Salt of the earth

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It’s a holistic approach to farming at Avani boutique winery

The term ‘Avani’ is Sanskrit for ‘Mother Earth’.

As you walk into Avani boutique winery, it is this soul-uplifting oneness with nature that you experience immediately.

Shashi Singh is the chief winemaker at this 15-acre boutique winery located at Red Hill South, Victoria.  Along with her husband Devendra, she owns this beautiful stretch of land in Mornington where they have set up both their home and the vineyard.

Avani Boutique Winery.Indian Link

Originally from Rohtak in Haryana, India, Shashi moved to Australia after her marriage in 1983. From the very outset, she was involved in the hospitality industry with Devendra, a trained chef, owning and operating restaurants in different parts of Melbourne before moving to Mornington and setting up the award winning Indian restaurant, Tulsi at Somerville.

Shashi’s interest in wines came about as a result of her involvement in the restaurant business and also the fact that she holds a Master’s degree in chemistry. She was always fascinated with different types of wines, and how they paired with spices and Indian cuisine. Indeed, she has grown to become quite the expert in this regard.

The Singhs purchased their vineyard in 1998 and with the children grown up, Shashi decided to take her interest in wines a little more seriously.

It was back to college for Shashi and she completed a double degree, Bachelor of Applied Science (Wine science) and Bachelor of Applied Science (Viticulture) from Charles Stuart University. And in 2000, they collaborated with Phillip Jones of Bass Phillip Wines to start making their own vintage (then under the Wildcroft banner).

In 2004, Shashi started her wine-making apprenticeship at the Bass Phillip Winery, also working there at the same time.

She tells Indian Link that these years were extremely helpful and formative, as she gained much knowledge and experience about winemaking and the industry. “Phillip has been a great source of guidance and inspiration. He is my mentor and I have loved working there.”

The first vintage was in 2009 which Shashi completed herself at the Leongatha winery under Phillip’s watchful eye. She soon established her own winery on the vineyard at Red Hill and bought out the inaugural vintage on the property in 2012.

Avani Boutique Winery.Indian Link

Shashi is a firm believer in biodynamic agriculture practices. “I am for simple natural living and sustainability, that’s where biodynamics makes so much sense to me. It’s a holistic approach to farming – taking care of your soils, building your unique flora and fauna which are in harmony with each other and the cosmos. To grow healthy plants you need healthy living soils. We want to make wine that provides a true expression of the site. In this regard, we have adapted biodynamic practices in the vineyard and minimal intervention in wine making, thus producing wines which reflect the place they come from.”

Currently, Avani boutique winery produces wines under two labels – Avani Syrah from the fruit which is grown and produced on the estate, and Amrit which includes Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir using fruit that comes from various vineyards on the Mornington Peninsula.

One of the best places to enjoy a glass of Avani wine is at Tulsi, where Devendra along with his team of chefs showcases Indian cuisine at its best. Wines are matched to suit each course according to the spices and flavour profile of the dishes served.

Avani wines are also sold at their cellar door (wine tastings available on appointment), select retail stores and at various restaurants across Melbourne (Vue De Monde, Tonka, Builders Arms Hotel) and Sydney.