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Sustainability Proves Winning Path for Bald Hills

Sustainability Proves a Winning Path for Bald Hills

A Central Otago vineyard has claimed the inaugural International Wine Challenge Planet Earth Sustainability Trophy and five other trophies at key international wine competitions.

BANNOCKBURN, New Zealand 2nd October, 2007– Bald Hills Vineyard from Central Otago has captured global acclaim in the world’s largest and most prestigious wine competition for not just their wine but also their viticultural practices by taking out the inaugural International Wine Challenge (IWC) Planet Earth Sustainability Trophy for their Bald Hills Pinot Noir 2005.

Earlier the IWC had bestowed a regional trophy for the Bald Hills Pinot Noir 2005 as well as the International Pinot Noir Trophy then at the September award ceremony in London, their wine went on to win the ultimate accolade - 2007 Champion Red Wine. In the week prior, Bald Hills Pinot Noir 2005 also claimed the Regional and International Pinot Noir Over £10 Trophy at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2007. . “With well over 9,000 wines entered into the IWC blind wine tasting, it’s very humbling for a small Central Otago producer like us to win 4 trophies at these awards including the Planet Earth award for sustainability” said Dr. Blair Hunt, co-owner of Bald Hills with his wife Estelle. “It’s a great testament for the many rewards that can come with careful stewardship of the vineyard and for that we owe a great deal to our viticulturalist Grant Rolston who has led us down this sustainable path.”

The trophies which make up the IWC Planet Earth awards, Champion Sustainable, Champion Organic and Champion Biodynamic, have been introduced to reflect an important trend in consumer demand, as well as rewarding those who not only excel but also put the planet at the heart of their wine making activity. Judges of the Planet Earth awards acknowledged that New Zealand is recognised to be leading the way with sustainable wine growing and protecting the environmental integrity of its wine production and commented that it came as no surprise to the IWC Co-Chairmen that the Bald Hills Pinot Noir 2005 was to be the recipient of the Champion Sustainable Trophy.

All of this coincides with a strengthened focus on sustainability locally with New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan believing that sustainability is New Zealand’s passport to trade and therefore critical to the New Zealand wine industry.

At the recent Romeo Bragato Conference 2007 which placed sustainability as the focus of the conference, Gregan said “We have confirmed our commitment to a responsible future with our sustainability policy, whereby we aim to have 100 per cent of the industry operating under independently audited sustainability schemes by 2012”.

Sustainable winegrowing first came into focus in New Zealand in 1994 when Winegrowers of New Zealand commissioned a review of international sustainable viticulture schemes. It started with a three-year trial project known as Integrated Winegrape Production (IWP) in 1995. This was really the beginning of the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand Programme (SWNZ) as we know it now.

Currently there are three main environmental management systems operating in New Zealand, SWNZ, ISO 14001 and Bio Gro but as Dr. David Jordan explains the benefit of the SWNZ system is that it was based on a Swiss scheme but developed for New Zealand with a “bottom up approach” extensively involving grower and winemaker input and therefore very practical to implement and certainly the most New Zealand-focussed system.

“The SWNZ has gained incredible profile due to the high level of uptake and the many committed industry members conveying the message of sustainability” said Jordan, who authored the original industry commissioned review in 1994 and then managed its review and implementation during the three year trial period and was also active in the working party on sustainability for many years.

“With Bald Hills Vineyard receiving global recognition with the IWC Sustainability Trophy, I think you could say that the program has now really come of age”.

Bald Hills Vineyard elected early on in its productive life to travel a sustainable path, explains viticulturalist Grant Rolston. Entering into the SWNZ program during 2002 and then becoming an accredited vineyard in 2004, the vineyard practices were established in accordance with the program but are under constant review and refinement. An inter-row cultivation and cover crop program was introduced three years ago, growing bulk green crop and turning this back into the soil which has enabled improved organic matter, water withholding capacity and general soil structure. All of this allows the vines to tap into previously locked-up nutrients.

Another element in Rolston’s vineyard practices is a biological control for the main insect pest, the light brown apple moth caterpillar. Planting the flowering species of buckwheat, phacelia and mustard provides host material for parasitic wasps that prey on the caterpillars as well as attracting a myriad of other insects beneficial to the vineyard. All fertiliser additions are kept to a minimum with a “return only what we have removed” approach being adopted.

“We have taken other steps on the Bald Hills vineyard with the planting of shelter and amenity trees as well as a productive olive grove and we will be planting more trees to further reduce our carbon footprint” explains Rolston.

“Over the years we have noticed a steady improvement in our soil structure, general vine health and balance. We feel that our vines are happy in their environment and are now rewarding us with pristine fruit that, with minimal intervention, wins the ultimate distinction of International Wine Challenge Champion Red and Champion Sustainable.”


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