When you think of the origins behind a winery, few of us would pin its inspiration on a ski trip to the Victorian Alps.
However, this was how Delatite Wines, near Mansfield in Victoria’s high country, came to be. This family-owned winery was created out of a Mt Buller ski holiday in the late 1960s, where local cattle farmer Robert Ritchie and Barossa Valley’s “Master Merlot Maker” Jim Irvine planted the idea to grow a vineyard in the exceptional terroir at the foothills of Victoria’s alpine region.
Today, Delatite Wines has established itself as one of the premier wineries in Victoria’s high country. A truly family affair, Robert and his wife Vivienne built their own winery and cellar door that their son David now runs with the assistance of innovative winemaker, Andy Browning.
LuxWineLife spoke to David about everything from goals and advice to the best sellers at Delatite Wines’ cellar door.
What was the inspiration behind the brand? How did you get started?
My parents planted what in 1968 was probably the first cool climate vineyard in Australia, inspired by the vision and encouragement of Jim Irvine (of Barossa fame) as he told my parents Robert and Vivienne that our property would be a great place for a vineyard! The Browns of Milawa made wines from the grapes from 1973 to 1981 and these showed that Jim was right. John Senior and his sons greatly encouraged my parents and started us on the road to planting too many varieties. The winery was built in 1982 and we’ve gone on from there.
What makes Delatite Wines unique?
Unique is a much-abused term and I don’t like using it. However, I think what sets us apart from many other vineyards is the combination of soils, climate, biodynamic practices, wild yeasts, no additives, and natural and sustainable practices…. what the French call ‘terroir’. Delatite is about a sense of place, with our estate and reserve block wines coming from the 30ha vineyard surrounding the winery.
Tell us a little bit about the wines – what are your best sellers?
The wines are all about flavour and texture, using old fashioned winemaking techniques allied to modern equipment with a hands-off approach. We create great food wines that all age well. Our best sellers at the cellar door and to our Summit Club are our Estate Pinot Gris, Estate Riesling and Estate Mansfield Red Blend.
Delatite's renowned Estate MansField Red Blend. Image: Supplied.
Who is your ideal customer?
People who like to experiment and try different varieties and styles - we make over 30 wines and three different schnapps!
What are your big goals for next 12 to 24 months?
Firstly, we’ve just built a new cellar door and restaurant with chooks, a vegetable garden and an orchard! Our main goal is to settle that down, to develop a great vineyard and wine experiences, and educate our visitors on sustainable farming and winemaking. Secondly, we would like to enhance our partnerships with other great experience providers in the district – think hot air balloons, bush walks, trail rides and accommodation venues. Thirdly, we are striving to continue down the path of being carbon neutral by 2025. We’ve just commissioned a 100kW solar array with a 73kW battery so we’re moving that way but need to accelerate!
The new cellar door at Delatite Wines. Image: Supplied.
How have you survived/innovated during COVID-19?
We used our regular cellar door staff to contact our club members by phone, not to sell them wine but just to touch base, see how they were, and update their info. We were delighted to find that we not only improved our relationship with them, but also sold quite a lot of wine as a result.
What advice do you have for other businesses who might be going through a challenging time?
Keep doing what you do best! Don’t be afraid of following advice and considering options ‘outside the square’ but make your customers your priority. In the wine industry, there are a lot of people who think it’s all about them and their wine but without sales and happy customers, you don’t have a business.
How can people connect with the brand (website, social media, channels, links to business)?
Whether you are planning an alpine jaunt in Victoria’s high country or are simply on the lookout for your next favourite winery, Delatite Wines is well worth a visit. Their sustainable and innovative winemaking produces flavourful wines brimming with texture, so plan your next ski trip today and explore Delatite Wines today!
Feature image: Vivienne and David Ritchie from Delatite Wines.