NZ: Winegrowers aim for organic

New Zealand: An organic wine group has set a goal for 20% of New Zealand vineyards to be organic by 2020.

Organic Winegrowers New Zealand (OWNZ) is a 140-member national association.

Chairman James Milton said: “By 2020, even if we only achieve 20% of the vinelands in our country as being certified organic and biodynamic, it will be a giant step towards enforcing our very precious environmental image to wine connoisseurs all over the world.

“Organic winegrowing encompasses the goals of social, environmental and financial sustainability for our nation.”

New Zealand Winegrowers CEO Philip Gregan added: "We see the expansion of organics over the next decade as an important component of the industry's commitment to sustainability and are confident it will strongly support our brand positioning in global markets.”

The amount of NZ vineyard land under organic certification has tripled in the past three years.

Nationwide, nearly 1500 hectares of vines on 115 vineyards are now managed organically – representing 4.5% of all vineyard land.

In 2010 OWNZ and New Zealand Winegrowers signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote organic production together, through education, research, and marketing initiatives, with funding from wine industry levies.

This season, Mission Estate became an “Organic Focus Vineyard” in a three-year research and education project. The project, funded by NZ Winegrowers and run by OWNZ, is comparing the merits of organic and conventional vineyards growing side by side. Growers can watch the trial unfold in real time, through field days and through a website at

So far, both the conventional and organic blocks are progressing in good health – and the organic block has actually been slightly cheaper to operate. 

At the recent New Zealand trade tasting in London, Pernod Ricard’s Brancott chief winemaker Patrick Materman told Drinks International: “We are currently converting 60ha to organic – it’s a three year transition period.

“We will look to ramp up the number from 60ha.”

Varietals planted in the organic section include Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.

Pernod Ricard currently produces a range called Brancott Estate Living Land, sold only in New Zealand.

“Living Land tells the story of sustainability,” added Materman.

When asked if he thought the brand might make it to the UK, he said: “We wouldn’t rule it out.”