The Pemberton region is known for being a clean and healthy environment, and the vineyard benefits from being planted in this pristine area. We are committed to farming the land sustainably, and protecting its natural values.
Bellarmine Estate is 220 hectares in size, and is a working farm with the vineyard covering 20 hectares. When the land was cleared for the vineyard, over a thousand native eucalyptus trees were planted in another area of the farm.
Sheep in the Vineyard
The role of organic matter in promoting soil health is well established. Healthy soils feed the vines which then produce great grapes. In winter, rams Bruce and Patrick and their flock have the run of the vineyard. Their job is to keep the winter grass and weeds under control and produce lots of lovely manure, which they tread in along with the nitrogen-fixing rye grass and clover. All this organic matter encourages the earth worm population and soil microflora. In addition, it greatly reduces the need for herbicides to control weeds, or inorganic fertilisers to be applied.
Pest and Disease Management
We also reduce the need for chemical sprays to control fungal diseases such as powdery mildew through careful canopy management of the vines. Less dense canopy means better wind flow, less humidity and more exposure to sunshine which reduces the chance of fungal diseases. All our vines are on Schwarzmann rootstock which is de-vigorating. Winter pruning is aimed at opening up the canopy, followed by shoot thinning in Spring, as well as wire lifting the shoots into a vertical position. The vines are also hedged in summer to decrease the amount of foliage.
We use integrated pest management whenever possible. For example, ladybirds are used as predators for mealy bug which can form a harmful sooty mould on the grapes. With Pemberton's 100 Year Forest as our neighbour there is a great diversity of wildlife at the farm. Unfortunately many of them enjoy a feast of grapes, particularly kangaroos which are kept at bay with fencing, and birds which are managed when the fruit is ripe through the use of gas guns which make a loud bang to scare them away.
When we do need to apply chemicals, their use is carefully planned and monitored. Chemical inputs are expensive and their continued use can be harmful to the environment and lead to problems with resistant pests and diseases. At the Bellarmine vineyard, soil and leaf analysis are conducted every year. We then use 'fertigation' - a process where dissolved fertiliser is applied through an irrigation system, allowing only what's needed to be applied exactly when and where it's needed to maintain excellent vine health.