The vineyard has been established on deep alluvial soils which include mixtures of clay, silt, sand and ironstone gravels.
The combination of location, soils and climate creates the ideal environment for the production of classic cool climate wines. The vines are trained to a lyre trellis system, which increases sunlight penetration and air circulation, producing fruit of optimum quality.
To our knowledge, Narkoojee is the only vineyard in Gippsland to use a Lyre Trellis, which provides fantastic results. It consists of two uprights which are sloping outwards to a small degree and about a metre or so apart. This enables the vine canopy to be trained into two ‘walls’ allowing more growth to be managed and sunlight to penetrate into the centre of the vine canopy. It also encourages better air circulation with lower disease incidence.
Currently Narkoojee grows chardonnay, viognier, pinot noir, merlot, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, which allows us to produce a wide variety of wines.
Gippsland generally produces cool climate styles, however the extremely large region is broadly divided into south, east and west, each having their own climate characteristics their own grape growing and winemaking associations.
Narkoojee is situated the central part of Gippsland, which means it shares the moderate climate and higher humidity of the eastern region. Being a little drier, warmer and sunnier than other parts, Narkoojee wines can often be fuller in flavour, and we can successfully produce a greater range of varieties where other wineries may struggle including cabernet.
Narkoojee’s cool climate style wines have heightened fruit flavours, elegance, good acidity and low to moderate (13% – 14%) alcohol levels. Particularly suited to these wine styles are chardonnay, pinot noir and merlot with shiraz, although grown extensively in warmer regions, producing a wine where black pepper is a pronounced characteristic in cooler regions.
Cabernet sauvignon is often cited as unable to be ripened properly in cool regions, Narkoojee’s unique micro-climate means we are an exception. In over 30 years of operation, the only year in which our cabernet sauvignon grapes didn’t ripen sufficiently was 2011.
The chardonnays are fermented in 225 litre French oak barriques with battonage and a percentage of malo-lactic fermentation. They spend about 8-9 months in oak before bottling. The Lily Grace Chardonnay is matured in older barrels while the Reserve Chardonnay is in a proportion of new oak barrels.
The red wines are crushed and fermented in smaller vessels where possible, so hand plunging can be used rather than pumping over. They are then pressed after fermentation and racked into oak barrels for ageing. The pinot is bottled after about 12 months while the other reds may stay in oak for 18 to 24 months depending on the proportion of new oak and the characteristics produced by the season.
Grape growing and winemaking were initially all experimental for winemaker Harry Friend who was trained as a Civil Engineer and approached it from the point of view of an interested consumer, which led to planting a half acre of vines on his parents Dairy Farm in 1980. The first wine made by Harry in 1985 was a Gold Medal winner at the Lilydale Wine Show. Since then, Narkoojee has gone on to win many medals and trophies, including the Michelin Trophy for best wine in show, Le Concours Des Vins Du Victoria.
With a fussy and meticulous approach and son Axel by his side, Harry’s winemaking is no longer experimental.