GARDINER WELL ESTATE
NATIONAL VINEYARD FUND OF AUSTRALIA LIMITED
The Gardiner Well Estate vineyard, owned by NVFAL, is developing into a premium B & C grade vineyard producing fruit for famous brands such as Taylors and Jacobs Creek.
The property is located in the southern region of the Clare Valley region approximately 110km north of Adelaide in South Australia. Gardiner Well Estate is located approximately 4 km north west of Auburn township and 25km south of the township of Clare.
The 137.6ha property is located on the western side of Schober Road and the eastern side of Gardiner Road and is approximately 420m above sea level.
The vineyard, originally planted in 2002 and 2003 with Merlot, Riesling and Shiraz, occupies approximately 50% of the property. The balance is still farming land and over 50ha is available to be planted to additional value added agribusiness.
The property, owned by the Williams family, was traditionally cropping and grazing land used for sheep and cereal cropping.
The land is gentle to moderately undulating and is serviced by a stream that only flows in occasional years. The soils are granite clay loams with sections of self mulching cracking clays The soils are good for growing premium wine grapes.
The land is not blessed with sufficient running water to service the vineyard so it is supplemented with 120 ML water licence which is utilised from the Clare Valley Water Supply Scheme (“CVWSS”) water scheme.
Irrigation is discussed in the Water section below.
Today, Gardiner Well vineyard is planted to 67 ha, exclusively red varieties of Merlot and Shiraz and the white variety Riesling. The key variety of Riesling is one of the most famous from the region.
The mix of wine grape varieties planted on Gardiner Well Estate were chosen by FABAL Operations in conjunction with the major purchaser of grapes from the property, Pernod Ricard Winemakers, the owner of the famous Jacob’s Creek and St Hugo wine brands.
Riesling dominates the planting on the Estate because of its notable reputation in the Clare Valley region. It is also projected that demand will continue in the long term but it is soft at this time.
A significant quantity of Merlot is also present of the Estate and this is being used to form part of the blends for both Taylors and Jacobs Creeks premium blends.
CLIMATE AND SOIL
The average rainfall of the northern region of the Clare Valley is approximately 630mm per annum. More importantly, the majority falls in the winter and spring (May to October) periods with lower likelihood of summer rain during the growing season. This results in reduced disease pressure from post rain events. There is low likelihood of hail but frost may affect the lower part of the site in some years. There is approximately 1,600 hours of sunshine from October to April of each (the heat degree index). The site is open and has an undulating terrain.
The land is gentle to moderately undulating and is serviced by a stream that only flows in occasional years. The soils are granite clay loams with sections of self mulching cracking clays. The soils are good for growing premium wine grapes.
The vineyard was established around this information (row orientation, dripper systems, planting density available water/drainage) based upon detailed research and investigation by experts in vineyard design and soil mapping. The entire property has been mapped for potential expansion in the future with either vineyard or other.
Soil nutrition is another important factor that can affect growth and FABAL Operations implemented (pre-planting) and maintains a regime for management of this input.
WATER AND IRRIGATION
Grapevines require regular watering to supplement the natural annual rainfall. To produce the quality of wine grapes expected for this business, the Gardiner Well Estate vineyard requires approximately 2.0ML of water per hectare. This is supplementary irrigation to the regions annual rainfall.
The southern region of the Clare Valley has limited ground water for use in irrigation that is of a quality that can be used by itself. Accordingly, the Gardiner Well vineyard has never relied on this source for its supplementary irrigation. NVFAL considers irrigation and its management to be the most important aspect of its operations. Considerable time was spent on the design of the irrigation system for the Gardiner Well Estate vineyard but a risk still exists that the irrigation system may malfunction.
Irrigation System: The water is delivered to the grapevines through a series of pumps and mainlines according to the irrigation designed for the vineyard. The sophisticated ‘in-line’ drip irrigation system, supplied by Netafim Australia in 2002, is considered the most effective supply of irrigation. The irrigation system is controlled by a computer network which enables the efficient application of the water through centralised control.
South Australian Water Entitlements: As has been seen in past years (and in particular between 2003 and 2010), potential risk exists that the vineyard may have an insufficient water supply in periods of drought. Accordingly, NVFAL has secured rights to 120ML of CVWSS water scheme. Since 2004, NVFAL, after contributing a sizable infrastructure charge, has been able to use the CVWSS to move 120ML of water to the vineyard. That is 70ML during the ‘peak’ periods (1 November to 30 April) and 50ML during ‘off-peak’ periods.
Clare Valley Water Supply Scheme: CVWSS is owned by SA Water, effectively operating as a independently run semi-government instrumentality. It has the capacity to supply 2,000 ML per annum of water to town and agribusinesses in the Clare Valley. SA Water provides the connection via the Morgan to Whyalla pipeline from the River Murray.
CVWSS is required to have River Murray Water Allocations for the water supplied by SA Water. This water comes from Water Access Entitlements, either purchased or in the form of long term leases, and annual Water Allocations purchased on the market.
Annual usage charges have increased over 250% during this period and were becoming unsustainable. Water is the 2nd most expensive cost to the vineyard on an annual basis (after labour). Commencing 1 October 2015, the CVWSS owners have negotiated a more effective cost for irrigators in the Clare Valley.
Whilst NVFAL is satisfied that it has secured sufficient water and that the method of delivery via the CVWSS pipeline will be sufficient to provide water for the vines in most years, it is a reality that supply can be restricted due to extremely dry conditions or other unforeseen events with third party supply.
High supply charges also remain a financial constraint and require extremely careful planning of water applications.