For another year, our eyes have searched the horizon for rain, and we talk of millimetres like we used to talk about inches. Whilst the 2005 spring brought lucky November rains, 2006 was not so generous. Vignerons now watch their vines stunted from over three years on virtually irrigation alone, a life support system which can only continue with rain as well, to replenish the soil reserves and rivers with fresh water, as the bores get saltier.
However, the drought can make us look on the bright side… Small canopies and little bunches will lead to better wine, as they said in the old days… Small yields will reduce the wine surplus, so that wine will be worth the cost of production, also as it was in the old days… A major part of farming work is to simply stay positive, and we are lucky, as for other farmers, this drought was too hard.
As vignerons we have an advantage, as we are producers of wine in a land of wine lovers. Our business is the art of living well with fine wine – not commodity production. Of course, fortunes will never be made, but we soon realise that friends are worth far more. Friends are the ones we need to thank for making 2006 a good year.
Starting at home, our family and friends on the farm, who we see daily or weekly, as we battle on together with our “irritation” system (irrigation), our animals, our machinery, and our paperwork… We all find it hard, trying to make a living from the land, and to do it sustainably and organically. We don’t always agree on things, but we always end up moving forward.
Then we should thank our neighbourly friends who make our wine, and our local vigneron friends, who share the struggles of growing and the work of promoting Cowra region wine – the best kept secret in the Central Ranges!
We thank our local friends– the people of Canowindra who look after our health, who keep our systems going, who prune our vines and bottle our olives. They provide food and entertainment, they inspire us with their art and their festivities, their yarns and their good faith. They drink our wine because its local – and therefore must be good.
Beyond Canowindra, we thank our friends on the front line in the “war of wine”. Whilst the multinationals take over production, distribution and retail, we thank the independent bottle shop managers and restauranteurs who support the little guys like us. Like us, the independent shops are endangered, constantly being squeezed by the cheap commodity grog of the “liquor ands”, big brands and cheap binge drinks such as alcoholised soft drinks. Its now a luxury to be able to call a shop and speak to an owner or an executive manager – people who know their local customers, know their small brands and have the power to bring them together. Yes, you can stop “the Walmart”, just buy organic wine from your friends at the “local bottle~o”.
Which leads us to our friends from afar, who share our battle from other angles. We thank the environmentalists who now drink organic wine from the Nature Conservation Council… The charity workers from Amnesty to the Suicide Prevention Centre who raise money with family grown organic wine, not mass produced wine… The writers and artists, event managers and publishers, “foodies” and “winos” who want to change the way we appreciate the world, eachother, and our food and wine… Thanks to the young musicians who sound so good they actually make our food and wine taste better, and to all in the diverse and spirited organic movement, whichever faction of it you are in. We thank all of you for rejecting apathy and giving hope and meaning to a corporate world focused on production and consumption.
Why say thanks so much in a simple newsletter? Because when the rain doesn’t come, you realise that there are few things you can rely on in life, but friends are one of them. So when the vintage arrives (early again), we hope to have lots of friends to share it with. We hope that you will feel free to look us up if you ever are in the area.
We hope this newsletter isn’t too melancholic… We do of course see ourselves lucky to have been spared from the frost and bushfires. We are certainly luckier than many poor vignerons in the Coonawarra, Ritherglen, King Valley and southern Victoria, who have suffered greatly this year.
Lastly, as a family we have also been blessed, with the birth of Molly Statham, to Sam and Simone, in October 2006. There are now four generations on the farm, with Dolly and Jurg setting an example to us of positive attitude in the trying times of old age.