Ali Nicol from WineTimes HK talks with Andrew Buttery from Gemtree Vineyards.
Gemtree Vineyards is owned and run by third generation grape growers, the Buttery Family. The family is dedicated to producing iconic wines of the highest quality from their McLaren Vale vineyards which have been farmed biodynamically since 2008 and are now certified organic.
They are also passionate about sound environmental practices, sustainable agriculture and innovation, both in the vineyards and in the winery, where winemaker Mike Brown pushes the boundaries of experimentation with biodynamic wines and alternative winemaking practices.
MD – Andrew Buttery
Current managing director Andrew Buttery was in Hong Kong recently and after having tasted a range of his wines at the Melbourne Cup races last year we wanted to talk to him to find out more about the winery, how it has become so popular across the border in China and what it is that inspired Andrew to get into biodynamics, a major factor in the way they make wines these days.
Since 2010, Andrew has devoted his time to developing a joint venture partnership with a Chinese family and he now travels to China about 12 weeks a year assisting with developing a national distribution platform for the Gemtree brand.
Shu Qi – Gemtree brand ambassador
“We have a strong foothold in the China market now” elaborates Andrew. “We’ve set up a head office in Chengdu and we have 23 branches around the country – the idea is to set up a complete distribution network and do some significant brand building there too”.
“Our Chinese partner has enlisted the actress Shu Qi as our brand ambassador there and we are about to roll out a TV campaign over there too; Shu Qi with a glass of wine in her hand – people can relate to that”, says Andrew.
Brand ambassador Shu Qi
The majority of Gemtree’s production is red wine (which in itself suits both the Hong Kong and China markets). “I guess it’s about 80/20 red production”, says Andrew. “We do make some Savagnin and Chardonnay but Shiraz is the king out of McLaren Vale and it’s what we grow more of than anything else. It’s very well suited to the region and there is regional diversity in flavour and style”.
“The climate is really well suited for Shiraz – we did have some Pinot Noir but it doesn’t work well – we have a pretty cool climate, a Mediterranean climate that allows Shiraz to really shine. The grapes hold their acidity really well there and give the wine some backbone”.
Part of the reason Gemtree believe so much in their fruit is not just the favourable climate they have in McLaren Vale, but also the methods of viticulture they employ there. Mike, the winemaker is (as is the rest of the family) heavily into biodynamic and sustainable ways of farming which they believe shows through in their wines.
Gemtree White Lees Shiraz – one of their top wines
“We are into biodynamic farming too and follow the lunar cycle when it comes to our crops. We do the cow horn burial thing and our winemaker tastes and picks according to the biodynamic calendar”, says Andrew. “We have a couple of hundred sheep running around the vineyard and we move them from block to block for consistency. They help a lot as is reduced the need for tractors over the winter to dig up the weeds that grow in between the vines”.
“My grandfather was a market gardener and he grew tomatoes, cucumbers and all that sort. When he was doing it they weren’t using chemicals to farm and the fruit and veg at the time was absolutely outstanding! Just the flavours were amazing! So we don’t use chemicals and if the soils are in better health then there are more nutrients going to the plants making for a better harvest”.
Asked where he sees Gemtree in the future Andrews answer was straight to the point. “Going forward, in the future we want to be recognised as one of the leading organic producers in the world”.
Gemtree Wines are currently available in Hong Kong from Cellarmaster wines. For more information or to contact Cellarmaster log on to their website www.cellarmasterwines.com