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Wine sector rises to organic demand from Europe

New Zealand’s organic wine sector is going through a growth spurt.

About 8 per cent of the country’s wine producers are fully or partially certified as organic, with their produce bringing in approximately $65 million a year – making up almost 10 per cent of the total organic market.

The move to organic production is gaining momentum in Wairarapa – due to intentional demand, climate change, and a growing awareness of the benefits.

The standard vineyard management processes dominated by synthetic chemical sprays have recently begun to evolve, with many major producers pushing to reduce their usage as consumers become more cautious about the possible effects.

On Giants’ Shoulders in Martinborough is a fully BioGro certified producer. Owner and chief winemaker Wilco Lam said adopting organic and biodynamic processes was important not only to him personally but to the company’s German investors.

Organic wines are increasingly becoming the preferred choice among European consumers, with many wine areas being converted to organic, Lam said.

“With everything we do, they want to make sure our carbon footprint is really low and our farming practices are [sustainable], which suits us, too.”

The vineyard is completely dry-farmed with no irrigation, which allows natural expression of the environment in the quality of the grapes, and builds some resilience in the vineyard against future changes to the climate.

“There are plenty of tricks to manage climate change in time. All these practices in the vineyard have a big impact on the wine style that comes up,” Lam said.

Fellow winegrower and Wairarapa Winegrowers Association chair Jannine Rickards works on several organically managed plots and is looking to expand them.

She said the climate is a major factor in vineyard management, and growers must be able to work around changing conditions and think dynamically.

“There’s a lot of discussion around climate change, temperature increases, and increased rainfall – and how we, especially as organic growers, combat those events.”

Richards thinks organic wines glow brighter.

“Let the wine shine and have a bit of character or essence that shows diversity. Not everything has to be perfect.”

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