Rod and Cecile Roberts
Rod and Cecile Roberts share a deep appreciation for nature and climate. Both were raised on multigenerational family farms; Rod in the north-west of Tasmania and Cecile in the Swiss countryside. Seeing their roles as custodians of the land, they want to regenerate and leave it in better health. Today, they relish the gentle rhythm of their lives, surrounded by the wild beauty of their farm, Belbrook, nurturing their vines and capturing the essence of the land in their bottles.
Growing wine grapes is new for us but agriculture and horticulture are not. We have been working in the space for some years now plus both of our families have been farmers, going back at least a couple of centuries. We do enjoy the pursuit and challenges of ensuring absolute excellence in the harvest of high-quality grapes.
From day one we aspired to have a ‘light touch’ in what we do on our Belbrook property and to be good custodians of the land. In the vineyard we seek to be minimal users of chemicals and highly efficient appliers of all inputs. Our irrigation system is ‘state of the art’ and we use probes to help guide our decision-making.
We are keenly aware of the importance of working with nature. For example, rather than instituting eradication programs for native wallabies and possums (a very significant management issue in the industry) we have erected barrier fencing to manage this issue. Similarly, we seek to minimise the use of plastics. We use bird-deterrence technology rather than employing large-scale vineyard plastic netting in the months prior to harvest.
Farming sustainably is important for us and important for the planet. With a large solar array and battery storage capability, our farm and vineyard are entirely off grid. Several other players in the sector augment their power needs with solar supply, however, we believe that we are alone in being totally off the grid. All our pumping energy needs are met with a sophisticated, multi-pump soft start system. This also applies to irrigation and other inputs beyond the vineyard.
We have also focused on the reduction and removal of invasive weeds and the planting of native trees, mostly endemic to the region. We place particular emphasis on bee and insect populations for both natural control of pests and for honey production. In this high-carbon world, by growing energy-intensive crops, by generating our own power and by planting and managing trees, we are pleased to be doing our best for the environment as a carbon-neutral producer.
Tasmania has some excellent grape growers and winemakers and our challenge has been to define our role within this community. We decided to produce only wines of the very highest quality. Starting with the grape inputs, we were determined to bottle in our own-brand Ossa wine label only those grapes which meet very exacting, quality standards. For example, there may be some years where a particular wine type is not bottled under the Ossa brand.
Of our 2021 vintage, only around 10% of our harvest was selected for the Ossa label. Differentiating Ossa from other producers is a challenge of course. However, our Belbrook property is sited on highly-suitable wine-growing soil within the small Wye River valley and has a particular and unique micro-climate, which offers a significant point of difference.
Globally, winemaking is an ancient and respected craft. Fortunately, cool climate wines are increasingly in demand and Tasmania is able to consistently produce quality in this space. And importantly for us, the East Coast of Tasmania is the best positioned wine growing region on the island to meet the market needs of cool climate wine buyers.
Although there are a number of very good Tasmanian wine producers, Tasmania has a relatively small wine industry. We find our place in it with a high-quality offering in every sense, from the light touch yet high-tech production values of our grapes, through our low impact on the environment and care of fauna and flora, to our very strict selection of wines deserving of the Ossa brand.