My first real positive impression of organics in winemaking was during my vintages in Burgundy, learning the art of Pinot Noir making. No one really talked about organics, they just did it and lived it. It was accepted that if you wanted to make top wine, you needed to be organic. There I read a book about Biodynamics called, ’From Sky to Earth’ by Nicholas Joly. It was one of those books I read and re-read I forget how many times. He talks, among other things, about balance in the soil and the system.
This book really influenced my decisions and plans, when it came to Odyssey Wines and in 2000, when Odyssey Wines bought 68 acres of bare land in Marlborough, I chose to take a holistic, organic approach to the grape growing winemaking. The land is clay soils over dead rock on a hillside, definitely not the easiest land to grow grapes on. So, from the get go, the land needed a serious plan and ongoing commitment to re-charge the soils with organic matter in order to grow the best grapes. The land requires replenishment every step of the growing process. An organic programme with interrow cultivating, under-vine weeding and yearly mulching feels right for the land and the soils are responding well with great texture. The weeds are managed with sheep and mechanical weeding and That zone under the vine, whilst messy, is full of life and much better than a dead zone.
It is great to be sustainable and recycling matter back into the soil, and to be armouring the grapes with thicker skins so they are more resistant to disease. This assists in protecting the grapes and eliminating the need for a shotgun approach with chemical sprays. It makes you plan ahead… prevention rather than cure. Although this has been a challenge for us to get everything humming along and in sync, it is immensely satisfying when you see the outcome. At the start you make mistakes but you learn from it. Here in New Zealand, there are some great people to help and advise along the way as well, plus there is a great sense of pride in looking after our own turf on the earth!
Odyssey Wines are now making some of our most flavoursome wines from the Marlborough Vineyard, ones which characterise the vineyard and region, and reflect our own terroir. The wines have character and an individuality due to our organic management, and you can really taste the difference. Many of our wines hold a dense, full-bodied flavour and the balance between sweet and acid does not come from additives, but instead from the natural make up of the grapes. We have received the Biogrow full organic certification from our 2013 Vintage’s, and we recently won a Gold Medal for our Sauvignon Blanc 2016 at the New Zealand Organic Wine Awards. Being organic is a no-brainer for Odyssey Wines and isn’t something we see the need to brag about- it is a way of life for us. On a personal level, I buy organic whenever I can, and would rather consume as little chemical residue as possible. I expect an organic product to have good flavour and I love supporting companies who are forward thinking and active in this movement!
“We feel that by the managing the vineyards organically it will allow us to best express the terroir and at the same time give us the satisfaction that we are farming our land in ways that will be relativised for future generations but the site is perfect for producing top quality Pinot Noir”