We established Aventine Wines in 1995, following a close association with the Granite Belt over many years.
We initially purchased the property as a country retreat. We enjoyed the beauty of the country, the wines, and the typically 5 to 10 degrees below zero temperatures during winter. A wonderful excuse to rug up in front of a log fire and enjoy generous amounts of Ballandean's excellent liqueur muscats, and ports. We were visiting the area on such a regular basis that we decided that it would be more economical to buy a property.
Two years after purchasing the farm, we planted wine grapes. The farm had been growing table grapes for about the last 100 years. From that grew AVENTINE WINES.
My family has been involved in winemaking , as far as we can ascertain, for about the last 400 years, and probably longer. About 320 years ago my father's family were Huguenots [ French Protestants ] who escaped religious persecution in France.
The Huguenots fled France for various destinations including Northern Italy. My father's family settled in Northern Italy. They Italianised the family name, and generally carried on the professions which they had practised in France. One of these was winemaking.
By the 1800's our Northern Italian family had developed a thriving wine business. The growth in demand resulted in the family seeking out larger areas of suitable wine growing land. This led the family to send some of its members to Sicily . Up to about 120 years ago the family owned vast vineyard estates between Mt Etna and Syracuse, on the east coast of Sicily. At the height of the family's business, wine was exported to various European countries, including England. However, this was not to last. Political and economic instability saw this business cut back dramatically.
My father ,Mario Denaro, emigrated to Australia in 1920, at the young age of 19 years, looking for a new life. At that time World War 1 had not been kind to Europe.He decided against continuing the family tradition of winemaking in his new country. There did not appear to be a strong market in Australia for wine . The exception was amongst Italian Australians. But there weren't enough of these to make such a venture commercially viable. Exporting to Europe was never a serious consideration. Apart from the long and at times perilous journey, it was unlikely that Europeans would have choosen an Australian wine over, say,a Tuscan wine.
However, whenever his North Queensland farms allowed him some free time he enjoyed spending time in Stanthorpe with the Italian immigrants who had established vineyards. He did this while unmarried, and continued afterwards ,regularly taking the whole family on holidays to Stanthorpe. We would stay with one of several vineyard owners, and help them with their farm work. My first experience of life on the Granite Belt was over 40 years ago.
There were many wonderful times. Once a week there would be a barbeque. Firstly, a pile would be made of the cuttings produced when fruit trees such as apples were pruned. This was burnt and the coals would be the source of heat. Secondly, a flat steel lattice plough would be thrown over the coals. On top of this was thrown some clean chicken wire, producing a large cooking area. Then came the meat; pork, beef , steaks, spare ribs etc. Wine in large jugs was on the table.. All this under the starry canopy of a beautiful Granite Belt night. It was a wonderful part of my childhood.
My father stayed close to our Italian family, both in Northern Italy and Sicily, and we visited periodically. After my father's passing we continued the tradition, with our last visit in 2002. Our Italian family have continued to produce wine commercially, but in relatively small quantities. Most importantly they have stayed faithful to the old ways, and continue to craft vino sincero. Despite all of the new world technological advancements, most modern wines, in my view, do not compare to the wine from the hands of the keepers of the old ways.
The French concept of terroir encapsulates the philosophy that a wine is the culmination of many factors, not the least of which is the geographical location, the particular vineyard, and even the particular part of the vineyard where it is grown, together with its unique soil and microclimate.
The old Italian wine artisans had a similar belief, but took it a step further. They often referred to the soul of a wine. My grandfather would say that the soul of a wine is born in the soil . "If you lose your soil, you lose your soul." He disapproved of the practice of making wine by mixing grapes from different areas.
There are still quite a few artisans in Italy and France, who make wine the old fashion way. Many in very small quantities, sometimes as little as 3 or 4 barrels. These wines are much sought after, and sell for high prices. Some of these winemakers often receive requests for a few bottles of wine, accompanied by blank cheques. Tradition requires that the oldest customers' orders are filled first, and if there is any wine left it is allocated as the winemaker thinks proper. My Northern Italian family tell me that they often return blank cheques. Some things just aren't for sale.
History and tradition have always figured large in my family's approach to wine. Another of my grandfather's sayings, I believe, can also be applied to crafting the gift of wine. . " To know who you are ,and where you are going, you must know where you came from. If you you lose the past ,you lose yourself ."
We love this part of the world, the people, the weather, and the local excellent fresh produce and, of course, the splendid wines. Please come and visit, and experience the Granite Belt, and in particular, Ballandean, for yourself. You won't be disappointed.
~ Robert Denaro ~
The farm, on which AVENTINE WINES is located, was first cleared for farming in the early 1900's by the two Barker brothers. None of those fancy chainsaws or bulldozers in those days. The brothers used 6-foot long, (about 2 metres) steel saws with one man on each end pulling and pushing in turn. Horses were used to pull tree stumps and move granite boulders.
They cleared about 600 acres (about 240 hectares) in that fashion.
The last Barker brother passed away a couple of years ago. Up to a year before his passing, he was still running his farm next door to us, climbing picking ladders with the rest of his workers, harvesting plums for market. They don't make them like that any more.
The farm had been growing table grapes for about the past 100 years. When we took over there were the remnants of various table varieties including a couple of acres of black muscat (Muscat of Alexandria) a variety from which just about all the area's muscats are made. By the time the vines are about 60 years old the quality of fruit and resulting liqueur is splendid. We planted the remaining vines, which total over 20 acres of wine grapes.
The whole farm is essentially located on the side of a north-facing hill. The vineyard is about 1000metre above sea level, and is composed of shallow weathered granite soils. The climate is Mediterranean, with hot days and cool nights. The vineyard is hand pruned, and the fruit is hand picked. We crop at about 3 to 4 tons per acre.
A successful vineyard is about timing, and a benevolent mother nature.
Our winemaking style is traditional, using indigenous yeasts, and minimal interference. Apart from traditional styles, we also make non-traditional, non-commercial wine styles. These are enjoyed by many people, especially those who enjoy something special.
Our gardens are very much a work in progress. It has been more than challenging to attempt to establish gardens during a drought which has lasted 3 years.
We commenced by retrieving old farm equipment from the far reaches of our farm. Most of this equipment comprised horse drawn ploughs, wagons, carts, and sulkies. These items had simply been abandoned down through the years as they were superseded by new technology such as tractors, trucks and cars.
Many of these items are now located in our gardens. An excellent example of a sulky in original condition with fancy hand painted decorations takes pride of place inside our cellar door.
These wagons and sulkies take you back to perhaps a more graceful time.
We are open for wine tastings and sales: -
9:00am to 5:00pm daily.
We enjoy spending time with our visitors. This can be a little challenging when we have 50 people in our cellar door. This usually happens when 2 or more tour groups arrive simultaneously. Please telephone us beforehand wherever possible , if you are part of a group of 10 or more. We will do our best to arrange a mutually convenient time for your visit, so as to make your visit as enjoyable as possible. If you don't, you may find that just getting to the bar to be served, will be almost as challenging as the black run at your favourite ski resort.