Organic wine, like organic food, is produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and artificial fertilizers on the farm, and without wine additives which are residual in the end product, with the exception of careful use of sulphur dioxide to prevent spoilage & premature oxidation.
Using organic farming methods in the growing of grape vines enables;
- Farming to be sustainable through optimisation of organic material (humus) in soils
- Vines sustained by sustained natural fertility of the soil and enhanced biological health in
soils, rather than by using synthetic soluble fertilisers
- Wines produced with flavours that better represent where they are grown
- Reduced necessity for irrigation - humus in soils enhances water retention
- Elimination of harmful farm chemical impacts on the surrounding environment
- Elimination of potential wine toxins for wine consumers, and
- Promoters of good bugs in the vineyard ecosystem which naturally defend the plant against
insects and disease
» ORGANIC/BIODYNAMIC CERTIFICATION : WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?
The National Standard for Organic and Bio-dynamic Produce
is a programme managed by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) which is regularly reviewed and amended according to submissions to include or exclude certain farming inputs. The national standard sets out the allowable inputs for production, processing and labeling of organic produce. Any farmer or processor who wants to export produce that is labeled organic or biodynamic must demonstrate compliance with the current Standard each year.
Biodynamic is simply a form of organic farming. The concept originated with the 19th Century Austrian philosopher, Rudolph Steiner
. He was interested in the interdependence of all of nature including the effect of the lunar cycle on nature. He also understood the essential nature of biologically active soils. He coined the term “biodynamic” to encapsulate the healthy natural farming environment and encouraged the development of farming techniques to optimize natural systems and used a lunar calendar as a reference for timing of critical activities.
A farm needs first to certify organic, and then if biodynamic principles are added to the farming program, then the term biodynamic can apply. In our Orange vineyards we have added biodynamic practices in recent years. Tamburlaine Hunter and Orange vineyards were all first certified organic under Australian standards through annual independent audits by the Biological Farmers Federation of Australia (BFA). It takes three consecutive years of audits for the vineyards to be certified as ‘A-grade certified’ organic. In the second and third years the vineyards are certified as ‘in conversion’ prior to full certification. Biodynamic practices are now being utilized by us in both regions. Tamburlaine winery is also certified as a “processor”, which simply indicates that we have a series of winemaking protocols which complies with the Australian Organic Standard and where wines are made at any time outside this regime, we have systems which ensure no contamination between batches. All contractors used in vineyard work and in the bottling of end product need to be compliant with the standards as well.
Today, more than ever before, it is commercially attractive to use “green”, “eco” or “sustainable” claims on products. Organic certification is the only protection for consumers and producers, as is stops non organic producers from falsely marketing themselves as organic.
» SUSTAINABLE FARMING ELEMENTS
In agriculture, weeds have often been identified as the enemy. Although they use water and nutrients, they can be managed in organic farming by mulching, mowing, mechanical weeding, and by naturally occurring growth suppressants which are not harmful or residual. Mid vine row grass/plant cover replenishes soil humus naturally, insulates soil and reduces evaporation, provides food for microbes and maintains soil aeration through grass root penetration. Organic farming discourages clean cultivation of soils and accepts the benefits of naturally occurring ground covers.
Continuous use of various herbicide chemicals to kill weeds results in:
- Reduction of soil biology responsible for mineral breakdown and nutrients available to vines
- Resultant reduced organic matter in soil, soil water retention, soil permeability, soil oxygen
availability and natural soil nutrient replenishment cycle
- Reduction of soil biology active in defending the plants & fruit against disease.
In the vineyard the main pests are: light-brown apple moths, mites, aphids and caterpillars. Non-organic farmers use pesticides to remove these problems, but as pesticides are non–discriminatory, they also kill natural and harmless predators. The fewer predators the more potential for chronic pest attacks.
New pesticides are frequently being developed for non-organic farmers as nature builds up resistance to chemicals and/or as they are found to be harmful to farmers and consumers.
Pesticides are agricultural poisons that international health authorities allow to be residual in foods below threshold levels. They are however unnatural components which through consumption accumulate in the human metabolism. While excess consumption of any one chemical is clearly detrimental to human health, scientific testing for human consumption is carried out for each new pesticide introduced on laboratory animals before being licensed.
The effects of multiple pesticide residuals together in foods have not been, and possibly cannot be, properly assessed for human safety.
The organic approach to pest management is:
i. Ignore low incidence.
ii. Physically remove.
iii. Use hormonal lures to attract away.
iv. Introduce predators and/or specific biological control sprays.
v. Use tested and approved non-residual biodegradable effective inputs.
vi. Optimise naturally occurring population of predators.
Managing Mildew and Fungal Problems
Powdery mildew, downy mildew, and botrytis cinerea (Noble Rot, along with other less ‘Noble’ versions) commonly occur in vineyards, exacerbated by wet years.
