Ancient rocks, rabbits and thyme bushes
It has been 400,000 years since the glaciers of Central Otago deposited their sediments into the Clutha river and washed up near Clyde. These ancient outwash gravels and minerals exude the appellations that distinguish Drumsara Wines.
The vineyard is filled with Ventifacts rocks (venti meaning wind in Latin) - knife edged rock formations found in the dry valleys of Antarctica and on the surface of Mars. They were sculpted by the sand and sediments picked up by the 300mph winds which rushed down the glaciers thousands of years ago.
Situated high in the Alexandra basin, at 230AMSL, in the Eastern Quarter of Central Otago. We are just 2km East of New Zealand’s pioneering plantings of 1862. A site of extremes with 1200-1300 GDD growing degree days. A temperature range of -5.1 to 46.4 Deg C, minerality locked in the glacial outwash gravels and an annual rainfall of a low 350mm. The Drumsara vineyard overlooks the Central Otago towns of Clyde & Alexandra.
Family, friends, food and wine
In 2000 John and Audrey Matheson set themselves a challenge of grow grapes and to make some great wine and planted just over 20,000 vines.
Many years ago during a holiday to Port Douglas John and Audrey Matheson became great friends with the owners of a sugar plantation named 'Drumsara’. Here they enjoyed delicious food, fine wine and friendly hospitality during this holidays. Their plantation was named 'Drumsara' after the owners home town in County Derry, Ireland. Some years later, when John and Audrey sort a name for their new vineyard, they recalled the great times at Drumsara as it evoked thoughts of what was important to them: family, friends, food, wine and the enjoyment of life.
The vines are pruned from June through to August when organic nutrients are applied. In October bud burst occurs and with that the birth of the grapes. In November the buds are rubbed and removed to stop unproductive buds from growing.
Throughout December and January the shoots are thinned to concentrate the plants energy on the healthiest shoots. Also in January any late developing fruit sets are cut off so that the growing effort is concentrated on the primary fruit set. Nets are then applied to protect the grapes from birds and wasps.
In February leaves are plucked to increase the sunlight to the fruit set to encourage ripening. In March fruit thinning occurs whereby fruit not up to the standard is cut off. Then depending on the weather and growing season the grapes are harvested.
At this time the previous year’s vintage is bottled. The current vintage is then sent to the winery where it will be made into wine and stored in tanks and barrels until the following April. It is left in refrigerated storage and released in August. This lifecycle means a high level of working capital needs to be maintained.
The vineyard is certified with Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand and is audited regularly for compliance.
Central Otago has a rich historical heritage. John Desire Feraud was attracted to the area during the Dunstan goldrush of 1862. Feraud came from a French winemaking family and quickly recognised the potential of grape growing, planting the first wine grapes at Clyde in Central Otago in 1864. Over the next 20 years he made a variety of wines, some winning prizes in Sydney wine competitions. Following his departure from the region, commercial winemaking ceased and was not revived until the early 1980’s with experimental plantings around Queenstown, Wanaka and Alexandra.
Central Otago soils range from windblown sands to heavy silt loams and weathered schist. Most of the soils are derived from loess or alluvial deposits, often with underlying gravels allowing free drainage. Some of the soils are developed on glacial outwash gravels or moraine and there are even small pockets of man- made soils resulting from hydraulic sluicing during the gold mining days over 140 years ago.
The continental type microclimate of Central Otago has the classic semi-continental characteristics resulting in greater daily and seasonal extremes of temperature. Summers are hot and dry, with autumns cool and generally dry with cool nights. Rain falls evenly throughout the year and averages from 325-700mm per annum. Relatively low rainfall results in a low incidence of fungal diseases. The large diurnal temperature variation (the difference between daytime and night-time temperatures) contributes to flavour intensity, gives depth of colour and stability to the wines. Heavy frosts are common throughout winter and frosts can occur at any time between March and November. Wind machines and water sprinklers form the basis of frost protection measures.