Our Special Pinot Noir Story

Imagine this…a 42 degree in January, 2018 and Ampelographer, Dr Gerald Atkinson arrived at Pfeiffer Wines, full of hope that we still have our old Pinot Noir vines. You see, Gerald is on a mission to find what is left, if anything, of the original Busby Collection of vines.

James Busby is fondly referred to as the Father of Viticulture in Australia.  In 1829, Busby left Australia at the Government’s behest, to travel the world to collect vine cuttings to bring back to Australia and see what would work to establish a wine industry.  Busby bought back cuttings from many different countries but the ones that are important to us, are the vine cuttings from Clos de Vogeot, in Burgundy, France.

Jen, Gerald and Chris

James Busby

Pinot Noir Vines

The cuttings were planted at Seppelts vineyards in Great Western.  Seppelts bought some of their Pinot Noir cuttings to our vineyard here in Wahgunyah.  Seppelts were ahead of their game in the wine industry, back in the days of growth in table wines. They were interested in vines and viticultural practices as the industry is now.  They planted a 25 acre experimental plot of many different vines here, on what we call our Sunday Creek Vineyard.  Part of the experiment included the Pinot Noir vines from their vineyard at Great Western.  These vines are the oldest vines on our Sunday Creek Vineyard site.

When we bought our property from Seppelts in 1984, we knew the Pinot Noir vines were failing due to their age. Some had already died, some were sick and struggling while others were still healthy. The temptation was to grub the lot but even though the yield was poor, we needed whatever grapes we had, to get started with some wines to sell at our cellar door.

The wine was amazing.  Our visitors loved it.  Over the years, the lack of volume in grapes and therefore wine, lent many a Viticulturalist to say again and again, “We need to pull out those Pinot Noir vines.”  Somehow that job never was done and Gerald was so happy to see the vines that had survived, even on a 42 degree day.  His enthusiasm became my enthusiasm…and I am not a Summer person…and so I have become Gerald’s worker.

Gerald marked the vines, then the arms of the good vines, from which we were to take cuttings.

In the Winter, when the vines are dormant, cuttings have been taken and potted up. The next step was to plant them into the Vine Nursery.

Potting up the Pinot Noir 

This Winter sees the first grafting onto phylloxera resistant rootstock, another year in the vine nursery before going into the paddock. From then on, it is fingers crossed.  If we can keep the kangaroos, hares and rabbits away, there is a chance the vines will grow up to the wires and produce fruit within 5 years.  I have my fingers and toes crossed that the vines are not too old to give new life to their descendants.  I won’t know if they will produce fruit until they do.  And I hope I am around to see the culmination of my work under Gerald’s tutelage and Jen’s winemaking skill.

Whatever happens, it is important to try, to try to save something incredibly special for the Australian Wine industry as well as for Pfeiffer Wines.  Throughout the Pinot Noir journey, I have been energised and invigorated by the tasks at hand to save and propagate a new generation of Pinot Noir, not seen anywhere else in Australia.  How special is that?  Please enjoy the wines that come from this amazing project and be grateful for the history and heritage in every glass.

Cheers! Robyn.