Sunday, 12 November 2017

Behind the Brand - Tellurian Wines

General Manager - Daniel Hopkins
Ian Hopkins went for a relaxing drive and came home having bought a vineyard. And that was that. When Ian rang to inform his son of the news, the first question Daniel spat out was, "How long have you been thinking about this for?" His father's response caught him by surprise, "Three hours!" The rest is history.

From humble days of buying land with the provision to plant a vineyard in 2002, Heathcote's Tellurian Wines has boomed. Bricks have gradually been put in the wall (so to speak) and the onsite winery was only completed in 2012. Prior to then, the wines were contract made.

Heathcote sits approximately two hours north of Melbourne and presents an interesting climate - warm and hot days balanced by cool nights. Rain comes predominantly during winter, and coupled with bone dry summers, disease pressure is low. Daniel Hopkins tells me though, you need to get used to windy days.

The name Tellurian comes from Latin meaning 'of the earth' and was adopted by the family given Heathcote's 550 million year old Cambrian soil being so unique.

The Hopkins family seem to be open-minded folk. Coming from engineering backgrounds, good research has laid the foundation for their success. And this success can be seen across the Australia with their approachable and classy wines listed in some of the best capital city restaurants.

That strip of red Cambrian soil is a topic Daniel thrives on. You can see his heart rate skip a beat - his passion for the region and the soils is infectious. "Anything with shallow roots dies," he says. Numerous attempts to 'pretty up' the cellar door and gardens continually failed until deep garden beds were dug and new soil brought in. Grapevines have no such issues as they tap deep. Part of the management used in the vineyard has seen soil moisture monitors installed which has had positive impacts on viticultural decisions.

Mediterranean varieties are taking to the region well. Tellurian have planted Fiano, Marsanne, Nero d'Avola along with Grenache and Mataro. The region's best variety is Shiraz, something which Tellurian are gaining a solid reputation for. Nero d'Avola was first planted in 2011, something of a punt at the time. Only a couple of wineries throughout Australia had it in the dirt. The gamble has paid off with a vibrant and medium bodied style highlighted by fine and earthy fruit. 2011 saw Riesling planted too. While it is a common variety in Australia, it's not so common in Heathcote. Again, the gamble was taken with some similarities in the region to that of the Clare Valley. Over three years all the vines were finally planted and minerally driven wines are being produced. Two punts, two wins.

Over time discussions were held between Ian and Daniel to create a point of difference with their Shiraz. Two blocks contribute to the flagship wine, the Tranter Shiraz. One block runs 350 metres down a hill and is known simply as the 'long rows'. At the bottom of the hill runs a block 120 metres long called, yep you guessed it, the 'short rows'.

Daniel noticed that over time the top vines from the long rows seemed to struggle more than those from the short rows. After some vocal in-house discussion, Daniel put the foot down and bottled separate wines from these blocks. Block 3 TLR and Block 3 SR were born.

Despite Ian not wanting this to happen, the proof is in the pudding and now he's all too quick to show these at the cellar door - the difference in the two is most intriguing. Another punt, another win.

With a few more irons in the fire, it's well worth keeping an eye on this humble Heathcote family winery proud of their patch of red Cambrian dirt.

Tellurian Riesling 2017
Tellurian Rosé 2017
Tellurian Nero d'Avola 2015 

Winery Website

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