Specialising in cool climate wines, the Delatite winery is located on a picturesque rise, overlooking the vineyards, toward Mt Buller in north-east Victoria. It is a small family run winery, established in 1982 by Robert and Vivienne Ritchie and now run by their son David, with the assistance of winemaker Andy Browning. The 26 hectare vineyard sits between 450 and 500m above sea on slopes that vary in gradient and outlook (from north-east to north-west) whilst the predominant soil type is red ironstone.
Their approach to wine making has been forged from the family’s history of working with the land in Victoria for over 170 years, first arriving at Port Fairy in 1836. In the late 1890’s Geoffrey Ritchie moved to Mansfield having purchased Delatite Station that is still owned by the Ritchie family.
In 1968 Robert and Vivienne heeded the advice of one of the most eminent winemakers from the Barossa Valley, Jim Irvine, and planted what was probably the first cool climate vineyard in Australia on the steep hills overlooking the mountains. From 1974 through to 1981 they sold these grapes to Brown Brothers at Milawa who were so impressed by the quality and individuality of the different varieties that they made and bottled them under a separate and special “Delatite Individual Vineyard’ range of very limited release wines. In 1981, given the quality of these wines, they enlisted the help of Dr Tony Jordan and Brian Croser to design a small winery and provide consulting advice on winemaking. The winery was built in time (and during) the 1982 vintage and the very first red and white wines from that year all won Gold medals at national shows (Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot noir, Cabernet sauvignon)
Over the generations of farming at Delatite there has been a growing awareness that whatever the farming pursuit, their practices should be guided by what is the best for future generations, not by what is simply the easiest today.
In the vineyard the Delatite team follows Rudolf Steiner’s Biodynamic principles as they believe in growing grapes and making wine in as natural a way as possible with minimal intervention/additions. The only fertilisers used are reactive rock phosphate, fish/kelp/fulvic acid, BD 500, cow and sheep manure concentrate and compost teas. No herbicides, insecticides or systemic/curative fungicides are used – the only vine sprays are wettable sulphur, copper and Bacillus thuringiensis.
This, along with an even, relatively cool ripening period, further strengthens the varietal flavours and characteristics of all the grapes grown.
They continue with their minimal intervention in the winery by allowing natural or ‘wild’ yeast ferments (no commercial yeasts are added), no artificial fining agents and most of the red wines are bottled with minimal or no filtration. This is very much going back to the ‘old ways’ of winemaking but doing this in a modern winery with modern equipment and very good knowledge of the science of winemaking……the best of both worlds. And it is small batch winemaking – all of the Estate and Reserve Block reds are fermented in 1.5-2 tonne batches and the whites are made block by block. This further accentuates the individuality of the wines and allows maximum quality to be achieved from each season.
Historically around 80-90% of the fruit came from the Estate vineyards and from 2013 this was tightened up so that the Reserve and Estate ranges are made only from 100% Delatite grown fruit. No added yeasts have been used since the 2009 vintage – indigenous or ‘wild’ yeasts have done all the fermenting giving added complexity. Alongside this Delatite has launched the High Ground range of wines produced from a mix of Delatite grown fruit and that from neighbouring vineyards – all from our High Country wine growing area.
A pointer to the quality of the new range is that the 2015 Pinot noir has been selected for Jetstar International Business Class flights for next 12 months (one of only two Pinot noirs on the list) and the 2015 Pinot gris for Qantas Business Class International.
David Ritchie and Andy Browning are always to try making new, interesting wines and since the 2016 vintage three new wines have been released. The first was the 2016 Pinot gris Gewurztraminer Hell’s Window. This is a natural or ‘orange/amber’ wine and was hand-picked, fermented on skins in tank (then old French oak hogsheads) and spent a further five months on lees in oak before bottling in September 2016. No fining, filtration or adjustments were made.
And in March 2017 two new wines have been released; 2016 Yarra Chardonnay and 2016 Yarra Pinot noir. These have been made from fruit grown at the Vestey family’s Coombe Farm vineyard in the heart of the Yarra Valley. Although not bio dynamically grown the team at Coombe follow sustainable practices and going forward they will follow our guidelines on growing the fruit from our chosen blocks using less pesticides.
All that the small viticulture and winemaking team, at Delatite, does is with the aim of producing very individual wines with great structure and complexity that will also age extremely well, be exceptional partners to a variety of foods, and also be very nice to drink!
This dedication to quality and integrity in both the vineyard and winery is also evident in the many awards the winery has received. Delatite Wines has been consistently successful in the show circuit, and favourably reviewed in the media. “This is uncompromising cool climate viticulture and the wines naturally reflect that.” wrote James Halliday’s in his Australian Wine Companion 2018, rating Delatite as a ‘Five Red Star Winery’ from 2009 - 2018.