Spring loaded kangaroos bound between the vine rows towards a rainbow that falls neatly behind some ancient eucalyptus trees. The wind moves fast, and Will Berliner is walking barefoot through his vineyard, situated just outside the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, in Margaret River, Western Australia.
Having gained a degree in Ecological Oriented Biology at Yale, Will has spent a lot of time in wilderness places, and he describes his eventual settlement, in the relatively untouched wilderness of the Margaret River, as a “place that just spoke to us”.
This feeling from the land stems from an inherent philosophy that Will draws from a well of introspection, listening, and responding to what he feels, based on his quiet observation of the world around him. “The world of nature moves at a pace that’s different from the pace of our intellect, and my approach has been to make decisions slowly as I assess what nature does”.
“I’m a curious person, I experiment, and think a lot… it’s one of the reason’s that drew me to the Margaret River… there’s a chance to really take your time, and to listen,” says Will as he walks.
Cloudburst has been managed biodynamically from the very start. It’s vines are not even teenagers yet, having been planted in 2005, so there has been no conversion process because they are the first ever to be planted in this spot. “There’s never been a chemical here”, says Will, “it’s been biodynamic from the beginning, not because I’m looking for a badge, or any commendation, it’s just that it makes sense to me”.
Rather than impose himself on the landscape, Will prefers, instead, to feel and interpret what the landscape is trying to communicate. In essence, this is the true nature of biodynamics, listening and responding, and attuning yourself to the rhythms and pulse of the world around you, so that you increase cooperation and harmony between the separate elements at work.
Any cursory look at his Cloudburst blog site will tell you that Will is very much trying to attune himself to these rhythms and vibrations inherent in nature. Constantly observing, questioning, listening, and trying to understand is central to his progression as a grape grower, and winemaker. “I’m not a believer that you need to beef up inputs all the time”, Will says, “people feel that you always have to put in, put in, put in,” in order to yield better results, “but, I see that the forest doesn’t put in, put in, put in, I see the leaves fall down, they molder on the ground, the bugs eat them, the microorganisms eat them… there’s no one coming in with trailer loads of shit and making it happen”.
And the results that Will sees in the vineyard, in terms of the balance and harmony of the ecosystem, constantly vindicates his ‘listen and response’ method of management…
“My current thinking is I don’t have to mess with it that much, I want to keep a vibrational energy there, but it doesn’t mean I have to dump, dump, dump, in order to create something; in fact I think that goes counter to how I want to operate. I want to be someone who listens and responds”.
When it comes to making wines, Will believes there must be a clear distinction made between grape growing and wine making.”The idea of land being expressed through the grape and then the wine is a beautiful thing, but there is a lot of theory which gets mixed up with what the practice (actually) is”, says Will. “People will manipulate for a reason, and then explain the reason away”, either because they wish to express their land, or express their skills as a winemaker. “It’s one thing to grow grapes, it is much different, and a lot more difficult to manage the work of yeasts and bacteria”.
Having said that, Will does not make any additions to his wines, making use of the wild, or natural yeasts that exist on the fruit and in the air to honestly express his special patch of land in the Margaret River.
He does, however, resist the use of the word natural to describe his wines saying, “I’m not trying to be natural, if that means that I can’t ensure the wine is going to show up fine at your table when you drink it, and I don’t think you can (make wine with that guarantee) without some sulphur at this point”.
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Will is the first to admit that his methods may not be considered the right way of doing things, either out in the vineyard, or back in the winery, but it is a desire to keep learning, along with this very notion of introspection and observation, listening and responding that leads him to a deeper understanding of what he is trying to accomplish with his wines…
“I don’t know what right is, I’m listening… I make small moves”.
D// – The Wine Idealist
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For an Australian grown wine, Cloudburst wines have not seen much of Australia. Instead, Will has focused his energies back towards his homeland, exporting most of his wines to the US, and into some of the finest restaurants in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
I hope to rectify this when we will be pouring Cloudburst wines at the inaugural What’s In Your Glass? real wine event in Newcastle, NSW on the 28th of July. For more information, please click the link.
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Slow Moves – Jose Gonzales