Organic/ Biodynamic Wines in the Hunter Valley.
Reflecting on the past 20 years of growing grapes and producing wines under the certification of Organic and Biodynamic confirms the positive outcome of looking after the soil and making the most natural wines possible!
Macquariedale Organic Wines embarked on the road to sustainability with the purchase of a 40 HA grazing block in Sweetwater Road back in 1999 and started planting grape vines in that same year. This followed on from a brief exposure to conventional grape growing on an old established vineyard using a range of systemic chemicals available at that time. We found this vineyard was contaminated with residual herbicides and pre-emergent chemicals and subsequently sold this property. Focusing on the need to be fully sustainable we applied for certification and in 2004 we became Grade A Certified Organic/Biodynamic – the first vineyard in the Hunter Valley.
The Hunter Valley has been commercially growing grapes for the last 190 years and it was not until the advent of synthetic chemicals in the 1950’s that the area ceased to be organic in nature. A lot of these initial chemicals such as DDT were subsequently deemed to be unsafe for the environment and carcinogenic for humans and were banned. However many more systemic chemicals have been approved and introduced in the subsequent years and these are used prolifically in viticulture.
The Australian Organic / Biodynamic Viticultural standard prepared through industry consultation specifically excludes the use of systemic chemicals as they have been shown to be absorbed into the tissue of the plant and then enter the food chain. Traces of these chemical such as the herbicide – glyphosphate have been found in wine.
At Macquariedale we grow our grapes under the Organic/Biodynamic Certification Standard and we feel that with the elimination of the systemic chemicals we have a fruit quality which truly reflects the terroir that we have in the Sweetwater area of the Hunter Valley.
We use a range of natural products such as tonics for the vines as opposed to synthetic additions of N,P,K. ( Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium). These include seaweed, digested fish, composted manures and biodynamic preparations. We use cover crops of legumes (Cow peas, clovers and vetch) and cereals between the vineyard rows to provide natural nitrogen additions and organic matter although this practice has been difficult the last few years with the prevailing drought conditions.
We have noticed a significant improvement in the vineyard soil condition over the years with the organic matter supporting a vast population of bacteria and fungi. We also feel the vines immune system has strengthened which contributes to a more robust inherent disease resistance. Grapes grown under these systems have a strong wall thickness and are full of flavour.
The Australian winemaking standard for Organic wines requires a maximum sulphur (preservative) level of 120ppm against the Australian standard of 240ppm. To assist with obtaining this lower level of sulphur we hand pick all our grapes to avoid the sulphur addition at the picking bins with machine harvested fruit. We also encourage the natural fermentation with the indigenous yeast which occurs on the fruit. This natural yeast is highly sulphur sensitive so hand harvesting is the only way to go. We feel the natural yeast fermentation is critical to the true reflection of the terroir of the vineyard site. When you use a designer cultured yeast for the ferment you will achieve a certain flavour in the finished wine which can be substantially influenced by the yeast selection. All our reds are basket pressed at the end of fermentation and by carefully monitoring the bitterness extraction we eliminate the need for animal product additions such as egg whites.
We are showcasing our NBG Red wine Preservative Free (NBG – Nothing But Grapes, or as we like to call it, Naturally Bloody Good) wine which is produced from 70% Shiraz and 30% Merlot and is naturally fermented without sulphur and has no oak tannin influence. The wine is not fined with any animal products and is gravity bottled straight from the barrel. Enjoy!
MACQUARIEDALE ORGANIC WINES
8th October 2019
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