I am a gardener ! Interview with the wine producer Denis Vice by Hiroshi Fukuno The Wine Kingdom

For the Japanese tourist, Australia is that country where to go on holidays on the South Hemisphere. A country where the nature is splendid and any gourmet will be delighted by food. This is in such a place that some people are making wine in Bordeaux style. At the South of Australia, in Coonawarra area, is Denis Vice is running “Highbank Vineyards”.

“This is organic. With organic methods you respect the natural environment. I believe in producing good wines from the nature. I think of myself as a gardener. Because I don’t want to grow more than 8 tufts on each vine-plant. This is how I increase the fruit concentration of the grapes. You know, it takes us 3 months and a half only to cut branches and tufts.”

I wonder when Denis Vice started to think about organic cultivation.

“In any country, not only in wine, but also in food, chemicals are added to food. This is something I can’t accept. Until we obtained the approval for permanent residence in Australia, I practiced organic culture at my wife’s parents’ home in Hawai where macadamia nuts are grown. ‘This is it’, is what I thought that time”.
What about the products on the market today?

“First ‘Basket Press’ and then ‘Limestone’. In Japan, you can only find these two wines. I am thinking about introducing Merlot and Pinot Noir in future. Because recently, I bought a new vineyard close to Adelaide, which has the same Terra Rossa soil. In that area, Chardonnay and Viognier are planted.”

Is Basket Press’ grape variety Cabernet only?

“No, it is blended with 20% of Merlot and 5% of Cabernet Franc. We are extracting only the best juice by pressing slowly the grapes with a basket press. We are using French oak barrels and do everything we can to preserve the original taste of the grapes”.

“When you come to Australia, you have to visit Highbank. I’m sure you won’t regret that trip!”

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Highbank An Australian wine different from others

Highbank wine “Coonawarra Basket Press” is made of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc (7000 yen/Vintners). Extremely complex structure with soft and delicate acidity and tannins. Long length.(92 points, now to 2015)

Highbank vineyards are located on the central hill of Coonawarra’s highest terroir, this is why this top quality wine is different from other Australian wines.

Coonawarra is not only that land famous for its name, it is also the place where people made a move towards to obtain Coonawarra appellation for top quality wines. This is only at the top of the hill that you will find the best soil, limestone covered by a thin layer (20 cm) of Terra Rossa.

Denis Vice couldn’t imagine making wine anywhere else than on the best spot.

Three methods are used jointly: Scott henri’s, VSP and Double Canopy. Denis Vice has a keen interest in cultivation.

This is why the yield is very low: « usually, you get 6 tons per hectare. We are producing 1.5 ton per hectare ». I guess this is why this wine is so different from others.

Winart September 2002 By Tanaka Katsuyuki

Discovery of Highbank by Belgian and Dutch sommeliers

A visit to South Australia by Dutch and Belgian sommeliers, early in 2002, saw them visit Coonawarra to meet local winemakers. Their trip report highlighted Highbank Wines thus:

Discovery: Highbank Coonawarra

The discovery of the day was Highbank 1999 “Coonawarra”. Dennis Vice made this outstanding wine. He is an individual of outstanding knowledge in viticulture and produces on one type of wine – a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc.

In 1986 Dennis purchased 4 hectares of ground in Coonawarra and in 1991 produced his first vintage wine. In the year 1999 he produced 400 cases of wine that were exported.

His wine has an outstandingly fragrant nose, a complex broad taste with a very long finish. A truly outstanding wine from this famous domain.

Australian Premium Wine Collection re 1996 Highbank Coonawarra

Dennis Vice is very excited to offer this wine back to his compatriots. After spending many years as a viticulturist in California, Dennis settled in Australia’s home of Cabernet Sauvignon and related varieties; the Coonawarra, South Australia. Apart from maintaining this vineyard Dennis also lectures in viticulture and applies his knowledge and experience with the result being just about the finest the region can achieve.

The vines are hand pruned to ensure low yields of concentrated, evenly ripe berries and in turn the bunches are harvested by hand to ensure that they arrive at the winery in prime condition. This lack of intervention by machine is very rare in the region. A wonderful array of complex flavors is the just result of this truly hands on approach. There is blackberry, blueberry and plums along with a minty, herbal character. In addition there is just a hint of some toasty new oak. The palate is closed and tight, very much expected as the wine is in its infancy stage of development, but there is obviously great concentration and depth of flavor. The length of the back palate is impressive with firm, finely grained tannins.

The balance between the structure and the fruit characters enable to drink the wine now but it really needs several years, somewhere between 8-10 years in the cellar to allow the tannins
to soften, the oak to integrate and the fruit to ever so gently oxidise.

If you drink the wine in its youth, match it to hearty red meat dishes that have concentrated rich sauces, as this will balance the firmness at the finish of the wine.

Best of both worlds – GrapeGrowers

by Sally Collings

Viticulture lecturer Dennis Vice, from the South East Institute of TAFE, has made good use of his background and watched the market closely to successfully find a niche for organically grown wine.

The Coonawarra* vineyards’s management philosophy is based on minimal inputs, and relies on technology, such as local weather forecasts to predict wind and temperature, especially during the spraying season.

“We are putting the cycle of the vines with the cycle of the weather. It’s also a matter of getting bums off tractor seats’ to be familiar with the lifecycle of vines,” Mr Vice said.

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