Last week I attended the final seminar for the Organic Focus Vineyard Project in Hawkes Bay at Mission Estate. http://www.organicfocusvineyard.com/
The project documented the realities of organic growing over 3 years in Hawkes Bay, Marlborough and Central Otago. They transitioned their vines to certified organic management, and compared their organic vineyards with side by side conventionally managed vineyards.
There were some very interesting results. We got to taste wines from both the organic and conventional vineyards from Missions Estate. In general, the wines showed slight differences, with the organic wines tasting fresher and slightly higher in acid and the conventional wines slightly richer and broader. Saying this they were from micro vinifications, so it is very hard to take too much away from a tasting like this. This is why Mission will be doing some more commercial size trials this coming year.
Across the regions there where different challenges for each vineyard, but saying this it seems the biggest challenge is managing weeds under the vines organically. Hawkes Bay didn’t see much difference in vine vigour or yield which is surprising, while both Marlborough and Central Otago both saw a drop in vine vigour and yield. This can be seen as a positive in moderate to high vigour vineyards, but is not so good in low vigour sites. The vineyard managers involved in this trial were all very positive about the project and what they have learnt. Some are converting more of there vineyards to organics while other are continuing the trials for next year to learn more. They all believe you need to be more proactive when managing a vineyard organically.
This is what we have seen with our own organic trials at Escarpment. We are continuing to look into the best ways to manage under vine weeds in an organic way. This is all part of our commitment to be Biogrow registered by 2016.