WITH age comes wisdom and with age also comes flavour.
Age and time have been the saving grace for owners of Charles Reuben Estate Winery, Jens and Louise Volkmann. This year marks their 10th year of operating their vineyard in Tea Tree and it’s been a constant climb to success.
“Winery was always something we wanted to do. I’ve had an interest in wine for about 30 years now.” he said.
“I got introduced to good wine through my parents rather than the cheap stuff and started developing
a love for wine and cheeses, all the good stuff.”
He moved to Australia in 2005 and met Louise who hails from Launceston.
They were looking to buy a vineyard in 2013 and after inspecting many properties the Charles Reuben Estate came up for grabs with 10,000 vines planted.
Mr Volkmann said the previous owner of the estate told him he had lost his passion for winemaking and wanted to sell. Luckily for him, the Volkmanns were full of nothing but eagerness and passion.
“He said he wanted to move out and well… we wanted to move in.”
The 7ha property with 3ha of vines was a little smaller than what they really wanted but they were willing to give it a shot.”
“It’s a fantastic area to grow.
It’s got beautiful soil and beautiful climate, fantastic aspects and in my opinion it’s one of the best regions to grow grapes in Australia.”
Wine had not been produced for some years so the vines needed a lot of attention. It was a matter of trying to nurture them back to life to the productive state they once were.
“I thought you can’t replant 30-odd year-old vines because the flavours get richer, they get better, they produce much more intense
flavours the older they are,” he said. “I’m glad I dug my heels in. I’m
happy we proved everyone else wrong who said you have to rip it out and start again.”
“The older vines have much better flavours.”
Producing their own wine was a lot of trial and error at first.
“The first season was lost because we bought in November. The vines were just growing, there were no grapes because they were struggling to survive,” he said.
“We did have our up and downs. It’s not that easy to resurrect a vineyard at that age that’s been let go for a while.
“We did the right thing by
the vines. We gave them water, nutrients, gave them everything,” he said.
Things have been on the up since then. Mr Volkmann said they had their best year on record last year and is expecting for this year to be just as crazy.
“The first year was nothing and second year we got like 80kg which is only enough to make jam.
“The next year we got 500kg and we said ‘whoa, this is going in the right direction’.”
The year after they harvested two tonnes, then five tonnes and it has been a steady increase since.
Their property also features Pinot Cottage, which they have revamped and extended from an old farm house.
The accommodation was opened during a time their wine production was on a standstill and they needed a way to make money while waiting for harvest.
“People just really like to get away, time’s ticking a little bit slower out here, it’s just really nice to stay and hang out for a while.”
Adding a distillery in 2019, the couple had a vision to create some of the best-quality brandies in Tasmania and Australia.
Last month they released a
one-time release brandy made from grapes that are over 20 years old. Mr Volkmann accepts they will
probably never be able to re-create one of their best successes.
“We’ve just started lightly introducing it to the odd tour. That’s the first limited bottles which will go mainly to the tasting house in Richmond.
“Some people really like to have something different and something special that won’t be repeated ever,” he said.
Their operation is also one of the only places in Tasmania to make fruit brandy sourced from their own or locally sourced produce.
The flavour range includes kirsch, blood orange, apricot, cherry and grape brandy. Charles Reuben Estate has plans to produce more aged brandy in the coming year.
The couple also have plans in the making to be able to power the distillery and accommodation with solar power.