First New Zealand wine made from Certified Biodynamic Grapes
Richmond Plains is New Zealand first vineyard to be certified full biodynamic by Demeter as of May 27th 2008 and our 2008 ARIES Pinot Noir was New Zeland first Demeter Certified Biodynamic wine.
Why go biodynamic?
Richmond Plains has always been certified organic so managing their vineyard biodynamically was a natural progression.
We were inspired by wines made by Millton Estate, biodynamic pioneers who make fantastic wine, and other internationally renowned producers like Cullen in Australia and Zind Humbrecht and Chapoutier in France.
If you can make a delicious wine that’s good for the environment and for you, then why not!
The concept of Biodynamics was introduced to the world in 1924 by Austrian, Rudolf Steiner a philosopher and educator. Decades of industrial farming techniques had resulted in declining land fertility and livestock health. To revive farm fertility Steiner advocated use of preparations and composting to increase microbial life, structure and nutrient availability in the soil.
The name biodynamic comes from ancient Greek "bios", meaning life and "dynamis", meaning energy which gives us “life-energy”
How does it work?
Biodynamics is a natural extension of organics that takes a wider holistic approach. Biodynamics sees the vineyard as a whole living ecosystem which is influenced by the earth’s natural rhythms. These natural rhythms are influenced by moon and sun in relation to the earth.
This is why compost and horn manure, (prep 500), is spread in the vineyard during a descending moon when the lunar effects promote root growth and soil activity.
Conversely foliar sprays, such as horn silica, (prep 501) and compost teas etc. are applied during an ascending moon when the lunar effects increase vitality and vigour of the vine shoots, fruit and leaves.
Everything is linked in the environment, which is why biodynamics takes this holistic approach and we focus on finding our place within that system and working with it to enhance our vineyard ecology.
We can produce better wines using natural products such as compost, fish oil and seaweed to develop strong, healthy, vibrant plants which compete in a natural ecosystem.
Biodynamics is often described as not about giving your land aspirin once it has a headache, it’s about preventing the stresses that cause the headache in the first place.
We believe in living soils that are full of nutrients, life and microbiological activity so we do not use soluble fertilisers which damage the soil and water ways. The soil is like an inverse world. Instead of buildings and trees rising up, under the surface of the earth is a complex web of plant roots and activity heading down. We try to protect this environment and enhance its microbiological activity.
Pesticides, fungicides and herbicides all mess with nature and do not allow it to find a natural balance. Thus the vines become more susceptible to disease and pests and become more dependent on these synthetic chemicals. By allowing the vineyard to find its own natural balance, the soil and vines will be healthier and stronger. This natural approach where vines compete for success makes them fight harder producing deeper flavours and, consequently, more interesting wines.
The concept of looking after your soil is not biodynamic, it's just good farming.
Biodynamics is well known for the use of its preparations, which are used to enhance the vineyard and are dispersed throughout it. They are designed not as fertilisers themselves but greatly assist promoting soil fertility. As such they only need to be used in very small amounts. The most common preparations are 500 and 501. These concentrated preparations are diluted in water that is energised by stirring.
Horn manure preparation “500” is derived from cow manure that has been buried in a cow’s horn over winter. 500 promotes strong root growth through increasing microbial life, structure and nutrient availability in the soil. It also aids humus formation, soil structure and water holding capacity. 500 is sprayed on the ground in the afternoon, when the earth is ‘breathing in’ during the first descending period of the moon after budburst and again once the autumn rains have made the soil sufficiently moist.
Horn silica preparation “501” is ground up silica / quartz crystal buried in the cow horn over summer. 501 increases the plant’s absorption of sunlight, leading to better fruit and seed development with improved flavour, aroma, colour and nutritional quality. It is sprayed in the morning, when the earth is ‘breathing out’ during an ascending moon after budburst.
Preparations are mixed by stirring in warm water to create a vortex or spiral. This replicates the many and varied natural vortexes happening around us every day like the wind, ocean currents and rivers or in plants like rose flowers, pine cones or fern fronds and indeed like our own Koru logo on our label.
We make compost each year blending cow manure and straw with grape skins and seeds from the winemaking. To this we add biodynamic compost preparations to enhance this compost. This is spread through the vineyard or used in compost teas.
Compost preparations (502 to 507), used in the making of compost, help the dynamic cycles of the macro- and micro-nutrients via biological processes in the soil and in material breakdown.
Compost teas will be made using this compost and these will be sprayed as foliar sprays and also delivered to the soil through the irrigation system.
Our soil has good levels of humus and good nutrient levels already and now our main objective is to ensure that the effects of the preparations are thoroughly distributed to enliven the soil even more.
Demeter New Zealand
Biodynamic certification is issued by Demeter New Zealand which is accredited by Demeter International (www.demeter.net). To achieve this independent certification Richmond Plains vineyard management and practices followed Demeter New Zealand and International standards and on site inspections and audits were carried out to validate the certification.
David Wright, Secretary of Demeter New Zealand (and The Bio Dynamic Farming and Gardening Association in NZ Inc) says “Richmond Plains certification was a great occasion and very good news for both the wine industry and biodynamics. There has been a surge in interest in biodynamic products around New Zealand and the world”
Demeter was the Greek goddess of agriculture and protector of the fruits of the earth.
Its not just about being green its about taste and quality. We believe in making great wines by taking the whole environment into consideration and working with nature’s rhythms. By following biodynamic and organic principles we can truly express the vineyards terroir, or character and individuality, in our wine.
As renowned French biodynamic winemaker Nicolas Joly puts it “we are helping wines catch the climate and soil in the wine”.