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Thursday 27 January, 2011
Organic wine producers in New Zealand have announced a bold new goal: 20% of New Zealand vineyards will be organic by the year 2020.
“By 2020, even if we only achieve 20% of the vinelands in our country as being certified organic and biodynamic, it will be a giant step towards enforcing our very precious environmental image to wine connoisseurs all over the world,” says organic grower and winemaker James Millton, chairman of Organic Winegrowers New Zealand (OWNZ).
OWNZ is a 140-member national association, led by growers seeking to share and promote the organic way.
“Organic winegrowing encompasses the goals of social, environmental and financial sustainability for our nation,” Millton says. New Zealand Winegrowers, the national organisation for New Zealand's grapegrowers and winemakers, is strongly supportive of the “20% by 2020” goal set by OWNZ, according to NZW CEO Philip Gregan. 'We see the expansion of organics over the next decade as an important component of the industry's commitment to sustainability and are confident it will strongly support our brand positioning in global markets.”
The amount of NZ vineyard land under organic certification has tripled in the past three years. The country’s organic wine and grape industry has taken off as growers pursue environmental quality and wine quality, striving to differentiate themselves in a tough wine marketplace.
Nationwide, nearly 1500 hectares of vines on 115 vineyards are now managed organically – representing 4.5% of all vineyard land.
In 2010 OWNZ and New Zealand Winegrowers signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote organic production together, through education, research, and marketing initiatives, with funding from wine industry levies. The agreement made the wine industry the nation’s first to make such a formal long term commitment to supporting organics.
Making the switch
It is not just small artisanal growers who are turning green; many major New Zealand wine companies are now going organic. “We are attracted to the natural approach to growing, which is the core of our business,” says Caine Thompson, viticulturist for Mission Estate in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand’s oldest winery.
This season, Mission Estate became the first “Organic Focus Vineyard” in a three-year research and education project. The project, funded by NZ Winegrowers and run by OWNZ, is comparing the merits of organic and conventional vineyards growing side by side. Growers nationwide are watching the trial unfold in real time, through field days and through a website at http://organicfocusvineyard.com.
And the results so far? Both the conventional and organic blocks are progressing in good health – and the organic block has actually been slightly cheaper to operate. “Growing organically has been very fascinating and satisfying,” says Mission viticulturist Caine Thompson. “I’m finding that organic growing has raised awareness within myself and staff about how the vineyard block is looking and feeling. Blocks are visited and monitored more often, resulting in a genuine attachment to the land and the vine growing within its environment.”
Crazy – in a good way
No synthetic chemical fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides are permitted in organic vineyards. Instead, organic producers must work with ecological processes, biodiversity, and naturally derived products. “The main outcome with organic winegrowing, and any other form of growing organic plants and animals, is that a closer relationship is established with Mother Nature,” says OWNZ Chair James Millton. “If you are good to her she always repays you.” The latest repayment for the Millton Winery: one of the highest honours in the recent Air New Zealand wine awards, a champion trophy for their 2009 Riverpoint Viognier.
When James Millton and his wife Annie started their organic vineyard in Gisborne in 1984, they were the only ones doing it in New Zealand. Says James: “In 1984 they thought we were crazy. We’ve just spent the last 28 years proving to everyone that they were right. We are crazy. But now it seems everyone wants to be crazy too and it’s just what this planet needs.”
Contact: Rebecca Reider, National Coordinator, Organic Winegrowers New Zealand email@example.com; +64 (0)27 359 4522
Thursday 28 October, 2010
Almost 1600 wines have been entered in this year's Air New Zealand Wine Awards, with close to 40 per cent classed as sustainable.
New Zealand Winegrowers' global marketing director Chris Yorke said he was delighted with the number of entries, given the challenging economic climate and the fact new sustainability criteria had been introduced.
Under the new rules, all wines entered from the 2010 vintage onwards must be recognised as having been 100 per cent sustainably produced.
'Sustainability has been a focus of the Air New Zealand Wine Awards and the wine industry for many years,' said Yorke.
'Sustainable entries totalled 39 per cent of this year's entries and it's very encouraging to see that wineries in New Zealand are responding so positively to the challenge of sustainable wine production and the enhanced entry criteria.'
Sustainable wines are classified as those which are produced using grapes that have been accredited or certified through an independently audited sustainability programme.
The winemaking and packaging facilities used in the production of the wine are required to have been accredited or certified in the same way.
Wines in 17 different classes have been entered in this year's awards.
White wine varietals make up the majority of entries, though pinot noir is the most popular class, with 310 entries.
Wines from Marlborough account for more than a third of entries, though Hawkes Bay and Otago also have strong showings.
The awards, organised and owned by New Zealand Winegrowers, is the country's most prestigious wine competition.
This year's judges include The Wines of California author Stephen Brook, president of Sommeliers Australia Ben Edwards and Master of Wine (MW) Steve Smith.
Judging will take place from November 1 - 3, with the elite award-winning wines being announced at a gala dinner on November 20.