Avani is an ancient Sanskrit word that means ‘the earth’.
Planted in 1987 on gentle north facing slopes in Red Hill South on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, our 4 hectare non-irrigated and low cropped vineyard is focussed on producing only cool-climate shiraz (syrah).
We employ biodynamic practices which enable us to focus on soil health, the protection of indigenous microbes and creating an environment of ecological self-sufficiency.
Our winemaking approach is one of minimal interference; using wild yeast fermentation with no fining, filtration or pumping, creating a wine unique to our vineyard.
Shashi and her husband Devendra have been involved in the hospitality industry (owning and operating restaurants) on the Mornington Peninsula for the last 30 years. It was during this time that Shashi’s interest in wine was first sparked culminated with the purchase of an established vineyard in 1998.
Shashi having a grounding in Chemistry (having completed her Masters in Chemistry from MDU University in 1981) further completed a double degree in Viticulture & Oenology from Charles Stuart University.
In 2000, Shashi and Devendra collaborated with Phillip Jones of Bass Phillip Wines to make wines under the Wildcroft banner. However, it was in 2004 that Shashi began her wine-making apprenticeship working part time at the Bass Phillip winery (and full time during vintage). Over the next 8 years Shashi garnered significant winemaking experience as her role in the winery increased. This was an extremely busy period for Shashi as whilst working part time at Bass Phillip, she was also managing the viticulture at her own property.
The 2009 vintage was Shashi’s breakout year. It was the first vintage Shashi completed by herself under Phillip’s watchful eye at the Leongatha winery. It was in January 2012 that Shashi finally established her own winey at Red Hill South, with the 2012 vintage being the inaugural vintage on the property.
The Vineyard and Viticulture
THE VINEYARD SITE
The vineyard is located at an elevation of 204m above sea level on the Mornington Peninsula (Red Hill South, Victoria). The site was planted in 1987 on gentle north facing slopes of clay loam and tertiary basalt. The 4 hectare site is non-irrigated and features only one variety, shiraz.
The property originally contained a majority planting of pinot noir and chardonnay, with a small planting of shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and merlot.
In 2006 we decided to focus exclusively on shiraz whereby a process of converting the entire vineyard through a combination of grafting and re-planting was commenced. Over the years it was found that shiraz was the standout wine being produced on the property; with its depth, texture and balance far exceeding other varieties.
To further enhance the intensity of flavour in the wines, we increased planting density from 1,400 vines per hectare to 4,000 vines per hectare and reduced our cropping levels to 17 hecto-litres per hectare.
We have always had an interest in natural and sustainable agriculture. As such, in 2000 in order to improve the health of the soil and the vines we decided to implement organic practices in the vineyard. Then in 2004 our interest developed in biodynamics following the international biodynamic conference held in Beechworth, Victoria. The philosophies underpinning biodynamic agriculture resonated with us and we adopted strict biodynamic viticultural practices in 2005.
Biodynamic agriculture is a form of sustainable agriculture, developed by Rudolf Steiner in the early 1920s, which focusses on a holistic approach to agricultural processes. It recognises the importance of a balanced ecosystem consisting of indigenous flora and fauna, as well as the influence of the moon and other planets, on soil fertility, microbial life and plant growth.
We employ a number of biodynamic practices in our vineyard:
- Preparation 500 in autumn to increase microbial activity in the soil.
- Preparation 501 in autumn and the growing season to enhance photosynthesis.
- Compost prepared on the site is spread during autumn (made using winter pruning and biodynamic preparations 502-507).
- Various tea preparations (Causarina, garlic, nettle) and whey to combat powdery and downey mildue
In our experience, we have observed the following beneficial changes to the vineyard since moving to biodynamic agriculture:
- An improvement to soil structure and fertility; the soil more friable and exhibits increased earthworm activity.
- An increased biodiversity of indigenous plants whose roots harbour different micro-organisms attracted to the vineyard indigenous insects (including indigenous bees). As a result, we have been able to create an ecosystem whereby harmful insect numbers are naturally kept in check by the beneficial insects.
- The vine’s vegetative growth is more balanced, the berries are smaller and the skin tougher.
- The vine’s physiological ripening is two to two and a half weeks ahead of the sugar ripening. The wines that we are able to produce are of lower alcohol, balanced natural acidity, lower pH that are able to express the true essence of the site.
Our aim is to make a wine that provides a true expression of the site.
In this regard we have adopted biodynamic practices in the vineyard, as well as, minimal interference in our winemaking.
The winemaking process involves using 100% de-stemmed grapes, pre-maceration for 7-8 days and wild yeast fermentation for 7-10 days.
During the process, there is no fining or filtration of the wine. Post maceration is carried out for between 7-28 days depending on the vintage. The wine is matured in 2-3 year old French oak barrels for a period of 18 months. At this time, the wine is gravity fed hand bottled on the premises (from 2012).
Based on current yields we produce between 150 – 200 cases of wine per annum