Biodynamic viticulture benefits Nazaraay Estate Winery

Name: Paramdeep & Nirmal Ghumman

By Katherine Lindh

Indian-born couple, Nirmal and Paramdeep Ghumman, owners of Nazaraay Estate Winery on the Mornington Peninsula, attribute the success of their quality wines to their biodynamic and Burgundian approach to viticulture, which favours minimal intervention.

Nazaaray is a boutique micro-winery, located at the southernmost point on the Mornington Peninsula. All wine is made and bottled on-site and is from estate-grown, hand-picked fruit which reflects Nazaaray's terroir. Ghumman and his team use traditional Burgundian winemaking methods (low yield and open vat fermentation), favouring minimal intervention and handling. Instead of using herbicide sprays, Ghumman has sought out natural ways to clear weeds. Two donkeys have been added to the beef herd to get thistles under control and African dung beetles have been introduced to paddocks to improve soil quality. Over a period of three to four years, all paddocks are now thistle-free, and showing positive results.

Paramdeep's passion and Nirmal's meticulous attention to detail extends beyond winemaking methods to land management. When the couple bought the property back in 1991, the paddocks were choked with thistles, cape weed and dandelions. The Ghumman's first priority was to bring life back into their land. Drawing upon her background as a medical pathologist and a GP, Nirmal set about creating a rich and sustainable environment that would support fungal and bacterial life, based on the theory that the uniqueness of every vineyard is determined, in part, by its resident bacteria and fungi. After two years of experimenting with a 'no spray' program, Nazaaray have for the past few years adopted a minimal spray regime, and are slowly, but surely moving towards adopting sensible biodynamic viticulture practices that are in harmony with their site's meso-climate.

'Sustainable and eco-friendly practices are very important to us, but it's not just based on an ethical imperative, if you look after your land; if you nurture it at a microbial level, it will yield superior, more complex fruit. Bio-dynamic viticulture is a journey, not a destination,' Paramdeep said.

Like most migrant stories, Nirmal and Paramdeep Ghumman's story is based on a dream, and for a determined Paramdeep that dream was to make wine (in spite of having his taste buds hypersensitised by decades of Indian chilli and spices!)

Nazaraay Estate Winery has developed a growing profile as a respected and award-winning producer of Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir (Bronze Medal winner at Red Hill Cool Climate Wine Show, every year since 2001, except for the very hot year of 2005). This year, they will be harvesting their third vintage of Shiraz made from vines first planted in 2000.

'I am aware that organics and bio-dynamics are the latest buzzwords in winemaking,' Paramdeep said. 'However for us, it is about producing the best quality wine which reveals the unique character of the region, with optimum intensity and flavour. You can really taste the difference.'

This article was first published in the October 2008 issue of the Australian and New Zealand Grapegrower & Winemaker. To obtain your copy of this issue or to subscribe to the magazine, please contact Winetitles on +61 8 8292 0888 or email [email protected]

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