Feature

It's grape to go organic

Green Lifestyle

One of Australia's most respected winemakers now has a certified organic range – Angove Family Vineyards are now the biggest producers of organic wine in the country.

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The Angove Family Winemakers vineyard in McLaren Vale – which also hosts their Cellar Door – is now Australian Certified Organic.

Credit: Caitlin Howlett

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With over 120 years of experience in wine production, this fifth generation family business is now Australia’s largest producer of organic wine with a total of 172 acres of organic vineyards in both the Riverland and McLaren Vale regions.

“We’ve taken a staged approach to certification,” Victoria Angove, co-manager of Angove Family Winemakers, says. “About one-third of all our vineyards are certified, and our goal is that in 10 years we will have certification across the whole property.”

Angove’s organic vineyards have been certified by Australia, the USA and China via a rigorous three-year process.

Last year, their sustainability initiatives and move to a certified-organic range resulted in a Highly Commended Green Lifestyle Award for Best Winery.

Their success is partly due to the warm, dry South Australian climate, which lends itself to the organic process by reducing mould problems and the need for sprays.

While the company’s farming methods preclude the use of chemical fertilisers, herbisides and pesticides with natural fungisides based on copper and sulphur, Ms Angove says the biggest challenge in organic viticulture is weed management.

However, by working with the land in the right way, weeds and natural grasses are incorporated into the company’s holistic approach.

“We encourage some undergrowth and see it as an indication of a healthy environment for natural fungi and bacteria, giving the vineyard its biodiversity and health,” Ms Angove says.

By going back to nature, Angove’s use of minimum intervention produces outstanding fruit and vines that are more resilient to drought and heat stress than conventionally run vineyards.

As advocates for other grape growers in the region who are converting to organic, the company is also dedicated to efficient irrigation practices with the change from overhead irrigation sprinkler systems to drip irrigation, and the use of soil moisture probes to provide accurate data as to the areas where water is needed most.

“We are also proactive in minimising our energy usage at the winery, so we have invested in the right insulation levels, and although we aren’t powered by solar yet, it’s something we are always discussing,” Ms Angove says.

“Sustainability across all areas is really important for the longer term health of our family business and bit by bit we will gently keep urging it forwards.”