We believe in creating a community, sharing our experience and spreading Contemporary Organic practices for the benefit of all.
At Tamburlaine Organic Wines, we strive to create the best future possible. We believe that working in harmony with our environment is key to growing a flourishing future. Not only for ourselves, but also for our vineyards and the people we care for.
Born and raised in the Hunter Valley, Aaron aspired in environmental management immediately after leaving school. He went on to study at the University of Newcastle majoring in environmental sustainability, biological farming and ecological management. In his first year at university, Aaron conducted a case study on sustainable agriculture here at Tamburlaine Organic Wines, 16 years later he returned to take his place as senior winemaker.
Aaron's career in the wine industry first began in January 2000 when he joined Scarborough Wine Co. Over the following 9 years, he gained experience in all aspects of the wine industry including extensive work in sales, vineyard management, cellar door and ultimately finding his logical place in winemaking. It was within these formative years that Aaron counts as invaluable in the development of his holistic understanding of the wine industry. After gaining experience with some of the Hunter Valley’s most well-known producers such as Tyrrells and Brokenwood, Aaron moved to South Australia to complete his Postgraduate degree in Oenology at the University of Adelaide, where he was exposed to the cutting-edge winemaking technology and research. Aarons career then led him all the way to the Central Coast of California where from 2012 - 2015 he continued to develop his winemaking skills while forming invaluable industry relationships. Aaron continued to develop his skills in winemaking with vintages in Canada in 2006, France in 2009 and Germany in 2011, driven by an insatiable hunger to experience the very best practices in worldwide winemaking.
Upon returning to the Hunter Valley in 2012, Aaron was awarded the Alasdair Sutherland scholarship, an award which aims to foster the talent of aspiring wine show judges. Now with more than 17 vintages under his belt, Aaron has taken up the role of Senior Winemaker here at Tamburlaine Organic Wines, where he is able to pursue his love of sustainable viticulture while managing the increasing annual production from Tamburlaine’s Hunter Valley and Orange region vineyards.
Aaron says "The ‘new age’ of viticulture is here and it’s spearheaded by organic practices. Tamburlaine is at the forefront of this movement and is well positioned to provide excellent wines to a growing customer base who seek wines of place and tread gently on the environment." - "My work ethics and high standards stemmed from working in the Hunter Valley, have followed me to each workplace and built my reputation as a hard but fair leader. I am always excited to pass on scientific winemaking knowledge of the Hunter Region, stories of vintages gone by and work to always encourage my staff to seek further education through experience and study."
“As Australia’s largest producer of organic wine, we are very well established, but we still have plenty of room left to grow. Aaron understands this and is more than up to the challenge. We believe that Aaron’s unique combination of technical expertise and passion is the perfect fit for the company,” says Mark Davidson, Managing Director of Tamburlaine. Since 1966, Tamburlaine has welcomed well over 1 million visitors to their Hunter Valley Cellar Door. “The winery has continuously engaged with the wine curious and enthusiasts alike for the last 5 decades. While the winery is no longer the tin shed that it once was, not quite as ‘boutique’, the connection the winery has with a vast number of consumers has been worth every minute invested,” says Mark.
Tamburlaine Organic Wines's journey to 'Contemporary Organics' has begun in the late 90's and still continues today. We believe in continuously improving our practices. Not because it is fashionable to be Organic, Carbon Zero or 'Eco-Friendly', but for one simple reason: It makes sense.
Tamburlaine was established in 1966 by Cessnock doctor Lance Allen. In 1985 the winery was purchased by a small group of friends and relatives led by Managing Director and Chief Winemaker, Mark Davidson. Mark has taken a long-term view in building a unique winemaking philosophy incorporating what we call 'Contemporary Organics'. Grape growing and winemaking practices based on modern scientific thinking without accepting the chemical residues involved in the non-organic practices. This has involved constant research and development and has presented us with many challenges along the way, however, we came out stronger than ever and now enjoy an enviable position as Australia’s largest producer to fully embrace an organic winemaking future.
