The first 10 hectares of Shiraz were planted in 2003, while the following year saw the planting of one hectare each of Tempranillo and Monastrell as well as a further 8 hectares of Shiraz. One hectare of Sangiovese was planted in 2005.
Mark chose four different Shiraz clones for the vineyard, three from the Barossa (1654, 2626 and 1127) and one from Coonawarra (R6WV28).
Mark and Alberto met through their shared passion for Italian varieties, so it is only fitting that Sangiovese should have been planted. The clones were selected by Alberto in Italy, and are the best of the new Tuscan clones selected and propagated by the Rauscheder nursery in Italy.
Both are convinced that Tempranillo and Monastrell will perform as well in Heathcote as they do in their native Spain.
The vine density is 4,500 vines per hectare, about twice the average in the rest of Heathcote. This high density reduces the vines' vigour, and gives a lower yield per vine which, we are convinced, results in better quality grapes.
Another innovation introduced by Mark and Alberto was to plant the rows in an east-west rather than north-south direction. The orientation of the rows protects the grapes against the fierce summer sun, ensuring a more gradual ripening process and resulting in livelier and more elegant fruit in the wines.
The Greenstone vineyard is located about two-thirds of the way up the region, where temperatures are warmer, rainfall lower (500mm) and access to supplementary irrigation is close by.
It is positioned on the ridge of old Cambrian soil that runs through the eastern side of the Mount Camel range. This narrow strip, running, north from Lancefield towards Rochester, is unique, not only to vine growing in Victoria but in Australia.
The soils are the oldest known in the country, originating over 550 million years ago. Most soils of volcanic origin in Australia, such as those around Melbourne and Western Victoria, are young and highly acidic whereas these ancient Cambrian soils are near neutral in pH. The Mount Camel range itself is a result of a rift in the sea floor, from which molten rock arose, encapsulating limestone into the lava. The resulting soil is deep, red-coloured, mottled with lime and impart low vigour to the vines growing in it.
These soil characteristics were some of the features which attracted winemaker Alberto Antonini, who firmly believes that calcium in the soil is essential for the production of elegant red wines.
The Heathcote ‘greenstone’, a form of copper-infused basalt, is an integral part of the soil and gives the vineyard its name.
Further down the slope to the east, the soils become darker, heavier and contain little lime. They are the result of gradual erosion and movement either under the original sea which covered most of central Victoria and southern New South Wales during that period, or erosion by wind and rain since sea levels receded.
The Greenstone vineyard, situated high on the Cambrian Ridge, is where the red soils are most uniform. On a more micro scale, our soils are also of a moderate and uniform depth which is critical in growing vines of similar vigour producing similar crop loads.
Viticulturist Mark Walpole was first attracted to the red soil of Heathcote when, as a ten year old, he travelled with his family over the Mount Camel ranges and was struck by the red wool on the sheep that grazed on the Cambrian soils. Years later, as Chief Viticulturist for Brown Brothers, he was one of the first people to recognise the great potential that existed in Heathcote for quality red wine when he developed their Patricia vineyard, which is ten kilometres north of the Greenstone site.