Scotchmans Hill's romantic success
A once derelict homestead on the Bellarine Peninsula, Spray Farm is now a favourite romantic destination for weddings and special events, but it is just one of the suprises in the Scotchman's Hill wine empire.
The Browne family of Scotchman's Hill bought the property in 1994 and have spent six years restoring it to its former glory. Export manager Andrew Browne says his father, David, spent holiday's as a child down at Port Arlington and knew about this property when it came up for auction.
"There weren’t that many at the auction which was a blessing. It had been derelict for 50 years and basically we had to rebuild the roadways, we planted the vineyard as well that year, fencing, all the wiring, power, electricity, the whole lot, and then obviously rebuilding the actual homestead itself. So we started with the front area, and we’ve got the offices in there as well as the wedding and function venue. It was a 2 year process and it took a lot of hard work and a lot of pressure as well but it’s a terrific result and we feel it’s probably complete," he says.
Spray Farm is 150 acres with 20 acres planted vineyard. "Scotchmans Hill itself is 650 acres and we have 150 acres of vineyard up there. We work with growers as well in the region on another 150 acres that we manage and we buy that fruit as well.
"The production of Scotchmans Hill has increased fairly dramatically along with the number of staff that we’ve got looking after the vineyard and the winery itself and the quality of the product. We have three levels of brands called Scotchmans Hill, Swan Bay and a new one called "The Hill" which is exciting. We are really trying to remain regional so we are trying to work with growers in our region to best represent, I guess, the fruit qualities and characteristics of the region."
The Bellarine region is known for very high winds, he says. "You can imagine Antarctic winds coming straight up there and there’s really not much protection, so for that reason you get very low yields. We get very low rainfall. We get about half that at the Yarra and two-thirds that at the Mornington so in that respect we get very clean fruit from year to year.
"The soil types vary greatly. The Bellarine is an extinct volcano so we get very, very rich, very fertile soils, black cracking clay, whereas the other side of Geelong is slightly more of a loamy sort of limestone soil. There’s a lot of terrific sites but I think underscoring the whole lot is the quality of raw product that we are getting and the ability of all producers to turn that into something in the bottle which is different and individual," he says.
Andrew says the region is terrific for growing Pinot Noir. "[Pinot Noir] is an incredibly difficult variety, very, very low yields required and you need very, very clean fruit as a thin skin is susceptible to rot and all those other things. It’s still a financially very difficult variety to deal with but if you can get it right from year to year and get some consistency it’s a terrific variety," he says.
Another success for Scotchmans Hill has been Shiraz. "Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay do very well in this region but Shiraz is something that this region is not particularly known for until more recently and this vineyard has recently scored 95 points out of 100 leading Grange in a tasting. It’s a very different style of Australian Shiraz, it’s more of an old world traditional style and I think that’s probably what the rest of the country has difficulty in producing.
"It’s amazing how many people have no idea that this region can produce Shiraz and the fact that it’s a very different sort of style of Shiraz, different to what they are used to, ie. Australian Shiraz. It’s become one of our stars and we’ve been producing it for three years and we sell out very, very quickly which is great. But it would be great if we had a little bit more as well!"
© VisitVineyards® 2007
Footnote (2009): Spray Farm was sold by Scothman's Hill and is now operated as a luxury retreat.
2013 update: It is again on the market for estimates of up to A$20 million.
- Bellarine Peninsula (VIC)
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