Picardy produces Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shira and Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc wines. All wines bearing the Picardy label are entirely from their single vineyard property in Pemberton. Picardy is situated in the tranquil region of Pemberton on deep gravelly loamy soils. The region offers high altitude and close proximity to the ocean, thereby providing ideal conditions for cool climate wine production. In the vineyard, Picardy follows sustainable management practices. All Picardy fruit is estate grown, unirrigated, cane-pruned and handpicked.
The Vineyard and Viticultural Approach
The Picardy vineyard is situated on a gentle north facing slope at an altitude of 300 metres and 35 kilometres from the Southern Ocean. The site was specially selected by Bill Pannell for its well-drained loam/gravel soils. Bill felt that this site would be perfectly suited to the production of high quality cool climate wines; in particular Pinot Noir.
The vines have been close planted to promote competition and maximize root depth and trained low to enable them to use heat radiating from the gravelly soils in the evenings. This effectively extends the duration of the growing and ripening time per day. Within the sustainable vineyard practices, the Pannell Family believe in “growing soils”. To obtain a naturally healthy soil, cover crops such as clover and annual grasses are used and composted with the vine prunings, thereby building soil structure. This practice also opens up and aerates the soil. Picardy also practices a non-cultivation policy which is beneficial in preserving the soil structure, builds soil carbon and helps to improve and maintain a healthy worm and microbe population. Viticultural techniques such as Vertical Shoot Positioning trellis, shoot thinning, hedging, and leaf plucking are undertaken in the entire vineyard to keep maximum air flow through the vine canopy. The vines are crop thinned at veraison to obtain the preferred crop load. Prior to vintage, any damaged fruit is also eliminated, thus ensuring only the best fruit is harvested. All Picardy grapes are hand harvested to ensure the utmost quality. In this manner the sorting is done in the vineyard so that no extra handling is needed in the winery.
The Burgundian Clones of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
During Bill’s and Sandra’s involvement in a domaine in Burgundy in the 1980s, they became aware of a substantial clonal selection trial, which had been carried out for more than a decade. Several hundred selections of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay taken from many of the Domaines in Burgundy were trialled. Of these, four Chardonnay (76, 95, 96 and 277) and 3 Pinot Noir clones (114, 115 and 777) were selected.
The Pannells have now imported a further 5 clones of Pinot from Burgundy. These clones were chosen on the basis of the quality of wine produced from them, rather than yield. Friends in Burgundy advised Bill and Sandra to plant a mix of all of the clones to increase the complexity of the resulting wines. Observations to date suggest that there is considerable variation among the eight clones with respect to growth habits, bunch size, yields, flavour and wine structure. The importation of new Pinot Noir clones is a work in progress. The Sauvignon Blanc (3 clones), Semillon, Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are also special selections, chosen with the same emphasis on quality in mind.
Picardy wines are vintaged and bottled by the Pannell Family in their Pemberton winery, where their attention to detail and hands-on approach is reflected in the vinification.
During harvest, there is minimal transfer time between vineyard and winery, thereby allowing the grapes to arrive in perfect condition.
In the winery, all wines are handled minimally and gently. Great wines are made in the vineyard and are only finessed in the winery. The Pannells believe the wines should be a true expression of the vineyard’s terroir and potential, rather than winery manipulation.
The purpose built winery was designed by Bill and Dan based on their combined forty years’ experience, for the production of small batches of premium wine.
At Picardy, the oak is used to accentuate the pure fruit of the Pemberton Region. It is chosen to compliment, not dominate, the wines.
In 1998, Bill and Sandra went on a fact-finding mission to Burgundy, in particular to find a small, high quality barrel producer. Burgundian winemakers recommended Tonnellerie Meyrieux Fils, and close inspection found this French cooper shared Picardy’s desire for optimum quality.
Bill and Sandra still visit Tonnellerie Meyrieux in an ongoing quest for excellence. Tonnellerie Meyrieux now makes up about 80% of the total barrique purchases.
In the Picardy cellar, there is a range of oak from seven producers, six different toast levels and five different forests – with trials of new oak ongoing.
The Pemberton Region
Pemberton is one of Australia’s newer wine regions, located in the South West of Western Australia. The first grapes were planted in 1977, with commercial plantings expanding throughout the 1980s.
Pemberton is an excellent region for viticulture because of its combination of southern latitude and high altitude, which create a relatively cool climate. This provides the grapes with a sustained ripening period.
Pemberton’s loamy, gravel soils and cool climate will prove it to be one of the best regions in Australia for the growing of pinot noir and chardonnay. The region is also well suited to the production of refined cool climate wines from a range of varieties.
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