The organic approach to managing mildew and fungal problems is:
i. Reduce shaded areas.
ii. Maximise air movement in the vineyard.
iii. Reduce leaves and bunches. Crop thin as required.
iv. Organise spray schedule based on weather conditions rather than a calendar-based spray schedule.
v. Include use of traditional sulphur and copper prophylactic sprays.
vi. Stimulate existence of positive fungi and bacteria on vines.
Nothing beats healthy soil as a living medium for sustainable plant health - and while plants need a balance of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in the soil (macronutrients), all naturally occurring elements in soils contribute to healthy soil. Rock phosphate can be used on organic farms to supplement naturally available phosphorous. Lime and dolomite are naturally occurring calcium sources. Phosphorous and calcium are key to the health of soil microbes. Maximising soil humus is the key to a sustainable nutrient supply in vineyards, and composts provide nutrients from natural sources as the plant needs them.
i) Chemical Fertilisers
Synthetic chemical fertilisers are highly soluble and release nutrients rapidly. It is difficult accurately assess how much of each nutrient is naturally available to vine requirements in any particular season. The result is that non-organic farmers who use these may well be over-dosing.
Excess fertilisers in soils result in leaching of fertilisers into creeks, rivers, dams and water reservoirs, resulting in environmental pollution. The manufacture of chemical fertilisers of their subsequent breakdown are major international contributors to greenhouse gas production.
Agriculture is in fact, the largest contributor of N?O(nitrous oxide), one of the pernicious greenhouse gases.
ii) Organic Fertiliser Approach
The organic approach is to build up the nutrient levels in the soil using organic material, rather than adding supplements directly to the vines. In the process of building healthy soils production can be released.
Organic fertilisers include seaweed, nettle, worm teas, organic nitrogen, organic acids, phosphate rock, and composted recycled organic waste, and lime /dolomite.
Worm tea and composts are produced as part of our ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM, see below). Ground cover crops such as clover, rye and other companion species between the rows to add to the organic content and to add nitrogen. Grazing animals can be used as vineyard managers and recyclers after the fruit is harvested until the next spring.
» ORGANIC WINE MAKING APPROACH
In the winery it is relatively easy to turn our organic fruit into organic wine. Yeast ferments are helped by the absence of agrichemical sprays. More and more, so called ‘wild’ yeast ferments are being used for our wines as vineyard organic management enhances healthy populations of naturally occurring yeast on grapes skins.
Natural fining agents like milk, fish and egg are allowed in organic wine production, and bentonite clay and potassium bi-tartrate are used to stabilise white wine.
Maintaining critical sulphur dioxide levels is important in managing potential oxidation and microbiological spoilage in the winery and in the bottle. We use sulphur dioxide in this way as one “preservative”. Alcohol, pH management, grape phenols, tannins also assist in wine preservation. Some sulphur dioxide is naturally produced in fermentation and exists to some extent in all wines, even if not added. Use of sulphur dioxide is allowed in Australian organic wine products, but is kept to a minimum. NB – all quality red wines – organic or non-organic – have low sulphur levels.
Where producers choose NOT to add sulphur it is generally stated on the label. These wines may have some benefits for some consumers but will deteriorate more rapidly than those with added sulphur.
Different countries take different views on levels of residual sulphur in wines. Most organic producers agree that minimal use is desirable for high quality wines with cellaring potential and will, in conjunction with an excellent bottle seal and good cellaring conditions, best preserve the desired fruit properties of wine.
» ORGANIC WINE MYTHS
MYTH – All wine is organic / naturally grown.
Non-organic producers have commonly promoted the idea all wines are made ‘naturally’, conveniently overlooking the pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and residual fertilisers used in modern non-organic vineyards.
MYTH – Organic wine is more expensive.
Good organic management systems in the vineyard mean that organic wines cost no more to produce. Retail wine costs have more to do with scale of winery production and yields on specific vineyard sites.
MYTH – Organic wine doesn’t have sulphur preservative.
See ORGANIC WINE MAKING APPROACH.
MYTH – Organic wines do not age.
Organic wines containing sulphur dioxide allow wines to age as per non-organic wines. Wine ageing is dependent upon sulphur dioxide level, tannin, alcohol, and acidity.
MYTH – Organic means no spraying.
See MANAGING MILDEW AND FUNGAL PROBLEMS.
MYTH – Organic wines means letting nature take its course.
Organic vineyards and organic winemaking require sound scientific and technical knowledge, careful management and hard work. See SUSTAINABLE FARMING and ORGANIC WINE MAKING APPROACH.
MYTH – Eco-friendly is the same as organic certification.
See WHAT IS ORGANIC CERTIFICATION AND WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?
MYTH – Organic farms cannot exist next to non-organic ones.
Organic farms can exist next to non-organic farms and retain their status. Chemical drift from other farms is a potential problem. A buffer zone is required from neighboring non-organic farms. Organically certified farm soils and plant tissue are tested for residual chemicals as part of the audit process. At Tamburlaine we recycle our winery waste water. Any soluble nutrient from upstream users is mitigated by reed bed absorption before irrigation water is used on the vineyard.
