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The belief that “Great wines are made in the vineyard,” is fundamental to our organic philosophy and principles. The finest grapes come from the healthiest vines; vines that are nourished by a healthy, biologically active soil and a rich biodiversity, not by soluble, synthetic, chemical fertilisers. Wines from such biologically active soils have characters that are unique to those soils, giving to the wines a sense of place or belonging. In French this unique character is referred to as “terroir.”
Our soils are nourished by an amazingly complex herbal ley. That is a huge variety of herbal plants, grasses and ground fruiting fungi that cover the vineyard floor, most of which are self-seeded. Without the use of herbicides this herbal ley flourishes and is managed by occasional mowing with just a limited amount of cultivation to help establish young vines. This means no bare earth in the vineyard, resulting in a huge amount of herbage from mowing, grape pressings, mulched summer trimmings and winter prunings being returned to the soil throughout the year. This leads to a constantly increasing level of organic matter in the soil which nourishes all life in the soil including worms, insects, fungi and soil microbes which in turn lead to the healthiest of soils.
The accumulation of carbon bearing plant material in the soil means that we are burying more carbon in the soil year by year, than is being released in the form of CO2 emissions in the process of making and packaging the wine and delivering to your dinner table.
Biodiversity (from the Greek word bio, meaning - life energy) and companion planting are not just buzz-words for us. They are a way of life. To encourage biodiversity and balance above ground we plant a wide range native trees and flax plants to encourage some of the beautiful, native New Zealand birds such as the Tui. With these natives, the flowers in the herbal ley and plants such as Fennel, established especially for insects, we have a very diverse and balanced range of beneficial insects in the vineyards which also attract insect eating birds like the Fantail. This allows no single species to grow to pest proportions. Some of my favourites are Ladybirds, Lacewings and Earwigs which, between them and our frosty winters, control Mealybugs, saving any need to control them with sprays.
As a coastal vineyard we close the circle of nutrient loss, from the soil to the groundwater and thus to the sea, by returning fish and seaweed products to the soil in special liquid brews. These stimulate the complex web of life in the soil which, by their actions, release nutrients in the soil allowing vines to flourish.
So, our care in the vineyard to promote biologically active soil and rich biodiversity creates healthy vines, to make great wines for you to enjoy. You can appreciate them in the knowledge that our stewardship of the Richmond Plains vineyard is leading to a healthier world and a healthier wine.