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Rolf Binder Wines, Barossa, S.A

Christa and Rolf form the heart of Rolf Binder wines, continuing a family wine-making tradition that spans nearly 60 years. Their parents arrived in Australia in 1950 – just 2 amongst the many post-war immigrants from Europe – and met a grape grower in the Barossa while working to help pay for their assisted passage. From such unlikely beginnings, a passion for the Barossa was born, a winery was purchased and a new life began. They soon came to appreciate the riches of the Barossa, the old vine Shiraz, Mataro and Grenache, and were at the forefront of many old vine varietal blends. Now Christa and Rolf are taking the winery into the 21st century, with Rolf forging a world-wide reputation for his red wines while Christa takes the plaudits for her white wines.

There is close to 100 acres of vineyard that make up the Veritas Estate. Split into 2 vineyards, Western Ridge and Chri Ro Estate. Western Ridge is the most westerly vineyard in the Barossa and has a number of varieties that, because of its location, achieve great ripeness and intensity of flavour. The most prized vines from Western Ridge are the old Grenache vines. The Chri Ro Estate vineyards surround the new winery. They lie on the western slopes of the valley, some of its vines include old dry grown Mataro, to the very special Hanisch vines that produces grapes with the intensity of flavour and characteristics of pepper and spice that are all part of the success of the Hanisch Shiraz.
Mr Rolf Binder Sr established Veritas Winery in 1955. It was his dream to make wine and he came to Australia from Hungary to fulfil that dream. Working hard and constantly learning, he eventually fulfilled that dream when Veritas Wines was created in 1955. This truly family owned business has continued to grow and grow and is now run by Rolf Binder, son of the founder. Rolf creates the red wine while his sister Christa makes the white wine. This unique brother and sister winemaking team have taken Rolf Binder Wines to the world. Christa gained her white wine experience at one of the larger Australian wine companies plus several vintages overseas. She has bought her expertise back to the family business to make the white wines. Rolf also had several vintages overseas and learnt by his father's side the secrets of creating great Barossa wines. He took over from his father as winemaker in the early 1980's and put his own mark on Rolf Binder Wines.

Nature Friendly

The current property where the winery and vineyards reside was purchased in 1968 by my father and founder of the company. He was very in touch with the soil and nature. He never did anything that was not necessary to the land and was always using the simple method he knew from growing up on a farm in rural Hungary. We have two patches of 'scrub' on our properties that have not been farmed, nor have they had any animal grazing on them since the property was purchased. The area involved is approximately 12 acres (4.9 hectares) which has seen the rapid re-vegetation of many native plant species. We also have stands of native salt bush on or near our properties which we are identified. These are currently in the process of being fenced off to protect them, cultivate new growth and hopefully provide us with new stands which we can replant.

Organic / Biodynamic

In the approach to move towards a more biological farming structure I have studied and realised that biological farming is a sensible and lovely mix of organic, biodynamic and conventional farming. It almost takes the best of organic and biodynamic farming. Its main reliance is on the soil, working strongly with the soil to improve it which will then fan out to provide the plant with a stable growing environment, needing fewer inputs which will then attract all creatures back to the property. Biological farming can be best summed up as farming with fewer chemicals, looking after the soil better and in a cleaner environment. The system should have the capability to be used indefinitely, enhance the soil and the environment, and generate viable economic returns without compromising human or animal health. In summary, the concept is: to do nothing that harms the soil life in any way; to use the principles of nature to grow by; to be self-sustaining; to enhance air, water and soil quality while consciously trying to reduce the consumption of energy and depletion of non-renewable energy resources; yet still maintain viable economic returns for the producer whether it be in crops or livestock. The balanced nutrient density of the produce is paramount for the functionality of the produce, whether totally organic, semi-conventional (biological) or conventional, farming practices are used. It is now our practice to; 1. Understand (through testing & observation) and balance the soil, giving attention to its chemical, biological, and physical components. 2. Balance soil chemistry and provide crop nutrition using a balance of soluble and slow-release materials, and a controlled pH. 3. Apply herbicides and other pesticides only when absolutely necessary, understanding the effects, impacts and consequences of their use. Strictly adhere to the use of activating additives to the herbicide and pesticide to immediately negate any negative effect of the application - this is by the use of Mycorrcin a mycorrhizal Activator when herbiciding and the use of Bio- active mixtures to stimulate plant enzymes after foliar sprays. 4. Use a relatively short rotation 5. Manage tillage to control the decay of organic materials while optimizing soil aeration and moisture levels. Avoid tillage-induced damage to soil life or soil structure. Dedicated travel paths have now been established through our vineyards, to which all workers have to adhere too. 6. Feed soil life with green manure crops and other sources of organic matter - this done by planting cover crops in the mid row with the use of natural and low salt content fertilisers. The mid row is either incorporated into the soil or cut with a slasher to throw the swath under the vine to provide a mulch (reducing evaporation) and to decay to provide humus for the soil. This method also reduces the occurrence of weeds under the vine. The company has also undertaken a project of farming our pasture to make rounds of hay which are used to mulch the under-vine of the vineyards.

Water Conservation policies

There is a chronically shortage of water in our area, due to overuse and abuse within the whole Australian system meaning we at the bottom end of the system get nothing. Hence we are having to totally rethink our total usage and method of using water. Our future is to closely look at mulching and other soil management practices to conserve water. Our winery waste water is treated and returned to irrigate our vines. The limited water we have is used early in the growing season to give a healthy vine and provide sufficient foliage for the full growing season. Our rainwater is collected and pumped to one of our storage dams for vineyard irrigation.

Recycling of dry goods

The moulded cartons we use are all made from recycled material along with the inserts to the cartons. The glass used in the winery for tastings and pouring is sent for recycling to a local bottle yard. (The income generated is part of our 'champagne fund' for the end of year party!) All paper, cardboard and paper stock that is waste to the winery is collected in a paper bin and sent for recycling by the Cleanaway Company. One thing we will be investigating in the near future is how to incorporate the cardboard and paper waste in a compost to use in the vineyards.

Actions to neutralise carbon footprint

The company has become part of the Green Village program (http://www.villagegreen.com.au) where we employ consultants to do an audit of our energy needs and work with us to reduce these needs to essential levels.