Gemtree – a journey of discovery

Best Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices

Heads up: the words ‘wine tourism’ always scare me a little bit. I have two images pop up in my mind when I see these two words strung together, and personally I do not think either of them is very pretty.

Situation 1: busloads of travellers in touristy t-shirts (at the very least something with lots of kangaroos on it), shorts that only get out once a year when on holiday and a slightly unhealthy red wine blush. Situation 2: men in suits, women on unwieldy stilettos and a lot of snobbish swirling, spitting and again that slightly unhealthy red wine blush on the cheeks.

However, Gemtree in McLaren Vale shows you how wine tourism is done – properly, and sustainably. A small handful of tours and experiences are on offer, with the biodynamic approach to grape growing being the central element. “It’s more than just a splash of wine in a glass”, says Melissa Brown, owner of Gemtree. Wine is not necessarily the focus of the experiences on offer, but plays an important role as visitors get an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the vineyard. The tasting room staff are all specifically trained to take you on a tour of the biodynamic practices and on the special Eco Trail around the nature reserve. Depending on how long you would like to enjoy a phenomenal experience, you can choose from (all very aptly named): ‘being biodynamic’, ‘wine and wander’, and ‘the Gem – a journey of discovery’.

The love for proper environmental management and full sustainability is clearly visible as soon as you head up to the cellar door. Solar panels next to the parking lot, a well looked-after vegetable and bush tucker garden as well as beautifully reclaimed and recycled materials all stand out as amazing features of the cellar door set up. Gemtree’s experiences take you past all these aspects of the winery, as you make your way down from cellar door to the biodynamic hut. It is incredible to see how well everything is thought through; displays used to explain biodynamic practices are beautiful and educational and take away the mystery that might shroud this typical way of farming – no, there is no naked dancing in the vineyard at full moon required for harvest. A little glass window in a wall of soil shows you the cow horns that are buried in the ground to be used for the famous ‘preparation 500’, and the gardens show all the, natural and grown on site, ingredients used in vineyard management. Storytelling is always an important aspect at any cellar door, and with more people asking for more information on the provenance of their wine Gemtree has done an amazing job at setting the benchmark.

Going through all that is on offer I actually forget for a minute that we are still talking about tourism here – we are miles away from the initial image that I get when thinking about wine tourism. Furthermore, if the soil-digging and prep-making is not really your thing you can always just enjoy the storytelling, followed by a dive into the locally sourced grazing platters, the lunch provided by McLaren Vale’s lovely Salopian Inn, or the absolute gems of the story here; the wine.

Words by Lieke van der Hulst

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