Low impact sustainable farming is the way of the future and more and more vineyards are taking on organic and biodynamic principles. The increase in popularity of farmers markets gives a good indication that people are more conscious these days of their food and where it comes from. Once considered the realm of hippies and the odd weirdo organics and bio diversity has come a long way in the last 10years- hurray!!
Seresin Estate in New Zealand has long been biodynamic and you may have read our recent article from MJ with their farming update.
Paxton is a highly respected grape growing business in McLaren Vale South Australia, managing 120 hectares under the guidance of viticulturist Toby Bekkers who is passionate about farming without chemicals. Had the pleasure of talking to Toby who was a mine of information and enthusiasm about the direction their vineyards are taking which is to have all of their vineyards under the Biodynamic system.
Biodynamic is a system of farming without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, developed by Rudolph Steiner in the 1920`s, he was looking for a more natural system for cultivation, also referring to the moon and planets influence on the earth and all that grows and flows from it. The ancients relied on the lunar cycles for the timing of many agricultural activities.
The foundation of Biodynamic farming is the health of the soil and at Paxton the farming aims to maintain a balanced and diverse population of soil biology. Increased soil activity and life have a flow on effect and compost applications create favourable conditions for soil micro organisms which make nutrients available to plants in a natural form. With better soil structure and nutrients, moisture is maintained and the follow on amongst other things is the reduction in irrigation needed.
The main biodynamic compost are made from cow manure placed into a calcium rich cow’s horn which is buried over winter, when dug up in summer a highly concentrated compost has been created. Diluted in water it is used as a spray for soils & seen as “seeding” the soil with life. Paxton have their own cows of course so they can be sure the manure is free of chemicals.
A great organic soil conditioner is compost which is made in large volumes to provide organic microbial activity. Organic sprays made from many different plants are used for disease control. Having diversity is the key to natural ecosystems working so well. Companion planting and a variety of plant life (assists weed control) bee hives on site, are all ways of maximizing the diversity and habitat of the ecosystem.
In 2008 Paxton became the first Australian winery to join the 1% For the Planet, a global network of companies that donate at least 1% of their annual sales to environmental causes each year. Paxton have also begun an audit process to establish what their carbon production is from growing grapes to transporting the finished product to market and then forming a plan to offset their carbon emissions.
This better vineyard management is the way forward to a sustainable future for generations to come so good on all at Paxton wines as I am sure it is a huge learning curve , labour intensive and requires a certain mindset to pull it all together.
Of course the other big winner from healthy soil is flavour and I am reminded of this when I get to raid my dad’s veggie patch (no chemicals here) tomatoes and carrots so full of flavour they are lucky to even make it into the kitchen. I am reminded of what they really taste like and it is not what we are generally used to from the supermarket.
The Paxton AAA Shiraz Grenache is a bright and rich drop and a great example of regional Shiraz so if you see this one be sure to try.