In the early 1800's, as much of Tasmania was still undergoing European settlement, a young marine, Private Hugh Germain, would travel into unexplored areas around Hobart Town to hunt wallaby for food for the townsfolk.
In his saddle bags he carried two books, The Holy Bible and The Arabian Knights. He used these books to name many of the places where he would camp on his hunting expeditions. Hence within close proximity, you will find Jerusalem, Jericho, River Jordan, Lake Tiberius and of course Bagdad.
The warm, open Bagdad valley soon became famous for its ability to grow many fruits such as apples, pears and stone fruits. Unfortunately there is very little water in the valley, and the area often experiences summer droughts, which led to these orchards failing after successive poor seasons. After this foray, the open grasslands became a place for grazing sheep.
In the mid 1980's we purchased a 4ha lot of land, which had been a part of the old Winstead Farm. We felt this would be an ideal place for vines. With the subdivision of the original farm, the lots were connected to the local council reticulated water scheme, meaning the terroir of the original orchards was a thing of the past. Frost was the next enemy to combat, but after taking numerous measurements and talking to some of the older inhabitants of the valley we discovered the slopes we owned were relatively frost-free. This was definitely more good luck than good management.
So in 1989 we planted a small test patch of 50 Pinot Noir vines. In 1990 we added a further 4000 vines. The die was cast. The original vineyard of 1.5ha was planted to Pinot Noir and Riesling.
In 1993 we purchased a further parcel of land 500 metres further up the valley and planted a further 1.5ha to Pinot, Sauvignon Blanc and a small test patch of Merlot. This year we will be planting a small test plot of Shiraz, which will be very interesting.
Bagdad often receives winter rains and summer droughts, which allow us to get the fruit nicely ripe in the long warm Autumns, but we need drip irrigation to sustain the vines through the summer heat and Autumn dry. The inland location means the sea breezes do not arrive until late afternoon allowing the daytime temperatures to climb and remain high during the height of summer, an essential element considering our growing season is a little shorter than many other Tasmanian vineyards, due to our elevation above sea level.
The Lot 7 vineyard is located high on the hill (180 metres above sea level) overlooking the valley that leads from Chauncy Vale into the Bagdad Valley. The aspect is slightly East of North, making the most of the available sunlight. The soils are shallow clays overlying Carboniferous Shales, which lack fertility and organic matter. We have been working on lifting the organic matter level for many years to help with water retention during the summer months. We are slowly winning this battle using mulching, chook poo and 500. (A biodynamic preparation derived from cow poo, which introduces microbial organisms to the soil.)
This vineyard has been planted using a modified lyre trellising system which divides the canopy allowing maximum sunlight penetration, but we have found it makes spray penetration into the centre of the canopy difficult and so we need to be on the ball to ensure fungal disease control.
The Lot 16 vineyard is a short distance higher up the valley. The aspect, soils, and elevation are the same as Lot 7, but it receives the sea breeze a little earlier in the day keeping the daytime temperatures a little lower. It is also closer to the floor of the valley allowing a little frost risk to the vines on the lower slopes. We find the fruit in this vineyard ripens one to two weeks later than Lot 7.
This vineyard has been planted to a single curtain, vertical shoot positioned trellis, with 1.5 metre plant spacing. This allows air flow around the plants and good spray penetration to reduce the risk of fungal diseases.