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David Ritchie – Delatite's winemaker and viticulturalist

And custodian for the seventh generation

Contributed articles and stories
Delatite Vineyards - Autumn, booroolite

Delatite Vineyards - Autumn, booroolite

David Ritchie of Delatite Wines
Delatite Vineyards - Pinot vines, overlooking the south contour
David of Delatite Wines
Wines from Delatite Winery, near Mansfield in Central Victoria

 

They say you never really own a Patek Philippe watch; you merely look after it for the next generation, and in many senses David Ritchie is a custodian of the Delatite vineyard, looking after it before the seventh generation of the Ritchie family takes over.

David Ritchie has lived on the Mansfield property since the day he was born, learning first-hand from his parents the viticulture and winemaking skills that he employs today.

What David has done differently however, is reinvigorate the property’s ecosystem by employing biodynamic practices that follow the Rudolf Steiner principals. 

Delatite’s wine making has been forged from the Ritchie family’s 170-year history of farming in Victoria. Across six generations of the Ritchie family, they’ve been committed to doing the best for future generations, not what’s easiest today. 

The past forty years have been an extraordinary journey for the family, creating and selling outstanding wines, designing the vineyards and caring for the soil to ensure the land is left in a better state than when they started.

The pride of the Delatite tasting room is the aromatics; delicate whites that need the perfect climate to succeed. The best gewurztraminer, pinot gris, riesling, and sauvignon blanc needs long cool nights and warm days. The flavour of these unique wines reflects the subtle differences in soil and climate, with minimal winery intervention.

As David explains, “to get the best from the soil, we do the least we can”. David and his wife Catherine employ holistic vineyard practices like planting along the contours of the land (not at right angles to them) to preserve water and soil structure and promote biodiversity.

They say ‘no’ to many of the common practices in their industry; they don’t use herbicides, insecticides, synthetic fertilisers or synthetic fungicides.

They say ‘yes’ to labour intensive activities like hand pruning and picking, which isn’t much appreciated by their children Polly (17) and Donald (15) who are often put to work on their school holidays.

The use of heavy equipment and machinery is kept to a minimum on the property’s precious soils and the team avoids any form of tillage or cultivation. Light-footed sheep carry out important winter and early spring weed and grass control.

Delatite continues to be guided by Steiner’s biodynamic philosophy, embracing a strong sense of responsibility to manage their country and its resources.

Nature is also the mentor in the cellar where the talented Andy Browning uses small batch ferments with natural yeasts so as not to interrupt the regional and varietal characteristics.  He also uses large oak maturation for portions of the aromatics, no tannins and minimal – if any – filtration.  Holding white wines on lees for as long as possible means the wines are as close to nature as they can make them.

Delatite’s overarching aim is to make artisan-inspired wines in small batches combining the latest technology and equipment with centuries-old techniques - and the results speak for themselves.

Most recently, the 2012 edition of James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion named Delatite a 5 Red Star Winery, awarding the 2009 Riesling, 2008 RJ Shiraz, 2010 Dead Man’s Hill Gewurztraminer and 2010 Riesling between 92-95 points, proving that all of the labour intensive practices are certainly working to produce remarkable wines.
 

Ed: Delatite Sylvia Riesling is a riesling with some residual sugar, and was a favourite of the late Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, whose sister Sylvia is one of David's forebears. Their dry riesling is one of the best in Australia.

Regions

  • Central Victoria (VIC)

 
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