Organic Wines (May 2018)

Our “clean, green” image promotes New Zealand wine overseas, but only about six per cent of the country’s vineyard area is certified organic – not far ahead of the global average of 4.5 per cent.  The good news is that interest in organic wine production is snowballing and you can choose from a wide selection of organically certified wines.

The tasting attracted organic wines from most grape varieties, including Chambourcin, Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc.  Organic wines are flowing from every region, but Central Otago stands out, with over 16 per cent of its vineyard area enjoying organic status.

Organic Winegrowers New Zealand says its members “strive to co-operate with nature.”  BioGro and AsureQuality, the major certifying agencies, insist that no synthetic chemical fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides can be used in organic vineyards, and no synthetic chemical additives are allowed in organic wines.

Organic wine producers tend to be small or medium-sized, according to Organics Aotearoa, “driven by wine quality rather than quantity”.  Villa Maria is singled out as a “notable exception”.

Organic producers report growing interest from the wine trade and consumers. Certified organic in 2010, Urlar Estate, a small producer in the northern Wairarapa, took two years to find a distributor in the UK, “but our organic status is why they took us on.”

Do the wines taste better?  A recent trial – involving Mission in Hawke’s Bay, Wither Hills in Marlborough and Gibbston Valley in Central Otago – found no major chemical differences between each winery’s organic and conventional wines, and reached no consensus about which tasted best.