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Quality cool climate wine from the Orange wine growing region in New South Wales, Australia

It's the sort of name that attaches itself to the family chemist, or local barber.

Bloodwood Wine Press

It's the sort of name that attaches itself to the family chemist, or local barber.

Stephen Doyle

It may even be the maiden name of the captain of the best team of net ballers you've ever seen clout the canvas. It's a name of some moment and conservative style!

As for your 'Wally', well there's at least one in every pub. I would go so far as to state, at some small personal danger to my uninebriated self, that a pub without a Wal is not a real pub at all. It's more an hotel. What's more, uninvited Wals have a habit of turning up at dry red home bottling sessions, demanding control of the siphon and complaining when next they are upright about how that bloody awful port, bloody near killed them. Mind you, some Wals will have a go at anything. A source close to the action, informs me of one prominent N.S.W. National Party Wal taking a swig of glyphosate in an effort to convince a cynical public of its benign nature. Trouble is, said my informant, he didn't drink enough of the stuff.               

What's all this to do with wine? Well, as often as not, Gil Walquist, late of Botobolar Vineyard in Mudgee makes an appearance in casual conversation, and the occasional publication, as Wal Gilchrist. This must be of some real concern to his bankers, and some genuine joy to his accountant. Gilchrist in spirit he may have been, but a Wal he very definitely was not. He and his partner Vincie were remarkably singular and generous individuals.

In my ill-spent formative years, I had the rare good fortune of spending a lost Sunday with the Walquists in their vineyard at Botobolar where I enjoyed the hospitality and accumulated wisdom of over 20 years of 'real' grapegrowing and winemaking. The Walquists had established themselves as leaders in organic viticultural practice in Australia, and had developed an international reputation for natural wines made from "real" grapes with minimal synthetic interference. In hindsight they were and are the pioneers of the natural wine making movement so hip today. At the time, Botobolar was the only Australian vineyard accredited by NASA (National Association of Sustainable Agriculture) and, as such, enjoyed an enviable reputation for quality wines from their clean environment.

All this didn't just happen. Both Gil and Vincie, through dogged hard work and enduring belief in what they were doing, survived their own doubts and the cynicism of an ever decreasing group of industry Wallies. And, what's very endearing to me at least, they achieved it all with very good humour. I didn't find a couple of rabid evangelists perched atop some ecologically sound stump berating the assembled prospective guilt ridden converts cowering below. What I found was firm observation and quiet certainty, presented in a positive and human atmosphere of concern for what we're doing to our environment, and therefore, ourselves.

And was everything rosy in that Walquist's sunday garden? At the time of my visit, Gil showed us a possible infection of his Cabernet with Botrytis. Now while Botrytis in late harvested Riesling can be magic, red wine and this particular fungus presents a problem. Apricot flavoured Cabernet just doesn't excite. There was some mechanical damage from a  hailstorm and a general invasion of light brown apple moth larvae attacking the recently set berries. There was also a fairly complete grassing of the vineyard floor tending to moderate growth along the vine rows.

So just what were the Walquists doing about all these conventional viticultural 'problems'?. Well, they were keeping a low profile. They were keeping a low profile and waiting for nature to respond. Hail is a fact of life for all agriculture, and anyway that year’s crop looked to be pretty heavy in what seemed to be making up into a pretty dry year. The grasses in the vineyard encouraged insects which attracted more than the odd predatory bird. These birds, when they realise how tasty the moth larvae are, would soon control the presently expanding population. And as for the fungal challenges, elemental dusting sulphur, critically applied during the recent flowering period should prevent problems at vintage. Easy isn't it!

Mind you, there's nothing absolute about this approach to growing vines. I got the impression that Gil's footprints in the vineyard are the best manure of all. I also came away with the gift that successful organic growing is a result of knowing precisely when to do exactly nothing. That being true, all we Wals are already half way there.

Gil and Vincie  Walquist. Not sure about the identity of the bearded galumph trying to insert himself into the photo.