The transformation in our Hunter and Orange Region vineyards in NSW as we have implemented new contemporary organic thinking is incredible. The health of the soils and the vines themselves is very evident, consistently yielding fruit of the highest quality.
While the winery started on a modest 14-hectare vineyard in the Hunter Valley, the major Tamburlaine vineyard expansion has been in Orange where our vineyards will soon surpass 200 hectares in area. The high altitude, cool climate conditions and the majoritarily volcanic soils have cemented Orange amongst the top premium wine regions of Australia.
The integration of biodynamic methods into our organic management has been shown to accelerate biological soil activity. The latest viticultural research now clearly points to biological soil health as the key determinant of superior “terroir” or the essential site-specific wine quality.
The Australian Organic and Biodynamic Standard require the winery to be certified as an organic processor and go through the annual audit to ensure that the inputs and handling protocols comply with the standard. Where wines we make use of sulphur we strive to keep additions to a minimum.
From 2016, our winemaking has removed the use of animal proteins traditionally used throughout the industry, from our wines. To push the boundaries further with consumers in mind who cannot tolerate the normal sulphur levels in their wine, Tamburlaine has extended its range of wines to include wines without added sulphur – commercially referred to as “preservative free”. Chief Winemaker, Mark Davidson, has managed successive vintages since 1986 and now has a younger, experienced and enthusiastic team dedicated to wine quality, process refinement and innovation.
Did you know that most wines on the market are made using animal products such as egg, milk and fish derivatives?
Fining is a step in the winemaking process to remove unwanted and harsh or bitter-tasting compounds. These particles which are found in seeds, stalks and skins are extracted to varying degrees during the crushing, fermentation and pressing processes. The traditional industry fining methods involve the use of animal proteins found in gelatine, fish, milk and eggs.
Like everything we do, our progress in producing vegan-friendly wines is really about our pursuit of organic wine excellence – and bringing better wines to conscious consumers. We now proudly offer vegan cheese and wine tastings at our Cellar Door, our plant-based staff and visitors couldn’t be happier!
“Now that a new generation of vegetable-based fining agents are available and have been fully tested by our winemaking team on premium reds and whites, we are confident that they are not only doing the job as well as the traditional products but are producing much better results overall.” – Mark Davidson, Chief Winemaker.
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It was a long, dry winter with no severe weather events during the growing season, except a light hail storm that missed us here at Tamburlaine. Bud-burst came in the early days of Spring with the whites leading the way.
Dry weather prevailed this season which meant we had very little threat of disease and our red grapevines started flowering late October.
We had many visitors in our vineyard, from the helpful ladybug to the not-so-helpful rainbow lorikeets who took a liking to the riper berries.
The steady, warm summer days gifted us some light showers which helped accelerate ripeness about a week ahead of last year’s schedule.
Our first pick of the year was on the 16th of January. The next day members from the whole company joined for hand picking as we brought in some premium Chardonnay and Verdelho.
The remaining red blocks were picked, with three picks of Shiraz, one pick of Cabernet Sauvignon and one pick of Chambourcin.
The reds are looking exceptional, we left the grapes on the vines a little longer to intensify flavours. These wines will be “put to bed” soon for their maturation.
Overall the 2018 vintage is one of exceptional quality. Following the amazing 2017 vintage, Senior Winemaker, Aaron Mercer says we can expect a richer Semillon, and finer Chardonnay and Verdelho.
Stay tuned for the next update from Orange!
– The Tamburlaine Cru
Believe us if you will, but sending wines to a competition is a bit like sending horses to a race. We select our best ones, coming from a long line of winners, polish them carefully and see how they do. Well, that's most of the time.
And sometimes Aaron Mercer our senior winemaker gets adventurous. And something unexpected happens.
Last week at the 2017 Pier One NSW Wine Awards it's our 2017 'Preservative Free' Cabernet Merlot that shone brightest. It was entered in the Young Red blends category against 28 other wines and received a Gold medal.
