HEATHCOTE RIDGE ESTATE
NATIONAL VINEYARD FUND OF AUSTRALIA LIMITED
The Heathcote Ridge Estate vineyard is located on the northern end of the Heathcote wine region (Geographical Indication) approximately 4 km west of Corop and 56 km north of the Heathcote township.
The 127.9 ha property is located on a ridge which gently slopes down to the plains around Green Lake. It straddles both sides of Bonn School Road, Corop. At the high point, it is approximately 260 m above sea level and drops to around 160 m. It averages approximately 185 m above sea level.
It sits on a ridge overlooking two lakes, Greens Lake and Lake Cooper, and the Waranga Western Channel (an irrigation canal operated seasonally from October to April to secure water for the farming community).
The virgin vineyard was planted from 2007 to 2010 on a property that was traditionally a broad acre farm used for cereal cropping and sheep farming. The original shearing sheds dating back to the early 1900’s still exist on the property. New offices and sheds have been rebuilt after a fire in 2014, to operate the management and operations for the property.
Two sections of the vineyard land are separated by Bonn School Road.
A pipeline from the channel to connect the property was built by HRVL in 2007 and links to a 17 ML dam on-site. This is the main water source for the vineyards and is reticulated by a sophisticated irrigation system from the dam to the entire property.
The land does not have either running or ground water so it is supplemented with water from a pipeline running 4 km from the Waranga Western Channel. Irrigation is discussed in the Water section below.
The vineyard is planted with a mix of 7 red varieties (Shiraz being dominant with Grenache, Merlot, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir and Montepulciano) and 2 white varieties (Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris). Semillon planted on the vineyard in 2006 at the request of Pernot Ricard Winemakers (Orlando) was removed in 2012 and is being progressively replanted.
The key variety of Shiraz is the most desired variety for the region. Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc are white varieties in demand.
The current mix of wine grape varieties planted on Heathcote Ridge Estate were chosen by FABAL Operations in conjunction with the major purchaser of grapes from the property, Pernod Ricard.
The current layout of the entire property and its vineyard is shown below.
CLIMATE AND SOIL
The average rainfall of the northern region of the Heathcote wine region is approximately 514 mm per annum. Importantly, the majority falls in winter and spring (May to October) with lower likelihood of summer rain during the growing season. This pattern generally results in reduced disease pressure from post rain events. There is low likelihood of hail throughout the region but frost may affect the lower part of the site in some years. There is approximately 1,850 hours of sunshine from October to April each season (the heat degree index).
The site is open and sloping terrain from the high point of more than 250 m ASL and running down to Green Lake, approximately 2 km away. The soils vary but are predominantly red podzolics and red brown earths with darker loams as the property slops towards to Green Lake.
The soils provide ideal growing conditions for premium wine grapes.
Soil nutrition is an important factor influencing vine growth and FABAL Operations implemented (pre-planting) and maintains a regime for management of this risk. HRVL expends the necessary resources to ensure that nutrient levels are maintained at optimal levels.
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 Heathcote Ridge Estate vineyard requires approximately 2.5 ML of water per hectare of supplementary irrigation give the regions annual rainfall.
The northern region of the Heathcote wine region has limited ground water for use in irrigation. Accordingly, the Heathcote Ridge Estate vineyard has never relied on this source for its supplementary irrigation.
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 2007, 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.
VICTORIAN WATER ENTITLEMENTS
In recent years (and in particular between 2003 and 2010), there is a potential risk that the vineyard may have an insufficient water supply in periods of drought. Accordingly, HRVL has adopted a policy of owning secure water entitlements supplemented by temporary leasing of water allocations on the open water market.
HRVL owns 90 ML of High Reliability entitlement via the ownership of 90,000 shares in River Murray Prescribed Water Course of the 1A Greater Goulburn trading zone.
In addition to these shares, HRVL also owns 19,200 shares of Low Reliability water entitlement in the same system. HRVL will acquire further allocation of both High Reliability entitlements over the next 5 to 10 years and aims to hold between 50% and 66.6% of its annual allocation requirements.
This equates to approximately 1.25 ML/ha (or 50%) of required water for the Heathcote Ridge Estate vineyard. The other 1.25 ML/ha (or 50%) of normal requirements are sourced from the water trading market on an annual basis. The cost of this temporary water waries depending on the seasonal determination on allocations. Since the end of the drought in 2010, the allocation of High Reliability has been 100% of the entitlement in most years and between 25 and 100% of Low Reliability allocations.
HRVL considers irrigation and its management to be the critical aspect of its operations. Considerable effort on the design of the irrigation system for the Heathcote Ridge Estate vineyard has secured a high degree of assurance.