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.