Wines without added sulphur dioxide (SO2), or 'Preservative Free' wines have become quite popular over the past few years. But what is 'Preservative Free' wine?
Sulphur dioxide is used in the vineyard and the winery to keep the wine fresh and prevent spoilage. Even if it is not added, some SO2 is naturally created during the fermentation of the grapes. But winemakers can choose to add additional sulphur at harvest, or throughout the winemaking process. 'Preservative Free' wine requires contemporary practices in the vineyard and the winery to be made entirely without the addition of sulphur. (read more about The Sulphur Story)
Moreover, according to a recent study some consumers (around 1% according to a recent study) react to sulphur at different levels, experiencing skin irritation, migraine and/or ‘hangover’ symptoms. 1 in 100 people is quite a lot!
All in all, this extra care is definitely worth the results, with beautiful wine that tastes just as good (if not better). Our 2017 'Preservative Free' Shiraz also won Bronze medal, these two are not done surprising you!
You might have seen them on your favourite independent retailer's shelves, with their white labels and signature On The Grapevine artwork. But you probably didn’t know that they also win awards. Our ‘Preservative Free’ range has been around for some time, so if you are not quite sure what these lovely wines have to offer, here’s something to refresh our memories.
Sulphur dioxide (SO2 – also shown on wine labels as additives 220, 223 or 224) is added to wines by winemakers as a preservative but is also naturally present in wine. Tiny amounts of sulphur are created during the fermentation of the grapes. Winemakers may choose to add additional sulphur at harvest to preserve the grapes, or throughout the winemaking process. Adding sulphur prevents the oxidation and spoilage of wine. It was discovered as a means to keep the wines fresh when shipping them overseas (so your favourite drop doesn’t turn brown-red under the sun).
Some consumers (around 1% according to a recent study) react to sulphur at different levels, experiencing skin irritation, migraine and/or ‘hangover’ symptoms. 1 in 100 people is quite a lot!
Non-organic winemaking in Australia allows between 250mg/L up to 300mg/L of sulphur dioxide. Organic standards only allow half of these levels, between 100mg/L and 180mg/L. Our contemporary practices in the vineyard and the winery (see Contemporary Organics article) allows wines to be made entirely without the addition of sulphur. And they taste just as good!
These wines are able to push the concept of modern winemaking, creating structured, balanced wines, truly capable of expressing their vineyard and their “terroir”.
‘Biodynamic’ is a term first used by Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner in the early 1900s. It described a holistic approach to agriculture, involving the management of farms as total systems, less reliant on external inputs.
Any biodynamic farm must first comply with organic rules. Where biodynamic principles and prescribed homoeopathic preparations are part of the farming program, then the term biodynamic is used. Tamburlaine utilises some biodynamic practices and preparations in our organic vineyard programs.
1. Sustainable farming
Organic farms are as productive and always more sustainable than non-organic. Many agrichemical sprays leave residues in the plants/ fruit as well as in the surrounding environment and groundwater.
2. Biological soil health
Biological soil health is at the heart of sustainable productive farms. The absence of harmful agrichemical sprays increases healthy soil microbe activity, optimising plant health.
3. Beneficial insect, fungi and bacteria protection
With organic farming methods, the beneficial fungi and bacteria are protected (the ‘good bugs’), rather than killed off with pesticides and herbicides. This means that plants are naturally more resilient to fungal disease and insect attack (‘bad bugs’).
4. Consumer benefits / low SO2
Organic eliminates agrichemical residues in wine, meaning we don’t consume them. Organic certification on labels is your only guarantee of this. Read on to find out more about the use of sulphate preservative in wine.
5. No GMOs
Genetically-modified plants and farming inputs are prohibited in certified wine production. The jury is out on the harmful side effects of GMO corn, canola and soy, where high residual herbicide levels are more and more finding their way into our food. BEWARE!