.5 hectares, which were painstaking planted with compost, lime, rock dust, the biodynamic preparations and straw mulch. In 1998 they planted a further 8 hectares of Merlot, Semillon and Cabernet, using cuttings from local vineyards and from elite South Australian stocks. In 2000 they planted the final 4 hectares of Shiraz and 1/2 hectare of Mourverdre using rootlings grown on Rosnay. For the next three years they continued to plant more vineyards organically under contract to other growers who now form part of Rivers Road Organic Farms. Click here to see a detailed farm map.
The vineyards and olives are planted on a wide range of soil types, which were tested in detail and mapped from a total of 140 test pits. The sandy hilltop soils allow the Shiraz to send roots deep into the granite bedrock from whence the best flavours and drought resistance are derived. The Semillon was planted on even sandier soils to control its vigour. However, vigour turned out not to be a problem under organic management - only when overwatered and overfertilised on industrial estates is the vigour too high. Under a careful watering regime, the Semillon is gradually sending its notoriously shallow roots down deep and developing drought resistance and fruit character. The moderately vigorous Merlot and Chardonnay vines were planted on the best free draining red clay soils, and this was a good choice.
Now that the vines are over 12 years old, they show that organic farming methods are indeed sustainable and productive. Of course, some parts of the vineyard are less productive than others, whether due to frost or lack of water. The greatest proof of the success of this system is that there are now four organic vineyards in the Cowra Wine Region, including Gardners Ground, Pig in the House and Wallington Wines. The Cowra Region Vineyard Association has made organic farming a central part of its sustainability plan and has included a "Best Organic Wine" trophy in this years Cowra Region Wine Awards.
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