In 1851 the Michelini's began growing grapes and making wine in the Trentino Alto Adige region of the Italian Alps. Emo Michelini arrived in Sydney in 1949 at the age of 25, and two years later with his wife Olga moved to the Buckland Valley where he began share-farming with several other Italian families, growing and curing tobacco. Looking for a source of fruit from cooler climates as blending material for their existing warmer sites, the Barossa based Orlando Wines approached Emo in the early 1980's and discussed the possibility of developing a vineyard in the region.
During the spring of 1982 Michelini's Vineyard was established by Emo Michelini and his sons Ilario and Dino. Perched in the Buckland Valley between the snow capped peaks of Mt Buffalo and the pristine crystal clear waters of Devil's Creek, the Alpine winters and cool summers nights characteristic of this secluded valley provide ideal conditions for maturing premium grapes. Emo acquired some the first varietal cuttings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Orlando Wines, South Australia. With the majority of the vineyard obtaining river frontage and with the lime added to the soil to sweeten it, the fresh mountain air and the Alpine climate provided the ideal conditions to produce classic premium, cool climate wine. Merlot and Marzemino were planted along with further Chardonnay in 1991
Varieties planted are Chardonnay (16 Hectares), Pinot Noir (10 Hectares) and Merlot (10 Hectares). As well as the more mainstream varieties, Michelini have adapted traditional wine making techniques to produce the traditional Italian Pinot Grigio, Barbera, Sangiovese, Teroldego, Marzemino and Fragolino, as well as the sparkling white and red Fizz. Elevation is around 250 metres, with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir harvested for sparkling wines from late February to late March. Chardonnay ripens for table wine around late March, and Merlot early to mid April.
The vineyard is set to the Scott Henry trellis system, with 8 canes per vine on the more vigorous Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blocks and 4 canes per vine on the Merlot block. Moveable foliage wires contain shoots from the top cordon in an upright position whilst shoots from the bottom cordon are mostly allowed to fall down under their own weight. Leaf removal in the fruiting zone is carried out on Merlot to improve sunlight interception and on Chardonnay for sparkling wine to spread ripeness dates. Yield is regulated on the Merlot by removal of secondary shoots prior to flowering, and removal of excessive bunches per shoot at veraison. Target yield is around 12.5 tonnes per hectare.
While the industry has long recognised the region's suitability for producing premium fruit for sparkling wine, growing grapes in this district is not without its challenges and difficulties. Over time the vineyard has been developed to incorporate state-of-the-art equipment including Pellenc machine harvester and high technology spraying equipment which used in conjunction with the high skill level of the Michelini brothers and initiatives such as Integrated Pest Management (IPM) systems has resulted in strong risk management strategies.
Dino Michelini has a firm commitment that wine quality starts in the vineyard. The regional character is drawn from the Alpine Valley climate of cold winters and an extended summer of hot days and cool nights. He says that the main threat to vintage success is spring frosts, affecting the vineyard site in the Buckland River Valley. Frost protection is provided from two pumping stations on the bank of the Buckland River, supplying water to sprinklers across the entire vineyard. Through innovation in grape growing and wine making, the aim is to exceed the quality expectations in every bottle of Michelini's Wines.
Winemaking since the 2001 vintage has been under the influence of Greg O'Keefe. Following graduation from Roseworthy College with a degree in Oenology in 1986, he completed nearly 4 years at Norman's Wines , South Australia prior to moving to Tasmania in 1989 to establish his own winemaking firm focusing on premium Riesling, Pinot Noir and sparkling wine styles. Greg joined the Company in November 2000, and looks forward to continuing the Michelini tradition, producing premium wines that express the unique regional character of the Buckland region of the Alpine Valley.
The Michelini family has invested in a state-of-the-art winery and cellar door sales operation in the nearby town of Myrtleford. Since 1997, a range of red and white wines have been produced and marketed under the Michelini label, together with two unique wines produced from rare Italian grape varieties. Recent additions under the Devils Creek range include the white and red Fizz sparkling wines and Merlot.