When it comes to wine, just go with the flow. That is the attitude of Greg Horner and his wife Katrina from Mt Bera Wines, who have found joy from embracing the unexpected.
They both grew up on farms, and had vowed never to get involved in farming.. or ‘the mugs game’. Famous last words…The Horner family moved from Sydney to South Australia for family, temporarily, with no intent to stay.
That was until a friend sent them a link to Mt Bera for sale. Katrina recognised the property from when she drove the kids to soccer, claiming every time she passed it she wanted to drive up the driveway!
Needless to say – they instantly fell in love with the old homestead, rugged hils, massive red gums and remoteness, yet closeness to the centre of Adelaide.
How did Mt Bera Wines start?
Mt Bera is a family-owned, boutique winery located in the cool-climate Adelaide Hills, that incidently fell into the lives of owners Greg and Katrina Horner.
Greg and Katrina had next to no knowledge about how to run and maintain a vineyard. So they sought consultants help, read all the books there was to read, and went on as many courses as possible.
Initially, most of the grapes were sold to Penfolds, and Mt Bera wine was made in the Clare Valley. This was a great learning experience as the whole family became heavily involved in the winemaking process – daily excursions to hand plunge the open fermenters, record temperatures, baume’ and PH levels, and most importantly tasting every fermenter every day and discovering how much variation there could be. They learned the entire process through fermentation to the finished product.
As a result of being thorough, they know exactly what wine they want to present to the world and how to bring that to life. After countless courses, rigorous researching, and tonnes of tasting, they opted for organic, chemical free, biodynamic practices from the get-go!
After being burnt out by the Sampson’s Flat Bushfire in 2015, they moved wine production in 2016 to Paracombe Wines.
The Mt Bera
The mountain is very steep and has a varied catchment of cool air on 3 sides. The air sinks to the bottom, to the lower section of the valley.
The huge variation in climate allows for the growth of many different grape varieties!
If you walk down 50metres from the house, it is 20 degrees cooler!
The Mt Bera conditions are perfect for Tempranillo, as it loves hot days and cool nights. In Spain, tempranillo is notorious for losing acid if nighttime temperatures are too high, so the Mt Bera conditions are prime.
Organic and Biodynamic
As Mt Bera was one of the first commercial orchards in South Australia, then converted to vineyards in late 1990’s, a history of chemical use was guaranteed. A ‘world of death’ was living under the vine rows.
So they decided to start from scratch. They hired a consultant who drafted up a spray program, but after doing some research all the sprays were banned overseas. So in 2008, they converted to fully organic practices (no chemicals), lifting all dripper lines, dispensed compost, and compost tea, and focused on increasing soil carbon dramatically. Biodynamic practices followed.
The transformation was rapid, the undervine strip full of life, old canes vanishing, and mushrooms throughout the vineyard in Autumn.
This is in line with their goal to maximise biodiveristy from the soil food web up through native plants for insect populations, native birds, and habitat for other small mammals, particularly those under threat of extinction.