Green Paradise on a Red Continent

Words by Jean-Baptiste Courdesses

Green Paradise on a Red Continent

Mount Gambier, or "Mont Jambier" as we like to call it (pronounced “Jom-bee-hey”), is a green paradise on the red continent. It's remote location, 5 hours from Melbourne & 4.5 hours from Adelaide, making it a peaceful regional town where forestry, beauty and a very decent 'schnitty' flourish. If you look closely to the landscape, yes you can spot a few pubsbut more importantly you will notice a few monticule on the horizon line. They are volcanoes.

One of them is actually the water reserve for all the Mount Gambier residents and is called the Blue lake. The iconic Blue Lake is a volcanic crater which erupted about 6,000 years ago, making it the most recent volcanic eruption on the Australian mainland & is now filled with groundwater naturally filtered through the limestone-rich soil to create pure, cleansed water. It is this exact limestone topped by volcanic rich loamy soil and coupled with relatively temperate climate (even for Australia) which makes Mount Gambier a special place to grow quality grapes. Naturally this extends to making exceptional wines which, if they are farmed properly in an organic way and vinified naturally without laboratory yeast and other winemaking technology and products, produce wines of great balance. The capacity of the limestone through the nutrients it provides to the vines, alongside its draining capacity, make it a perfect base for grape growing. I mean, you just have to look at the best wine regions around the world who are all growing their grapes on limestone based terroirs. When this is paired with the adequate climate like in Mount Gambier, with its relatively low average temperature, sunlight exposure and rainfall, you will be able to reach optimum phenolic ripeness without reaching massive sugar level which is becoming a major issue elsewhere.

My first trip to the Mount was in 2017 on my way to the Adelaide Hills in anticipation of doing vintage with Gareth Belton from Gentlefolk wines. I dropped by Andrew Burchell's place right on the slope of the Blue Lake in the late afternoon and ended up having such a great connection with the Burchell family that I came back right after my vintage was done to help pick the last grapes hanging on the vines (the perks of growing in a cool climate), make some Cab Franc / Pet Nat before heading to Sydney to work at 10 William Street wine barSince that day I've been a part of vintage 2019 & 2020 with Andrew and his beautiful family, witnessing the passion they put into growing a community and making wines that are different from its big neighbour Coonawarra, a region which Mount Gambier was once haphazardly connected to.

Andrew's dedication to organic farming makes Good Intentions a unique project in the Australian wine scene. Vintage 2020 did face its challenges, and as a result, we had to make few innovative blends such as this 'Gris Diddly Pop', a fusion of the 'Petillant Pop', a Pet Nat made from Pinot Noir Andrew grows organically on the Mont Gambier volcanic soils & the 'Gris Diddly Dee', a Pinot Gris from a biodynamic farmed Cape Jaffa vineyard that grows on sand soils over limestone. Both grapes were blended after pressing to make a thirst quenching sparkling wine with its distinctive sour apricot, spicy notes printed by the limestone soils, no doubt calling for a dive in the Blue Lake. Take the plunge!

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