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Australia, the magazine : Australia, the magazine
wine trail 62 THE VITICULTURIST Environmentally friendly, sustainable viticulture has become the major trend in grape-growing of the past decade. Organic and biodynamic practices are gathering popularity. Increasingly, wine drinkers are concerned about how their food and wine is produced, and they want to be reassured it's being done in a sound and ethical way. Hence, we see a ood of messages coming from wine producers as to the carbon footprint of their business, energy and water-use e ciency, and the healthiness of their methods. Some retailers now have a check list of requirements which must be satis ed before they will contemplate dealing in a wine. Di erent grape-growers have di erent priorities. At McLaren Vale's Paxton Vineyards in South Australia, general manager and senior viticulturist Toby Bekkers says the wholesale move to biodynamic management for their 80 hectares of vines is "all about grape and wine quality ... it's not environmental, and not marketing. But those things are a side bene t." Paxtons manage another 200 hectares for other growers, some biodynamic and some not. "Looking at the two systems side-by-side gives us the opportunity to see the e ects." Bekkers says the improvement in soil health and structure is easy to see. " e volume of soil the roots operate in is greater -- the roots spread out more. We are building up the humus in the soil. We're relying on natural organisms to make nutrition instead of adding chemical fertilisers." Another commonly heard advantage of biodynamic is that it supposedly enhances terroir -- the sense of place, or "vineyard character", so prized in ne wines. "We think we're seeing more individuality of separate parcels of fruit ... they're be er expressing the terroir of vineyard blocks. ese are not big changes, they're li le one-percenters. You can't expect to turn your vineyard into DRC (Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, the most famous Burgundy winery) overnight." Biodynamics, which involves mixing up some fairly arcane preparations and spraying them on the vineyard, is seen by some as a kind of witchcra . Doing things by the phases of the moon is not for everyone. But Bekkers says interest in biodynamics and other natural farming systems in McLaren Vale is catching on. " ere's huge interest. Even if people only adopt one aspect, and get some bene t from it, then it's worth doing." Other prominent organic or biodynamic practitioners in this region include Yangarra Estate and Ba le of Bosworth. en there's the feel-good factor. "We feel much be er when we walk through our vineyards," says Bekkers. "Maybe I'll never understand how this works, but if it's having an e ect, I'll continue with it." To date, Paxton has not made a fanfare about biodynamics, but they are gradually moving through the certi cation process. Bekkers is aware that many drinkers will see it as a positive. "People are more interested in what they eat and drink. ey are paying more a ention to it. We are very careful about building integrity into everything we do." To that end, Paxton has carbon- neutral status for all of its viticulture and winemaking activities. THE WINEMAKER "We are questioning the way we do everything," says Mac Forbes. "W hat is this concept of winemaking? How complicated does it have to be? Deconstructing the whole process and starting again is a healthy thing to do." It sounds like an artist speaking, and it probably is. Mac Forbes is one of a new and growing wave of young winemakers who are doing things di erently to the previous generation. e last thing they'll do is blindly follow the "recipe winemaking" of the previous couple of generations of Australian winemakers. ey look more to Europe for inspiration than to warm-climate South Australia, which is where most of the education and training of winemakers has traditionally been done in this country. "Our wine industry was built on forti ed wines: blending; manipulation. But we're saying single-block wines are more interesting to drink." And they're going back to simple winemaking, to minimal intervention. at means they add no acid or tannin or fancy additives to boost avour or colour, or nings to WINEMAKERS ARE PUTTING SUSTAINABI LT Y BEFORE ADDITIVES AND THE CONCEPT OF TERROIR HAS BECOME KEY. BY HUON HOOKE dynamic drop the new We feel much better when we walk through our vineyards. - Toby Bekkers Tourism NSW