Grapevines and apple trees have always been part of this fellow’s gardening life so it’s difficult to resist a decent vineyard or orchard.
Vineyards at Jacob’s Creek in the Barossa Valley, Australia, Chateau neuf du Pape in Southern France, and Greve in Tuscany are so memorable.
The most recent came on an island measuring nine miles by five, just over an hour’s flight from Newcastle, where the early October temperature was 20C.
Half of the 20 acres at La Mare Estate is devoted to a vineyard with six grape varieties, but there’s also a sizeable apple orchard.
The crops were destined to become wine and cider brandy, both of which are processed on site, so what an opportunity to see the processes after cultivation and harvesting, perhaps even to taste the products.
There was a chance meeting with Daniel de Carteret, winemaker and distiller at La Mare. He confirmed that the longer grapes remained on the vines, the greater the sugar content. It’s therefore important to know the varieties and select for continuity of ripening.
There was a chance to talk with the local pickers, and a tour of the winemaking and distilling facilities.
Five wines are produced: Sainte Marie (medium dry white), Le Mourier Brut (sparkling dry white), Little Brut (dry sparkling rose), Perquage (fruity dry rose) and Bailiwick (dry red). They were blended from a pool of Pinot Noir, Seyval Blanc, Orion, Regent, Phoenix and Rondo grapes. It would be unfriendly to refuse a taste.
Substantial orchards of apple trees, with just as many windfall fruits, littered the grass. This is the way when cider or brandy production is the objective. They are collected from the ground rather than picked from trees to ensure full ripeness.