From the moment they laid eyes on the land, they knew they had discovered something special
That something special was rich undulating fields in the shadows of Mt Ida at Heathcote in central Victoria. Tony and Linda Hunter's vision was to create a family run boutique vineyard where quality, passion and energy were reflected in the wine. Sanguine Estate vineyard and winery, established in 1997, is located approximately 5km along the Northern Highway from the turn off to Echuca, north of Heathcote. Embraced by children Mark and Jodi and their respective partners Melissa and Brett, the family worked weekends to establish the initial 16 acres that grew rapidly over the following years to 55 acres in 2002. The family's desire to produce great wine flows through every glass. Through natural winemaking techniques combined with small batch processing and hand plunging, the purity and integrity of the wine is enhanced.
This love for creating fine wine has its roots over 100 years ago. The great great grandfather of Tony Hunter, Pietro D'orsa, left Italy in 1868 to make a new life in Australia, becoming a vigneron in the town of Maldon 100 km west of Heathcote. Today, Mark Hunter continues this family tradition as Sanguine Estate's full time vigneron and winemaker. Sanguine's boutique vineyard and winery is a family enterprise intent on making concentrated, sophisticated and complex wines inspired by the unique Heathcote terrior, a fault line of ancient Cambrian red rock pulverized over 510 millions years into soil.
Having no experience in viticulture or winemaking, Linda and Tony sent their son to study a Viticultural Course at Dookie University whilst charging him with the responsibility of maintaining and developing the property. At the same time, they engaged Matt Hunter (no relation) to produce their first vintage of Shiraz and later engaged well known Winemaker Peter Dredge. Since the 2005 vintage, son Mark Hunter has become the full time winemaker for the suite of Sanguine Estate wines with guidance from consultant Ben Riggs.
Sanguine Estate has quickly forged a reputation for its richly concentrated fruit driven Shiraz with a savoury elegant finish. The unique Heathcote climate and soil combined with the philosophies of hand nurturing low yielding vines, small batch processing and minimalist intervention, produces wines of the finest quality and complexity.
The inaugural 2000 vintage, described as a fruit bomb by one reviewer, was universally embraced by lovers of fine wine, selling out in less than one week. The subsequent vintages have been received with even greater acclaim consistently achieving 90+ ratings from National and International wine writers including Robert Parker Junior (USA), Stephen Tanzer (USA), James Halliday (Aust), Ralph Kyte-Powell (Aust), Max Allen (Aust) and Huon Hooke (Aust).
Sanguine utilize the vertical shoot positioning trellis system to open up the canopy, reduce the risk of disease and expose the bunches to direct sunlight for ripening. The vines are cane pruned to a single fruiting wire with a maximum of 20 buds per vine. Crop levels are naturally low and hence bunch thinning is generally not required and irrigation kept to a minimum with some blocks being unirrigated. To conserve the natural balance within the soils and hence the overall health of the vines, the use of chemicals is minimized. In fact, over the past few years, Sanguine have managed the vineyard organically by utilizing organic fertilizers and employing other techniques such as mulching to control weed growth. It is the practice to employ organic principals in the first instance and then if absolutely necessary, use small amounts of chemicals to target specific parts of the vineyard.
Ben Riggs list of achievements in the wine industry are legendary; Tatiarra, Wirra Wirra, Penny’s Hill, Mr. Riggs, Black Chook, Zontes Footsteps, Journey’s End and more. As the Sanguine business grew it became evident a Blending Master with a fine palate was required to select from the many batches of Shiraz ferments from Estate grown grapes. Ben’s involvement started at the blending table with the 2005 Shiraz and now encompasses all aspects of winemaking at the Sanguine Winery.