A BIT ABOUT US
Tucked away in a small, secluded part of Southern Australia’s Mornington Peninsula, on the eastern side of the isthmus and overlooking Western Port Bay is the small farming community of Bittern.
Named after the feisty, swamp bird found across Southern Australia, the Australian Bittern, this area of rolling hills and gentle climate is sheltered from the strong south winds found in other parts of Southern Victoria and is blessed with the long, moderate summers of a true maritime climate.
The close proximity to the ocean also eliminates the killer frosts that can occur in other parts of the state and creates the backdrop for what is one of the most picturesque regions in Australia while being only 60 minutes’ drive from the centre of the state’s capital city of Melbourne.
Working with renowned winemakers Alex White and Carl Tiesdell-Smith, Garry Zerbe and his family have created a range of wines that best express the distinctive nature of the grape varieties and of the region.
The vines are grown on our property in Bittern, which has been in our family since 1959. Originally an orchard, our grape vines were planted in 1995 and the soil is highly renowned for its quality fruit production.
“The site is in a unique microclimate. It’s very special in the Peninsula,” Garry says. “It’s ideal for vines because it is maritime, which means virtually no frosts and mild temperatures; they are north-facing and well protected from the southerly winds that are the nightmare of the Peninsula; the soils are clay loam.”
For him, the proof of the excellence of the site is that it can always ripen shiraz.
Great wine does not occur by accident. Everything is done to ensure the quality of the grapes: the trellising (mainly Scott-Henry) allows for optimum light exposure: vines are leaf-plucked by hand to ensure light and air during the growing season, and, where necessary, the crop is thinned ensuring the best quality fruit.
Winemaker Alex White says that one of the attractions of Bittern Estate was the wide range of grape varieties on the vineyard site. “It’s an unusually wide range for a small company,” he observes. “It’s possible here because the ripening period is very long, enabling later ripening varieties, such as moscato and dolcetto, to develop good flavour. And it’s still cool enough to produce intense varietal flavours in the early ripening vines, such as tempranillo and arneis.”
Garry is proud that his children, Alexis and Matthew, represent the sixth generation of the family to be involved in horticulture in Victoria. Matthew now handles the marketing and logistics for Bittern Estate as well as assisting in the vineyard when needed. They are all members of a strong and committed team.