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before we go too far, you’re probably wondering who is Bob? Bob Colman and his son Tom, are the names behind Frankly, This Wine Was Made by Bob, a natural wine label produced in Blackheath in the NSW Blue Mountains. The duo are part of a handful of Australian wineries implementing regenerative agriculture practices on their site.

“We have a big commitment to natural wine, right from the worm in the ground to the final product,” says Bob. “As far as we’re concerned, there’s no point trying to make a natural wine if you’re not doing everything right in the vineyards to start with.”

The term ‘regenerative agriculture’ might be new to those of us used to seeing ‘organic’ or ‘biodynamic’ on our labels. As the name implies, there is a heavy focus on soil, with the aim of rehabilitating it to a healthy state so that it can function with minimal input needed. This involves building up the existing soil and ensuring appropriate levels of ground cover by not overgrazing the site. As Tom says, it’s about improving on what you’ve been given.

“Organic is better than conventional farming but you’re still allowed to use many weird and wonderful things on your vines,” Bob notes. “Yes, we have to use a bit of that, but regenerative farming is more about trying to let the land regenerate itself by just treating it properly and not just spraying. It’s a holistic approach to try and make the system work by itself.”

Bob and Tom are implementing this on their Kanimbla Valley Vineyard, where they are focused on strengthening the site’s granite-derived, Marrangaroo soils. They also employ dry-farming and shoot-thinning, along with minimal spraying and controlled sheep grazing as part of their broader farming practices. However, their passion for regenerative agriculture came from Tom’s time spent working vintages in Europe.

“We farm vineyards on a much bigger scale in Australia,” says Tom. “So when you go to Europe, you realise how much more hands-on and connected with the process they are.”

Another turning point was the duo’s exposure to conventionally farmed sites and their rapid deterioration when neglected. This was mostly noted in terms of irrigation, with vines that had strongly relied on the practice suffering heavily and often dying when faced with the intense droughts common in Australia. And it’s an occurrence inevitably becoming more frequent with climate change.

“When you see so many vineyards around Australia being kept alive like that, you think, well, probably this vineyard shouldn’t be there,” says Bob. “We want to let the whole system here really look after itself with all the natural additives.”

Tom is currently undertaking his Graduate Certificate in Regenerative Agriculture at Southern Cross University – one of the first programs of its kind. He believes regenerative agriculture is gaining attention, and will become more relevant as the effects of climate change take hold.

“Regenerative agriculture is definitely a big area, and it’s becoming more important because we’re realising how much trouble we’re in with climate change,” says Tom.

“It just comes down to whether people are willing to do it, because it definitely takes a lot more work. But you see the results, and I think it will be a bigger area in the future.”

Both Bob and Tom agree that it’s not easy to practice this style of agriculture, as it requires a lot of time to tend to the land. They point out that they’re fortunate to be in a position to do it, but they believe it’s important to raise awareness and support other people to switch to this more conscious farming.

“There should be subsidies if you’re making products that are organic or better,” says Tom. “Why not give people who are trying to actually get the ground to recuperate some sort of incentive?” Adds Bob. “I don’t know how, but there must be some way of doing it.”

For the Frankly team, their passion for the whole process and improving on what they’ve been given is evident. They understand the work involved but for them, the results speak for themselves.

“I suppose we’re a bit nerdy about it, but we just really want to be doing the whole thing and have control over the vine and what we get out of it in the end,” says Bob. “The difference between what it [the vineyard] looks like now and what it looked like three years ago is beyond description,” he says.

“We went through the stage of nothing getting sprayed anymore, so the vintage started to look terrible. But then the cycle starts working, and here we are. Now there’s so much good ground cover, so few nasty weeds and it’s looking terrific.”