Mt Bera rips out French vines to expand varieties

With nearly fifty Grüner Veltliner growers in Australia, most in the Adelaide Hills. Greg Horner, who owns Mt Bera Vineyards with his wife Katrina, says the Austrian variety does very well here, producing fuller, longer flavours than some of Austria’s own ‘Gru’ wines. He has also planted Blaufrankisch and Zweigelt.

“When we purchased Mt Bera in 2008 there were three varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. Both the Cab Sauv and Merlot were draped over varied topography and did extremely well on the steeper North East faces but not so well in the lower reaches of the same vineyards.

“We ripped out the Cab Sauv and planted Gruner Veltliner, which not only loves the diurnal temperature variation but requires cool nights to retain its signature pepper spice,” says Greg Horner. The Grüner excelled, with the significant variation in temperatures adding to the acidity and complexity of the local wines.

Similarly, the Merlot vineyard was pulled up to make way for Tempranillo, which also likes the cold nights, losing acid when its too warm. Both new varieties seem to excel , while the Cab Sauv and Merlot quality is consistently high from their warmer vineyards, says Horner.

Mt Bera sells several three versions of Grüner Veltliner, a 2016 Gru ($25) and 2018 Gru ($35) and a sparkling Gru ($25) and you can buy here. The winery also produces a big range of Tempranillo wines, with wild ferment or yeasted varieties. The Running with the Cows Tempranillo has rich fruit and stronger tannins while the Wild & Free Tempranillo is more complex, smoother and spicier given the wild ferments. Its Tempranillo Rosé ($25) has no residual sugar, is light and fruity.

Luka and Kali Horner harvesting grapes at Mt Bera

The Austrian red wines sit between the Pinot Noir and Syrah spectrums with aromatics and intensity. Mt Bera planted Blaufrankisch (the second most popular red grape grown in Austria), which has been growing in the Adelaide Hills at Hahndorf Hill Winery for 20 years, and Zweigelt (the most planted Austrian red) for this reason. It now sells its own unique 2018 Shiraz Blaufrankisch ($30) and 2019 Zweigelt Pinot Noir ($30).

Mt Bera is a member the Adelaide Hills Gruner Growers Group, established by Hahndorf Hills’ Winery’s Marc Dobson and Larry Jacobs (who also publishes the own blog, the Gru Files), where the local wines have been described as “beautifully bombastic and boisterous“.

According to a report published by Wine Australia, the pretty Adelaide Hill is perfect for the grape too. “Technically, there are a number of good reasons why Gruner Veltliner can be planted in the Adelaide Hills. The region’s soils – predominantly grey-brown or brown loamy sands with patches of sand, all of which are wonderfully free-draining – are undoubtedly well-suited to Gruner Veltliner. Equally the climate is right for it,” writes Giles Lockett in Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliner, Right grape. Right place. Right reason.

Editor note: I visited the Adelaide Hills on a day in January 2020 – and it was just 12C in the daytime. So, it can be cold in the day too, in one of Australia’s hottest cities and its driest where temperatures often exceed 40 degrees during the day – for days on end. So, while the Hills are bushfire prone, as we sadly saw this year, it can be very cold. So, if you are visiting the Adelaide hills to wine taste – heed this warning and take a jumper! I’m a native of the city, and little did I know how cold it gets in the region, just 20-30 kms away from Adelaide CBD.


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