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

History Blog

We (that is, Rhonda and Stephen Doyle) planted the pioneering wine grape vineyard in the Spring of 1983.

Merlot Noir vines thrived in the warm, free-draining gravels of Bloodwood. The first vintage, yielding 650 litres of exciting varietal essence, duly followed in April 1986.

Over the last three decades, we have cared for and nurtured those original vines on our Griffin Road property. Today, in their maturity, they offer the best potential for the production of the highest quality, cool climate fruit which is the enduring foundation of all our Bloodwood wine styles.

The vineyard now is home to 21,274 Vinifera vines planted on their own roots and covering 8.072 Hectares of the best wine growing site in the wonderful Orange Region of Australia.

In the pre-dawn of an era

Stephen Doyle

Glenfinlass Winery, NSW

Bloodwood is actually Bloodwood Mark Two.

We began making wine in 1976 from the grapes from a little organic vineyard and winery called Glenfinlass near Wellington in New South Wales.

The owners of the winery, Brian and Nyassa Holmes made us very welcome and encouraged our passion for the mysteries of wine, and taught us both a great deal about allowing it to evolve in empathy with the environment in which it is grown. We were encouraged to prune the vines according to their vigour, variety and expected weather for the approaching season; to struggle to recover the perfectly ripe grapes amongst the masses of vintage flowering purple top and marauding bees; to experience the exhausting joys of periodically hand -plunging a mass of fermenting Cabernet or Shiraz for days and nights on end; to witness the transformation of the newly fermented and pressed wine once it saw a little time in a battery of old oak puncheons, and to enjoy the company of like-minded souls during these processes. And having recently tried some of those mid-seventies wines, particularly from the Glenfinlass Hill Vineyard, it is very obvious that Brian and Nyassa were on to something unique in the Australian industry of that time. So this is a deep debt of gratitude we both acknowledge with pleasure, here and now.

Rhonda and I making Chardonnay on-site, Mudgee 1980.

It may look primitive, but actually the process is technically and philosophically sound. These grapes were from Margaret Kurtz's vineyard near the Mudgee airport. They were fabulous, organically grown quality, hand picked and foot-pressed in the vineyard by my beautiful assistant. The freshly squeezed juice was then roughly strained into 60 litre fermenters under CO2 (see the cylinder in the back of the Cruiser) to which around 30 ppm SO2 was added to keep the must (sic) quiet for the trip back to Sydney. After the natural ferment started, the whole drum was housed in an old refrigerator running at 5C and off it went. The trick was to allow the finishing ferment to warm up so the yeast could properly dry out the new wine. Maturation was in purpose-built small oak pieces for a couple of months. Malo-lactic fermentation didn't enter into the equation at that stage. This is a simple, technically sound and exciting way to make good Chardonnay..and what's more, it honestly reflects the "place" and the vintage conditions the grapes were grown in..we didn't know then what "terrior" meant. We believe the vines were a selection from Alf Kurtz's original Chardonnay (the French grape he called it) on Craigmoor vineyard, and, as such represented a connection with some of the oldest and best dry grown Chardonnay vines in the world at that time. It is a real shame they no longer exist, but we can still remember the vivid quality of the finished 1980 Chardonnay.

Well everybody has to start somewhere.

This is our first pink. It was supposed to be our first medium bodied Shiraz, but after Rhonda insisted the grapes be washed following manual bunch de-stalking, I'm afraid we exceeded our allocated percentage of sky wine, and this was the result. And what did it taste like? Well we are using very small glasses!. However, unlike us, I am relieved to report that subsequent attempts at Rose and Cabernet styles of wine have obviously improved in both body and appearance.

 Brian Holmes in his wonderful Glenfinlass cellar circa 1977.

His glass isn't much bigger than ours above, but check out the density of colour in the wine. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but I would like it to have been his outstanding 1976 Hill Vineyard Shiraz; a wine which is still drinking well today. And how comforting is the wall of newly bottled wines maturing in the background of this shot. Organic, hand pruned, hand picked, hand plunged and hand bottled pieces ofGlenfinlass terrior. No wonder real winemakers feel so secure in their cellars.

Brian Holmes and yours curly "nosing" a new wine in front of a couple of Glenfinlass puncheons.

With the current fashion for restrained oak in Australian wines, these larger less obvious maturation vessels are making a come back. They are a lot harder to handle manually than smaller pieces such as barriques, but they do mature wines in a more leisurely fashion. This one appears to be maturing Glenfinlass Vat 3 Shiraz (from The Flat vineyard) which made it into oak to finish ferment on 18th March 1978. The bricks in the supporting wall were made by convict labour and that seems appropriate for such a manually intensive winery as Glenfinlass.

As Randy Newman says, everybody goes bad eventually..but hey, we've had a lot of fun getting there.

As Randy Newman says, everybody goes bad eventually..but hey, we've had a lot of fun getting there.

This is the original Bloodwood setup including the mandatory (fairly new) basket press, fermentation drum which incorporated a specially designed total immersion nylon-hinged French oak heading board for constant juice and skin contact; a starter bottle of fermenting wine and an enamel bath in which to wash the grapes before ferment. I call this Samson of the Shiraz. Delilah was, no doubt, on the camera.