Embedded in history, our vineyards are quite literally at the heart of Campbells. So, it’s safe to say that Vineyard Manager, Phil Brain, has a very important task on his hands when it comes to caring for our provenance vines…
Ever since the first vines were planted by John Campbell in 1870, the Campbell family has been determined to nurture the spell-binding fruit that these vines produce. Whilst the expanse of our vineyards has increased with new plantings over the years, our philosophy towards the way we tend our vines remains the same; ‘quality at the expense of quantity is our aim. We assist nature, we don’t seek to dominate her.’
Today Malcolm Campbell, fourth generation viticulturist, works very closely with Vineyard Manager, Phil Brain, to ensure that our vision for the future of our vineyards comes to life.
A big part of that work includes continuous vine improvement, as well as championing the varietal and clonal selection program. The team’s aim is to grow grapes suited to the region. Over the years, this has seen the team expand the Sixties Block varieties and work with Viognier, Roussanne and Trebbiano.
Today, to get a feel for what’s to come in the Campbells vineyard, we sat down with Phil to get his take on the future of the great Campbells wine varieties we know and love.
What do you and your team have to do to prepare for Vintage 2018?
We will soon be starting to test the grapes for their desired sugar levels, as well as tasting juice samples to determine the optimum time to harvest each variety. First to be harvested will be the more delicate white varieties, while the more robust reds and fortifieds will be picked later in the season. Our trusty grape harvester ‘Lucy 2’ is about to embark on her 19th vintage (which is quite a milestone!). Although we work days (and nights) during vintage, it’s always a rewarding process as you truly see the fruit of your combined labour come to fruition!
How are new plantings coming along?
This year, we planted Tempranillo and Malbec, which are both coming along nicely. This follows the recent plantings of more Shiraz, Muscat and our first block of Tempranillo. All of these vines are looking great, especially as we’re able to protect them in their growguards. The growguards protect the young, delicate vines from the pesky hares – who have in the past taken to chewing the vines off just above the graft!
What challenges do you and your team face in the vineyard?
One of the more challenging aspects at Campbells is the broad range of varieties we work with (over 20 at last count!). They range from the more widely planted varieties such as Chardonnay, Riesling, Shiraz, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, to the more traditional varieties for the Rutherglen region such as Durif, Muscat and Muscadelle. And as the trends change, as well as the climate becoming warmer, there has been a tendancy to plant newer varieties more suited to warmer climates, such as Tempranillo – which has become such a loved and versatile variety for us!
What grape varieties excite you most?
I would have to say that Muscat is still the variety that excites me the most. Even at veraison (the changing of colour and ripening of grapes), the Muscat berries are developing that familiar flavour that has helped put Rutherglen on the map. By the time we harvest the grapes, a lot of the berries are quite shriveled, and although they are dehydrated, they are just bursting with sweet, desirable goodness.
It certainly is an exciting time at the winery – and I can’t wait to see how Vintage 2018 pans out – I think it’s going to be a cracker!