Chalmers Sustainable Wines

 In Sustainable Stories

Sustainable Stories No 6. Chalmers Wines

At Fish & Co we are dedicated to sustainability not only for seafood but also in business. We thought it would be interesting to share a little background on our sustainable partners so you could get to know a little more about the people and their businesses that makes it all possible for us to deliver our delicious sustainable experience here at Fish & Co.
We would love to hear what you think or on ways we can improve on connecting sustainable stories?
Your Name The Chalmers Family

Where do you live?

Proudly Mildura! Commonly referred to as Victoria’s Food Bowl, Mildura is the centre of the region known as Sunraysia and as the name suggests, is abundant in sunshine and fine weather. The hot, dry climate and position on the Murray River provide Mildura with the perfect growing conditions for a wide range of fruit, vegetables and particularly wine grapes. As well as a thriving commercial centre, Mildura boasts a lively arts, culture and food scene as well.

Tell us a bit about yourself:

Chalmers Wines Sustainable HarvestBruce and Jenni Chalmers began growing wine grapes in the mid 1980’s. Over the years their original Euston NSW vineyard grew to become the most diverse and one of the largest privately owned vineyards in Australia. Their vine propagation business, Chalmers Nurseries, was responsible for importing a selection of around 70 clones and varieties that were introduced to Australia in 2000 and have been a major factor in the diversification and improvements in quality seen in the Australian wine industry in the last decade. Since selling the Euston vineyard and nursery in 2008 Chalmers have established two new smaller vineyards in Victoria: one in Heathcote and one in Merbein in the Murray Darling region.

The new Heathcote (Central Victoria) vineyard, in the northern part of the GI on the Mt Camel range, promises to continue the pursuit of quality and reduction of environmental impact with only drought and heat tolerant varieties being established in the high density, state-of-the-art vineyard. The Merbein (North West Victoria) property has been established to what the Chalmers consider to be the three most promising varieties for the future of warm climate viticulture with the remainder of the property housing a source block containing the entire Chalmers collection of imported varieties.

Chalmers is truly a family business as the vineyard operations are overseen by Bruce and Jenni Chalmers with eldest daughter Kim managing the wine business from the vine to the wine list. Daughter Tennille joined the business full time in 2010 after a ten-year career in hospitality, most recently as a sommelier and in 2011 Kim’s husband, winemaker Bart van Olphen completed the family team.

Tell us about your business:

The Chalmers family’s commitment to innovation and excellence has made them a pivotal force in the Australian wine scene for over 20 years. Their work in the field of alternative, particularly southern Italian varietals – in both the vineyard and marketplace – has been a substantial contribution to the growth and success of this movement in recent years. Improving Australian vine material stocks is an ongoing passion for the family, with a new shipment of previously unavailable Italian vine selections currently incoming in quarantine including Falanghina, Pecorino and Ribolla Gialla.

The Chalmers range of Italian varietal wines, which includes Vermentino, Fiano, Rosato, Nero d’Avola, Lagrein, Sangiovese, Aglianico and Sagrantino, is made with sustainability, diversity, authenticity and quality at the core of it’s philosophy. Continually exploring new territory with the creation of project wines, in recent vintages Chalmers have made a passito dessert wine, a dry sparkling red lambrusco and a rustic vino nuovo. These wines are the result of years of experimentation and refinement, from terroir to barrique, and are Australian wines which proudly display their continental heritage.

Most recently the nursery block at Merbein has given rise to the super small batch, handmade wine project #bucketwine which is exploring grass roots winemaking with no tools, additions or filtration. Winemaking is a very natural form. See for a blog style website on this experimental range.

What are your longer term goals for the business?

Chalmers are continuing to experiment, develop and learn with every growing season. Their long terms goals are similar to short term goals in that each year vineyard management particularly in regards with water, is continually updated and improved, striving for the perfect balance between the environment and business whilst maintaining vine health and producing quality wine.

Who are your customers?

There are two types of customers for Chalmers. Those that buy grapes, and those that by wine.

Those that buy grapes from Chalmers are customers of vastly varying sizes, all with the same vision; they are keen to get involved in the new movement of alternative/new varieties for Australia and have an interest in the viticultural and commercial potential and particularly the sustainable element of these wines. For example, the smallest buyer of grapes might purchase 300-500kgs to experiment with in small batch winemaking for their own cellar door, and the largest customer, a large commercial winery, buys 150 tonnes of grapes knowing that market interest means they are curious to work with these new, more sustainable varieties as well.

Those that buy Chalmers wine, the consumers, are on average 30-55 year old wine-lovers with an interest in supporting small producers, new drinking styles and are often those that enjoy European style wines.

What does ʻsustainabilityʼ mean to your business?

One of the major concerns of the Chalmers family is protection, preservation and re-establishment of the native flora and fauna on their properties and minimal impact on the environment from their viticultural pursuits. The Chalmers family acknowledges that climate change is a reality and is constantly taking positive steps to reduce their carbon emissions and chemical use while implementing high-tech systems to ensure highly economical water consumption.

Through their nursery’s varietal selection and importation program, and subsequent vineyard trials and evaluation, Chalmers have identified and cultivated grape varieties that are naturally more resistant to drought and heat. This means quality fruit in warmer growing regions with less water requirement and usually also higher resistance to disease. These attributes mean that as our wine regions get warmer and drier we have the opportunity to continue to create wines of great quality while putting less stress on natural resources and using less chemicals.

Many of the vineyard applications used in the production of the Chalmers range of wines are organic with a view to operating at both the Heathcote and Merbein properties in a fully organic regime in the coming years.

What is your businesses biggest achievement?

The Chalmers Family recently received the accolade from Gourmet Traveller Wine of Australian Viticulturalists of the Year. For the first time it was awarded to a whole family rather then an individual, in recognition of each role the family plays in the business and the running of the vineyards.

If you could chose, what would be your last meal and with who (dead or alive)?

The Chalmers family are big fans of Sir David Attenborough, a hugely inspirational man with a profound love of nature, which is a strong link the whole family have and very much value. The meal would be sourced from produce grown on the Chalmers family property and cooked and served but the family at their own dinner table.

Any additional comments?

It almost goes without saying, but always support; local producers with a good philosophy, those with the environment in mind and those that you want to support.

Chalmers have worked closely with Tom Kime in the past and most recently as part of the 2014 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival for a collaboration showcasing and promoting the use of accessible, sustainable and tasty produce. They admire Tom’s infectious enthusiasm, passion and drive to make a difference in awareness of sustainability in the commercial world.

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