Mount Camel Ridge Estate is situated on the eastern face at the cooler, south end of the Mount Camel Range 17km north of Heathcote in Central Victoria. The objective is to produce wine of beauty and finesse that reflects the terroir, the grape variety, the vintage and the site from which they came.
The site is gently sloping and therefore well drained. It faces east to receive the early morning sun, invaluable during years of frost, ensuring the vines are not affected. In summer the vines are sheltered from the hot western sun in the late afternoon by the higher part of the hill. The soil is predominantly Cambrian, with small pockets of red and black clay, hill wash and rock. Thus blocks are planted to different soil types and at varying elevations.
The vines at Mount Camel Ridge yield Shiraz 45%, Cabernet Sauvignon 25%, Merlot 20%; the remainder consists of Viognier, Petit Verdot and Mourvedre. Clones have been selected with the intention to produce a northern Rhone style Shiraz and a Bordeaux style Cabernet Sauvignon within the Australian context. The property is 49 hectares and 18 hectares is under vine, although not all is as yet productive.
The land had always been a sheep property and had never been cropped. After aquiring the site, Gwenda and Ian Langford embarked on a programme of mulching to achieve maximum soil structure, initially by spreading chicken manure. Since then, a seaweed fertiliser has been applied and all prunings are mulched back into the rows annually. The property benefits from the prevailing winds along the ridge, hence copper or lime sulphur fungicide are never utilized. As a result of intensive work worms are reappearing, there is now an extensive frog population, along with ladybirds and other invertebrates, not to mention a range of beautiful spiders.
The grapes ripen evenly and in beautiful condition so there is no adjustment of pH. The vines are cane pruned, the number of buds are kept to what is deemed appropriate for each, with low yields as the aim (approximately one tonne per acre). It is a dryland vineyard and drippers have never been installed. The grapes are hand picked, fermented naturally in 500kg open vats, hand plunged, basket pressed and matured in French oak (new 25%). The wine is racked two to three times during the fifteen to twenty months maturation and is lightly fined but not filtered.
Given the natural balance and flavours these wines are attractive when young. Mount Camel Ridge will benefit from cellaring, but high quality wine should be attractive at any age.