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Samantha Scarratt, Fishtail Vineyards, New Zealand
Name: Samantha Scarratt
Place of birth: Adelaide, South Australia
Professional qualifications: BSc (Hons) Environmental Biology (Adelaide University), PhD Entomology (Lincoln University)
Professional experience: Environmental consultant for Ecologia, Perth, Western Australia; vineyard technical officer at Seresin Estate, Marlborough, New Zealand; vineyard manager at Fishtail Vineyards Ltd (Rock Ferry Wines), Marlborough, NZ
Current job title, winery & region: Vineyard manager, Fishtail Vineyards Ltd (Rock Ferry Wines), Marlborough, NZ.
What made you decide to become a viticulturist?
My interest in grapegrowing was sparked whilst doing research for my PhD, where I studied organic methods of insect pest management in vineyards. I worked with viticulturalists and grapegrowers from different regions in NZ and found that all the people I met in the industry were passionate about their work and their enthusiasm was catching.
Which are your favourite varieties to grow and why?
Riesling and Pinot Noir. Probably because I like being able to manipulate the management of these varieties and seeing the results in the fruit quality and flavour.
What is your least favourite variety to grow and why?
I can't think of any varieties I don't like to grow, they are all different and all a challenge.
Do you have any plans to expand the growth of certain varieties, or plant any new varieties?
I'd like to grow more Pinot Noir for the company in Marlborough. We are planning to plant some Gruner Veltliner in the near future.
Can you remember the 'worst' vintage you've ever been through? What was the problem and what did you do to solve it? (e.g. weather conditions/bird damage/power blackout/plague of locusts, etc)
No horror stories as yet.
Is there a standout season for you, when everything ran just about perfectly? When was it, and what made it such a good year?
This past season was pretty amazing. I can't say it ran perfectly, but it was a great year as we had good yields, hardly any disease, minimal pest insect issues and the weather was warm and dry towards the end of the season, which meant that we were able to pick our fruit based on ripeness and flavours.
What is the biggest challenge you face growing grapes in your particular region?
In the region, I would say frost.
If you had an unlimited budget available to establish your existing vineyard all over again, what would you do differently?
I'd put the entire vineyard under nets, so birds weren't an issue, I'd set up sprinklers for frost and I would set up the irrigation so that it was out of the way of the under vine weeder.
What is the most important piece of equipment in your vineyard?
Definitely, the Braun under vine weeder. As we are an organic vineyard (in conversion), we don't use herbicides and so we use this piece of equipment to cultivate underneath the vines.
Have you learnt any 'tricks of the trade' you can share with your colleagues?
Growing grapes organically isn't that hard! It just takes careful management (ie. monitoring) and using the right products.
If you could remove one vine pest or disease from the face of the earth forever more, which would it be?
That is a tough one because if you remove a pest or disease another one will more than likely fill its place. But I would have to say, phylloxera.
What do you like to do when you're not tending vines?
Drink wine, spend time with friends and family, read, travel, pilates.
What keeps you awake at night?
In Spring, listening to helicopters fighting frost. Otherwise, not much.
What sends you to sleep?
Do you have a mentor who has influenced you, or your direction in viticulture?
Yes, Bart Arnst. He is a viticultural consultant in Marlborough and I started working with Bart when I first came to NZ in 2003. He has taught me a lot about managing a vineyard organically and he has taught me to think outside the square when it comes to tackling issues in the vineyard.
Which areas of grape research do you find of most interest, and most practical benefit to your work?
I would have to say that any research that deals with issues such as how to minimise impact of agriculture/viticulture on the environment, so this is pretty broad but includes; integrated pest management, minimising the use of herbicides and pesticides and any research on managing vineyards organically.
What do you think is the number one issue facing New Zealand's industry?
Presently I would say there are two major issues facing the NZ wine industry. Number one being the food miles issue, especially when exporting wine to the United Kingdom. I think the second issue facing the NZ wine industry will be maintaining a high level of wine quality whilst maintaining the price point of NZ wines.
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