MYTH - Organic wines are inferior in quality to non-organic wines.
Tamburlaine is rated 5 stars by James Halliday, one of Australia’s leading wine authorities. We have also won many awards for our wines (see AWARDS
), as have other organic wineries. Many iconic world wines come from organic vineyards, but in some cases not promoted as such on the labels. Many producers around the world are now trialing and converting to organic management systems.
» TAMBURLAINE ENVIRONMENT MANAGEMENT
In 2003 Tamburlaine adopted a formal Environment Management System (EMS). This working document underpins our business systems and decision-making, and includes:
- Sustainable farming
- Water management
- Solid waste management
- Energy efficiency
- Environmental purchasing
Pokolbin and Orange Vineyards
The Pokolbin vineyard has been planted since 1966. Sustainable viticulture practices were introduced after 1999 with a full organic program commencing in 2003. The Orange property was progressively planted from 1997 until 2001 and began organic trials in 2003. The whole 100ha vineyard moved into organic conversion in 2006 and biodynamic practices were trialed until 2008 and are now used across the entire vineyard.
The overall goal is to farm sustainability on our Pokolbin and Orange vineyards by farming under the Australian Organic Standard and gain certification under the Standard annually.
Tamburlaine recycles waste water. Roof water is collected and re-used. Winery drains are screened for larger solids and then filtered again to 2 mm as it flows downhill away from the winery. The filtered flow is then pumped to an aerobic treatment dam where bacteria break down finer solids and nutrient loads resulting in minimal odour. Daily the treatment dam water is settled and pumped to further storage dams on the farm for re-use after tertiary filtration as irrigation water or on winery floors. For winery use the water is re-filtered and circulated through an ozone generator to sterilise it (measured as > 700mV Redox). For vineyard use the water is sand and membrane filtered.
Solid Waste Management
||Finished Recycled water
Organic waste streams from the winery and other parts of the business are composted resulting in a reduction of waste to landfill. During the process manures and green wastes are added to form stabilized compost for re-use on farm.
A 5 metre high Vertical Composter Unit (VCU) is fed with grape waste marc, wood chip, shredded paper, manure, leaf litter mass and wine solids. The mixture spontaneously heats to over 50 degrees Celsius through bacterial activity. The resultant semi- decomposed, but non-odorous mulch is used back on the farm. Paddock windrows are used to break excess organic waste streams as required.
Worms play a role in our solid waste recycling program. They are primarily active in our “continuous worm beds” which are protected from extremes of temperature. The leachate is reticulated, keeping the composting worms and matter, moist. The biologically active liquid (“worm tea”) is periodically drained off as a biological stimulant on soils and leaves.
Tamburlaine also recycles other paper, cardboard, glass, waste and minimises paper use in the business wherever possible.
Energy Efficiency Management
The greatest energy use is wine businesses is for cooling, heating and lighting. Energy efficiency strategies to date are:
- Energy efficient lighting
- Building insulation and ventilation
- Switching off lights, computers and all equipment whenever not in use
- Power Factor control technology
- Predictive and preventative maintenance schedules for equipment
- Adoption of energy saving technologies like off peak equipment operation.
- Solar lighting where possible.
- Wind & solar power generation
- Energy efficient design when refurbishing buildings.
- Choice of energy efficient equipment upgrades.
- Retrofit energy saving devices to equipment
- Carbon footprint analysis and assess carbon offset strategies
1. Ensuring that customers, contractors and suppliers are aware of environmental policies
2. Tours for schools, the public and other groups.
1. Where possible purchasing recyclable packaging materials. Tamburlaine was a founding member of the National Packaging Covenant to evidence continual improvement in recycled packaging.
2. Avoid environmentally damaging materials.
3. Where possible use office equipment that can use or is derived from recyclable materials
4. Cleaning products which are biodegradable
» SUSTAINABLE ADVANTAGE PROGRAM
Tamburlaine is a partner of the New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change Sustainable Advantage
program. The aim is to:
- Gain independent certification for our EMS
- Better manage environmental risk
- Use resources more efficiently
- Better integrate environmental strategies and business planning
- Measure our carbon footprint
- Tamburlaine winery fridge plant re-engineered -
Annual Savings ; 148 MWh, $100,000 & 450 tonnes cO2
- Tamburlaine vehicles / equipment operating on Bio-Fuel –
Annual Savings ; 10 tonnes of cO2
- Tamburlaine nitrogen generator re-engineered saving 75% of annual cost and 65% cO2 reductions
- Tamburlaine vineyard irrigation pump running on “Off Peak” giving a 30% cost reduction
- Tamburlaine water treatment aerators replaced –
Annual savings ; 90 % cost and cO2 reduction
» ENVIRONMENTAL UPDATE/NEWS