The 40 hectare Greenstone Vineyard is situated north of the town of Heathcote at Colbinabbin, about a 90 minutes drive north of Melbourne. Twenty hectares are under vine.
The Heathcote wine region lies just north of the Great Dividing range in central Victoria at an altitude of around 200 metres. It is long, encompassing a large proportion of the Cambrian ridge, and this distance means there is a marked climatic difference between north and south.
In general, Heathcote, while warmer and more continental than districts south of the Great Dividing Range, still enjoys some lower temperatures because of the prevailing cool, south to southeast winds. These sweep over the Tooborac hills up on to the Mount Camel Range, and blow from October to March, coinciding with the vines’ growing period.
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.