WHEN red wine lovers go to stock up on the Anderson 2012 vintage, they'll be disappointed.
Not because of the quality, but because there isn't any.
- AT A GLANCE
- Who: Christobelle Anderson
- What: vineyard
- Why: persistence reaps results
- Where: Rutherglen
- Report: FIONA MYERS
With a huge dump of rain just before harvest, the grapes started to rot before they could be picked.
Christobelle Anderson said they did try to pick a 2012 vintage, but when they could see the quality wasn't there, they sacrificed income for the sake of maintaining their reputation.
It's this kind of passion and dedication to making only top-quality wines that is earning the Andersons an enviable reputation.
The winery has notched up 18 gold and 19 silver medals for table wines in national shows in the past two years.
And all of this is from a tiny 8ha vineyard in the heart of the Rutherglen wine region.
There are no plans to expand the winery, grow more grapes or produce more wine.
The Andersons are comfortable knowing their wines are winning awards and pleasing customers who come back to stock up.
Andersons Wines was created in 1991 when Christobelle's father, Howard Anderson, began planting grapes on a 25ha property close to the outskirts of Rutherglen.
The land was considered good for grapes: buckshot clay with gravel and quartz and a 550mm annual average rainfall.
The first planting was of 4ha of shiraz, followed by another 2ha in 1999 and more in 2007.
Howard made waves straight away by planting his vines in east-west rows rather than north-south.
"I think most people planted in north-south rows because that is the way it is done in Europe," Christobelle said.
"But in Australia, it means the side of the vines which faces the west gets a lot of sunlight and grapes can get burnt.
"Dad did well to think this way and the north-south vines, and the trellis system which encourages the vines to grow up, means the bunches are sheltered from the full sun."
Shiraz was selected initially because it was known to do well in the district.
But as the family became more attuned to the district and the industry, the varietal mix started to change.
It's still dominated by shiraz and durif, but also includes chenin blanc (to make either sparkling or table wine), petit verdot, tempranillo and saperavi, a red variety from Georgia, making Andersons one of only a handful of Australian vineyards to trial this wine grape.
Christobelle, who is a qualified winemaker, makes no bones about this being a small operation.
But she said the boutique nature was something that allowed total control over the whole process, from growing the grapes to making the wine.
Central to making these award-winning wines is the care of the grapes.
"You can pretty a wine up in the winemaking process from poorer quality grapes, but you will never make anything too special," Christobelle said.
The vineyard is set up with drip irrigation "for emergencies", but most years, the water is never turned on.
It means yields are not huge, but it also is a key for quality and colour.
Most years, the Andersons pick up to 30 tonnes of grapes from the 8ha, but in low rainfall years, this has slipped to as little as 11 tonnes.
It's a hands-on operation for all involved, largely led by Howard and Christobelle.
Vines are hand pruned and grapes are hand picked, allowing attention to detail and quality control along the whole process.
Christobelle then puts her university skills to work by making the wines.
She said hand picking, while not viable for big operations, was an important part of their success.
"We can be careful about what we pick," she said. "But it is also about skin contact to the wine, which starts especially with white wine grapes when they are machine picked.
"When they are hand picked, there are whole berries, which means you can control how much skin contact there is to the juice, and that is very important with white wine."
Recently, a 2010 Anderson durif-shiraz blend won the best red made from Rutherglen grapes at the prestigious Rutherglen Wine Show, as well as the best red from North-East Victoria.
A couple of years ago, Andersons won the best sparking wine at the Australian small winemakers show.
"We don't want to get bigger, and we are happy with the quality we produce," Christobelle said.
"Our customers are through cellar door and mail order, and we deal mostly direct with the people who drink our wines and that is a joy."