Gaelic Cemetery Wines is joint venture between Neil and Andrew Pike of Pikes Wines, vigneron Grant Arnold and the Barletta brothers Ben and Mario. The brief for the partnership is quite simple and that is to craft small volumes of super premium Clare Valley wines that best reflect, vintage, variety and the uniqueness of place.
The joint venture and label are named after the originating vineyard site on Gaelic Cemetery Road, next to the historic cemetery of the region’s Scottish pioneers. The label design reflects the simplicity and minimal intervention approach that is taken with the wine. The central image of the thistle is taken from one of the original headstones in the cemetery itself.
The vineyard site is located approximately 3km north of the township of Clare in a secluded valley of the Clare Hills. The property is owned and operated by Grant Arnold who planted the site in 1996. The Shiraz component of the vineyard is sited on the gently sloping, easterly facing aspect of the property. Here the hungry soils are gravelly loam, with limestone over red/yellow clay subsoil. After a couple of early vintages it soon became quite evident that these soils and the aspect of the vineyard were ideally suited to the growing of low vigour/low yielding vines. Over the first 10 years the crop level has averaged a tiny 1.9 tonnes to the acre.
This vineyard is always one of the earliest ripening Shiraz vineyards in the region and mystifyingly produces fruit with both natural pH and acid analyses that can only be described as ‘beautiful numbers’. There is no issue with achieving full fruit maturity here.
Smaller plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec make up the balance of varietal reds in the vineyard.
The Riesling clone planted in the Gaelic Cemetery Vineyard is GM198 which was taken as cuttings from the “Thickett Block’ at Pikes Vineyard in the Polish Hill River Valley. It’s provenance is excellent as this is the vineyard that forms the base the very highly rated Pikes Merle Riesling.
The Gaelic Cemetery Shiraz is vinified at Pikes Vintners Clare Valley Winery with the wine being made using a combination of traditional ‘old world’ and modern Australian techniques. Here the emphasis is on capturing the essence of the vineyard with minimal manipulation.
The vineyard produces a naturally very powerful wine and minimal intervention allows this to be expressed. There is no added tannin and wild yeasts of the vineyard are encouraged to carry out part of the fermentation. Typically the wine will remain on skins for approximately 20 days.
Gentle pressing at dryness is followed by filling into new and used French Oak 228L barriques sourced from Burgundian based tonelleries exclusively. The wine is then gently racked several times during maturation and will stay in barrel for an average of 24 months before final assembly and bottling. Minimal or no fining/filtration is practiced to protect as much of the vineyard character as possible.
As for the two Rieslings produced off the property (GCV Riesling – only in outstanding vintages and the Celtic Farm Riesling – the annual expression of the vineyard) the fruit is hand picked for the GCV Riesling and handpicked an/or machine harvested for the ‘Celtic Farm’ Riesling. Both parcels of fruit are kept separate and transported to Pikes Winery. In the case of the GCV Riesling the fruit is whole bunch pressed and the juice chilled prior to being partially clarified by cold settling. Some solids may be retained for texture and added complexity. The fruit for the Celtic Farm Riesling is handled slightly differently. It crushed, chilled and pressed as soon as possible prior to the juice being clarified by cold settling. Both parcels are inoculated with a pure yeast culture, with fermentation carried out in stainless steel temperature controlled tanks for on average 25-30 days. The wines are then fined, stabilized and filtered prior to bottling