Marlborough to host second Organic and Biodynamic Winegrowing Conference

Organic viticulture consultant Bart Arnst among buckwheat and Phacelia planted between vines to attract insects. (File photo)

Organic grapegrowing is about being gentle to the land, something which resonates with consumers when they go to pick up a bottle of wine, a consultant says.

The growing interest in organic and biodynamic viticulture practices and winemaking techniques will be showcased at a conference held in Blenheim later this month.

Organised by Organic Winegrowers New Zealand, the Organic and Biodynamic Winegrowing Conference takes place over three days at the ASB Theatre from June 26.

Bart Arnst, an organic viticulture consultant and member of the conference organising committee, said the event was about providing information to make better wine.

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“We’re putting this conference on so people who are sitting on the fence about organics can come along and find out more,” Arnst said.

Row plantings help attract insects and bees to vines owned by the biodynamic and organic Marlborough producer, Seresin Estate. (File photo)

The conference featured talks on biosecurity, vineyard practices and an array of other topics delivered by a number of leading New Zealand and international experts.

Arnst said organic grapegrowing was on the rise in New Zealand as more people realised the benefits of ditching synthetic chemicals like insecticides and herbicides.

“It’s about treating the land in the gentlest manner possible, and you do that by eliminating the use of products that are going to create environmental issues,” he said.

Hand harvesting takes place at the biodynamic Churton vineyard, in Marlborough. (File photo)

Supplied photo from Organic Winegrowers New Zealand showing hand harvesting at the biodynamic Churton vineyard, in Marlborough.

“We don’t actually know what the long-term effect some of these chemicals that are being used are going to have on the environment.”

Arnst said certified organic grapegrowers had to conduct multi-residue tests on the soil in their vineyards, which they used to help balance out chemical composition.

“You tend to become a much more observant farmer, there’s no quick fix – you can’t just sit back and think, ‘I’ll spray this and it’ll go away’,” he said.

“You have to pick trends and adjust your management programme to what you’re seeing throughout the season.”

Biodynamic practices, which included working closely with the cycles of astral bodies to enhance potency, was like the salt and pepper on top of organics, Arnst said.

Growers followed the same practices as their organic-certified colleagues, however they also used special plant, animal and mineral preparations as well.

To get organic certification growers in New Zealand had to apply through bodies like BioGro and AssureQuality, which provided internationally recognised certification.

Arnst said getting the organic tick of approval also gave growers and winemakers a point of difference that resonated with consumers in search of environmentally-friendly options.

As of vintage 2015, 12 per cent of all New Zealand grapegrowers had a certified organic vineyard, and approximately 6 per cent of all vineyard land was certified organic.

More information on the Organic and Biodynamic Winegrowing conference is available at

 – The Marlborough Express

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