The Clare Valley recorded above average rainfall throughout the 2011 growing season. A wet spring led to magnificent growing conditions. Cooler conditions during harvest allowed a slow ripening with fruit developing good flavours while retaining great natural acidity. Riesling was the standout variety of the vintage however other earlier ripening varieties also fared well such as Pinot Gris, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Malbec. Shiraz and Cabernet quality varied however some selected parcels were very good producing more elegant spicy wines.
Our great, great grandfather Henry Pike, emigrated from Dorset to South Australia in 1878 aboard the HMS Oakland. He settled in the small town of Oakbank in the Adelaide Hills and in 1886 established a family business called Pikes Dorset Brewery. Subsequently this business became known as H. Pike & Co. and the Pikes name became known throughout South Australia for its quality beer, ales, soft drinks and cordials and its famous Tonic Ale. From the outset, Henry Pike used the striking English Pike fish on all his beer labels and we have continued that tradition on all our current products – a symbol of Pikes long heritage, now spanning three centuries.
H. Pike & Co. was unfortunately ultimately sold in 1972, but this did not end the family tradition. By this time, Henry’s great grandson, Edgar Walter Pike, was well established in the wine industry as a private vigneron and vineyard manager for a large propriety wine company. Edgar’s sons (Andrew and Neil) both entered the wine industry after graduating from Roseworthy Agricultural College and have established themselves in their respective fields of expertise (Andrew in viticulture and management and Neil in winemaking and marketing). With the assistance of Edgar and his wife Merle, they then established ‘Pikes Wines’ in 1984 at ‘Polish Hill River Estate’ in the Polish Hill River sub-region of the beautiful Clare Valley in South Australia. The first Pikes wines were released in the Spring of 1985 and we have since been making and marketing a range of premium table wines which reflect the region, the vintage season and the varieties grown.
In 1996, Pikes beer was reintroduced to the market and continues to be a small, but increasingly important part of the Pike family business.
Neil grew up amongst his father’s vineyards in Padthaway and Langhorne Creek. After doing a vintage at Wynns Coonawarra in 1977, Neil decided to study Wine Production and Marketing at Roseworthy College. After he graduated in 1980, he worked in the Clare Valley as a winemaker for various wineries for the next few years before starting Pikes with brother Andrew in 1984. After 10 years working as full time Winemaker for another winery (and for Pikes after hours and weekends), Neil decided to focus on Pikes fulltime in 1993.
Andrew was introduced to the wine industry at an early age through his father’s (Edgar) own vineyard developments at Langhorne Creek and Padthaway. Andrew attended Roseworthy Agricultural College, graduating in 1976 with a Diploma in Agriculture, and immediately joined Wynns Coonawarra Estate. After almost 4 years at Coonawarra, Andrew left the south east and joined Penfolds Wines in October 1979 to establish a new vineyard project at Clare in the mid north of South Australia. (The ‘seeds’ for Pikes Wines were almost immediately sown, as Andrew quickly realized the potential of the Clare Valley). Andrew rapidly progressed through the viticultural ranks of Penfolds, ultimately his role became General Manger Vineyard Operations for the Southcorp Wine Group where he was responsible for over 6000 ha of corporate vineyard and all grape supply for the Group on a global basis. During this time Pikes Wines was being established in the Polish Hill River Valley sub region of Clare. In 1998 Andrew resigned his position at Southcorp to assist his brother Neil in the running of the Pikes family business.
Complete recycling of all winery wastewater. Through a program started in 2001 and in collaboration with the South Australian EPA we have designed, developed and executed a winery wastewater treatment process which sees every drop of wastewater recycled for use in the vineyard. The process is a simple combination of sedimentation, aeration and biological filtration which strips out in excess of 80% of the nutrient load of the wastewater and in doing so largely removes the odour and water quality issues normally associated with winery wastewater. Regular water quality mentoring is carried out via an independent laboratory to ensure the system performance is up to the standards expected and that no environmental issues arise as a result of reusing the treated water in the vineyard.
Complete recycling of all winery solid waste products consisting of marc (skins and seeds left over after the grapes have been fermented and pressed), bunch stalks (derived from the rachis of grapes which are delivered to the winery) and various solid from the winemaking process. All these solid materials are stockpiled, composted on site and mixed with organic composted cow manure to form an organic soil ameliorant which is added back into the vineyard as a part of our ongoing soil organics program. It takes three years and regular turning of the stockpiles to satisfactorily compost the winery wastes to a point where the finished material can be easily and accurately spread in the vineyard with our own 5 tonne belt spreading machine. The compost is spread at a rate of approximately 7.5t/ha of vineyard on a three year rotation basis. Regular analytical monitoring of the compost itself and of the vineyard soil is carried out to determine the nutritional and soil structural affects of the program.
Recycling of all our consumable materials used in the winery, warehouse and administration office is carried out on a regular basis. Cardboard, paper and plastics are recycled through a specific skip-bin set up at the back of the winery. All empty glass wine bottles and other recyclable bottles and containers are also separated and recycled through the normal channels. Used batteries and chemical drums are also recycled through approved channels.
The vineyard and surrounding property are managed in a sustainable way such that inputs of chemicals are kept to a minimum and wherever possible we prefer to use organic or elemental fungicides and biological forms of weed control (eg straw mulch under vine). It is not always possible however, and we retain a pragmatic approach to our pest and disease control program which gives us the flexibility and security required in terms of insuring our production base.
Many hundreds of native and indigenous trees and shrubs have been planted around the property over the 27 years we have been custodians of this land and we still have many more to plant in the future. Water conservation and environmental sustainability is a priority component of our overall management philosophy and we hope that we will ultimately leave this property in better shape than whence we found it. We have founded and are still actively involved with a local Natural Resources Management Group (the Hill River NRM Group Inc) which is active in the local vicinity and aspires to protect and enhance the natural ecological biodiversity of this small but significant part of the Clare Valley.