Family owned winery Gemtree Wines, located out in McLaren Vale, have just released the contents of the first wine barrel in the world to be returned to the earth and aged in the ground. SubTerra is a single-vineyard shiraz said to mirror the same premium quality that is often credited to wineries throughout the McLaren Vale region in South Australia, aged in a wax-coated French oak barrel that was buried deep in the soil underneath the vines where the grapes for the wine were handpicked.
According to the winery, the earth provided a perfect natural temperature controlled cellar for the wine to mature, reimagining an ancient technique from Georgian winemakers who fermented their wine in clay pots called Amphoras, which were sealed using a thick layer of olive oil at the top and buried in the ground to age. This just replaces a clay pot with a wine barrel, an idea hatched by Gemtree’s winemakers Mike Brown and Joshua Waechter whose technique is in-line with the winery’s biodynamic and organic ethos.
“We’ve never been afraid of trying new things to explore what’s possible”, said Mike. “The excavation was like an archaeological dig with great care taken not to damage the barrel which had by now been enveloped and protected by the earth through one of the wettest winters on record”.
The hand-picked grapes for SubTerra were selected from a small, protected vineyard with alluvial soils and a geology dating back millions of years giving the fruit a very distinct and unique flavour. The wine was fermented on its skins for five days until the tannin profile was balanced and then pressed before being transferred to a three-year-old barrel for the remainder of primary and secondary fermentation. The barrel was then returned to the earth on the March equinox, when the earth was breathing in, and buried two months below ground beneath the original vines, starting an aging process that lasted until the Spring equinox.
“The wine [is] extraordinary”, said Mike. “Purity, vibrance, energy, balance were all there. The wine was racked off its lees and decanted straight into bottles, where it was hand corked, sealed with beeswax and bottle aged for ten months.”
With only 240 bottles of this wine being released into the market SubTerra is expected to be highly sought after over the holiday period. You can get it from HERE for an RRP of $180 a bottle.