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making organic wine in non-organic wineries

Updated: May 17, 2020

Most organic wineries in New Zealand make solely organic wines. However, a number of New Zealand wineries, including some larger companies, now make both organic and non-organic wines. Click here for a list of our part certified members.

Several of New Zealand’s larger wineries now have thriving organic operations as part of their picture. But how feasible is it for growers to manage organic and non-organic vineyards alongside each other? At our summer seminar for growers in Marlborough this past February, viticulturist Andrew Naylor of Pernod Ricard NZ spoke to this question – explaining to other growers how his company successfully manages an organic operation alongside other vineyards.

Pernod Ricard has a long-standing commitment to organic production. The company first started converting some of their Marlborough vineyards to organic in 2007. Now they have 96 hectares of certified organic vineyards, spread across different sites in the Wairau Valley. They sell their organic wine under the Brancott Living Lands brand, and this year they will be launching a new Stoneleigh Organic brand as well.

Pernod Richard New Zealand has four different vineyards involved in certified organic grape production. All but one of these vineyards also grow non-organic grapes. As viticulturist Andrew Naylor explained, succeeding with parallel organic/conventional production really just comes down to having solid standard operating procedures and good recordkeeping.

Organic certification requires strict separation between organic and non-organic products, from the vineyard through to the winery. At Pernod Ricard, this means careful attention to labelling grapes and machinery clearly. They have separate partitioned areas in their sheds for organic vineyard equipment. Andrew explained that Pernod Ricard chooses to use separate sprayers for its organic and conventional vineyard blocks. They find that having separate sprayers is more efficient than washing down equipment in order to transfer it between blocks.

Where organic and non-organic vineyard areas border each other, an important area of focus is buffer rows to separate the two. Organic vineyards must have a buffer around them where only organic sprays are used, in order to minimise the risk of spraydrift. Andrew explained that Pernod Ricard sites their buffer rows in their non-organic blocks, labelling these blocks clearly and marking them with green-painted strainer posts. These buffer rows in the non-organic vineyard block receive an organic spray programme. With this system, all of the fruit in the adjoining organic block can be harvested as certified organic fruit. Training staff around this is critical, Andrew emphasised, to maintain the integrity of the buffer.

Harvest is a critical period to pay attention to keeping organic fruit separate as it heads for the winery. To maximise efficiency, Pernod Ricard does their organic harvest earlier in the day, so that equipment is clean and ready to go after being washed down the night before.

Keeping organic fruit and wines separate in the winery also comes down to good recordkeeping. Another of our member wineries, Babich, recently wrote a blog about how they keep things separate in the winery. Click here to read the full blog.

The Organic Winegrowers NZ summer seminar where Andrew made the above comments was an interesting phenomenon in itself. Around 70 people signed up – not surprising, given that the organic community in Marlborough is strong. What did come as a welcome surprise to the organisers was how many new faces we saw, with a large proportion of participants coming from non-organic operations. We’re taking that as a hopeful sign that we will likely keep seeing more organic vineyards springing up in the future.

Some winegrowers prefer to experiment with organic practices on a smaller portion of their vineyard while they work out their practices and build the confidence to convert their whole operation. As the organic market continues to grow, we welcome all members with an interest in organic production. Anyone is welcome to join Organic Winegrowers New Zealand and receive our newsletters and resources. Here is the link to go through and register today.

photo credit: babich wines


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