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17/07/2009

New Zealand wine industry embraces organics

By Max Allen

Two hundred viticulturists and winemakers attended the first Organic Winegrowers New Zealand symposium in Marlborough on 8 July. This was no congregation of beardies: speakers included clean-cut vineyard managers and winemakers from some of the country’s largest and most famous wine companies, including Villa Maria and Montana, all enthusiastic in their support for organics.

The New Zealand wine industry is converting to organic and biodynamic viticulture at a frantic pace: Organic Winegrowers was formed by eight producers just 18 months ago, and now has 84 members — all of whom are certified or in-conversion — accounting for more than 540ha of vines. The national organisation is also supported by regional initiatives such as the Central Organic Winegrowers association in Otago and the Greening Waipara project in Canterbury.

Just to put this into some regional context: Australia has five times as many wineries and close to five times the vineyard area of NZ but it boasts just 90 certified organic and biodynamic producers covering roughly 1,500ha. To be blunt: the Kiwis are way ahead of us here in Australia.

"Organic viticulture rocks!" Steve Wratten, Lincoln University Professor of Ecology told the symposium. "It’s the future, it really is. But let’s not just play games and plant pretty flowers. Let’s make sure there’s some science in it, or we’ll never convince our markets in London and elsewhere that we’re serious."

For Colin Ross, Seresin Estate viticulturist and founding member of OWNZ, the message is simple: ‘Organics is an opportunity for growers to discover the true quality of their land, of their work and of what they produce. If we are to envision a future for the New Zealand wine industry, surely that vision must include quality.’

Members of Jancis Robinson's Purple Pages can read further information about the New Zealand wine industry's increasing commitment to organic winemaking at www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/a200907154.html

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