Dedication to quality and integrity in both the vineyard and winery
Over the generations there has been a growing awareness that whatever the farming pursuit their practices should be guided by what is the best for future generations, not by what is simply the easiest today.
Specialising in cool climate wines, the Delatite winery is sited on a picturesque rise, overlooking the vineyards, toward Mt Buller in north-east Victoria. It is a small family run winery, established in 1982 by Robert and Vivienne Ritchie and now run by their son David, with the assistance of winemaker Andy Browning. The 28 hectare vineyard sits between 450 and 500m above sea on slopes that vary in gradient and outlook (from north-east to north-west) whilst the predominant soil type is red ironstone.
Their approach to wine making has been forged from the family’s history of working with the land in Victoria for over 170 years, first arriving at Port Fairy in 1836. In the 1890’s Geoffrey Ritchie moved to Mansfield having purchased the 7,500ha Delatite Station (one of the most productive grazing properties in the north east of Victoria) and it is still owned by the Ritchie family (though now smaller in size). Over the generations there has been a growing awareness that whatever the farming pursuit their practices should be guided by what is the best for future generations, not by what is simply the easiest today.
In 1968 Robert and Vivienne heeded the advice of one of the most eminent winemakers from the Barossa Valley, Jim Irvine, and planted what was the first cool climate vineyard in Australia on the steep hills overlooking the mountains. From 1974 through to 1981 they sold these grapes to Brown Brothers at Milawa who were so impressed by the quality and individuality of the different varieties that they made and bottled them under a separate and special “Delatite Individual Vineyard’ range of very limited release wines. In 1981, given the quality of these wines, they enlisted the help of Dr Tony Jordan and Brian Croser to design a small winery and provide consulting advice on winemaking. The winery was built in time (and during) the 1982 vintage and the very first red and white wines from that year all won Gold medals at national shows (Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot noir, Cabernet sauvignon)
Historically around 80-90% of the fruit came from the Estate vineyards and from 2012 this was tightened up so that the Reserve and Estate ranges are made exclusively from 100% Delatite grown fruit. No added yeasts have been used since the 2009 vintage – indigenous or ‘wild’ yeasts have done all the fermenting giving added complexity. Alongside this Delatite has launched the High Ground range of wines produced from a mix of our own fruit and that from neighbouring vineyards – all from our High Country wine growing area. A pointer to the quality of the new range is that the 2015 High Ground Pinot noir was selected for Jetstar International Business Class flights (one of only two Pinot noirs on the list).
Since the 2016 vintage four new wines have been added to the range. The first is a Gewurztraminer Pinot gris Riesling; the Hell’s Window. This is a natural or ‘orange/amber’ wine and is hand-picked, crushed and co-fermented together on skins in tank. After seven days it’s pressed off skins and transferred to old french oak hogsheads/puncheons to finish ferment and spends a further five-six months on lees in oak before bottling in September/October. No fining, filtration or adjustments are made.
In 2017 the Yarra Chardonnay and Yarra Pinot noir were released. These are made from fruit grown at the Vestey family’s Coombe Farm vineyard in the heart of the Yarra Valley. Although not bio dynamically grown the team at Coombe follow sustainable practices.
Finally in 2018 the MansField Blend; Riesling, Pinot gris, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon blanc, Viognier.
Looking to the future as the climate warms Delatite planted Tempranillo and Graciano in 2012 and in 2019 is planting Touriga and Grenache – there is no doubt that these varieties will be become increasingly important to our red wine production in the future.
In the vineyard the Delatite team follows Rudolf Steiner’s Biodynamic principles as they believe in growing grapes and making wine in as natural a way as possible with minimal intervention/additions. The only fertilisers used are reactive rock phosphate, fish/kelp/fulvic acid, BD 500, cow and sheep manure concentrate and compost teas. No herbicides, insecticides or systemic/curative fungicides are used – the only vine sprays are wettable sulphur, copper and Bacillus thuringiensis.
This, along with an even, relatively cool ripening period, further strengthens the varietal flavours and characteristics of all the grapes grown.
They continue with their minimal intervention in the winery by allowing natural or ‘wild’ yeast ferments (no commercial yeasts are added), no artificial fining agents and most of the red wines are bottled with minimal or no filtration. This is very much going back to the ‘old ways’ of winemaking but doing this in a modern winery with modern equipment and very good knowledge of the science of winemaking……the best of both worlds.
The white grapes are all hand-picked then whole bunch pressed (the only exception being the Hell’s Window that is treated like a red wine and so crushed before fermenting) and the white aromatics all have a portion fermented and aged on lees in old oak puncheons as well as sitting on lees in tank post ferment.
The reds all undergo small batch winemaking; all of the Estate and Reserve Block reds are fermented in 1.5 – 3 tonne batches in different ways; whole bunch, extended cold soaking before and after ferment, carbonic maceration before being blended pre- barrel maturation. This further accentuates the individuality of the wines and allows maximum quality to be achieved from each season.
All that the small viticulture and winemaking team at Delatite does is with the aim of producing very individual wines with great structure and complexity, and that will age extremely well, be exceptional partners to a variety of foods, and also be very nice to drink!
This dedication to quality and integrity in both the vineyard and winery is also evident in the many awards the winery has received.
Finally, all our wines are Vegan Friendly (not that David is a vegan!) and have been for at least six years.
Delatite Wines has been consistently successful in the show circuit, and favourably reviewed in the media. “This is uncompromising cool climate viticulture and the wines naturally reflect that.” wrote James Halliday’s in his Australian Wine Companion 2019, rating Delatite as a ‘Five Red Star Winery’ from 2009 – 2019.