Organic Vines Shine in Side-by-Side Trial


Press release: Organic Vines Shine in Side-by-Side Trial
The final results of a groundbreaking three-year national organic grapegrowing trial are in – and the organic vines have come out shining.

About the project

Gibbston Valley Wines – Central Otago

In the Organic Focus Vineyard Project, three vineyards in different wine regions were transitioned to organic production while their wine industry peers watched every move. Scientific technicians and vineyard managers monitored the outcomes, from soil health to grape yields and wine quality. Half of each vineyard was left under conventional management as a comparison.

The three-year trial was funded by the MPI Sustainable Farming Fund and New Zealand Winegrowers, in response to a major upsurge in organic wine production. Organic grapegrowing has been one of the fastest-growing organic industries in the country in recent years, as leading wineries seek to eliminate toxic chemical use and improve wine quality.

Mission Estate – Hawke’s Bay

The participating vineyards were chosen to represent a cross-section of different growing scenarios across New Zealand: Wither Hills in Marlborough, Mission Estate in Hawkes Bay and Gibbston Valley Wines in Central Otago.

The project was initiated by grower organisation Organic Winegrowers New Zealand. “We’ve seen so many vineyards go organic in recent years, but all of the information and learning was anecdotal,” said project coordinator Rebecca Reider. “We undertook this project to blaze a trail for others to follow, and to give everyone in the industry a closer look at the true costs and benefits involved.”

Throughout the trial, local winegrowers in each region attended field days to witness and discuss the progress of the organic vineyards. A website shared organic practices and outcomes in real time.

The Results

The organic vineyards generally succeeded across the board. Once the trial was over, all of the involved wineries chose to maintain or expand their organic growing areas.

Wither Hills – Marlborough

Mission Estate had the most straightforward transition. Vineyard managers there discovered that they could grow organic grapes for less than it cost them to grow conventional grapes – with hardly any loss in yields, and no pest and disease problems.

Some blocks at the other vineyards needed more support through the organic transition, particularly to help compacted soils recover from years of agrichemical use. Still, participating vineyard managers and winemakers were highly satisfied with the results, on the vine and in the bottle.

“The project provided valuable practical recommendations on the organic conversion process,” said Jonathan Hamlet, chair of Organic Winegrowers New Zealand. “The monitoring results showed that excellent disease control was possible with organic management. A number of the blocks showed it was possible once organic management was established to have equivalent production costs. The trial showed that there can be challenges in achieving high yield targets, so a very proactive approach to nutrition and vigour management is needed. The feedback from the winemakers involved in the project was very positive about the quality of the organic wines.”

The final report from the project has just been released. A summary of results, and a downloadable PDF of the full report, are posted at http://www.organicfocusvineyard.com/2015/06/22/final-results/

For more information:
Rebecca Reider, Project manager
coordinator@organicwinegrowers.org.nz
+64 27 359 4522