Biodynamic and Organic Wine: A Grower's Perspective

 Seaweed harvest

We caught up with Claire Allan from Huia Vineyards. When we asked what they'd been up to we got this picture of them harvesting seaweed for their compost, so naturally our interest was piqued. Claire and Mike Allan own the Marlborough based winery and have been making wine at Huia since 1996.  With a focus on organic and biodynamic vineyard management, Claire is well placed to discuss her experience of producing wine in a sustainable way. 

You and Mike had extensive experience at wineries before setting up Huia, did you see many Organic or Biodynamic practices during this time?

We started tasting wines from Organic and Biodynamic winemakers in 1990 and thought there was something interesting there. The maker that was most inspiring was LeFlaive. We tasted these wines in 1991 in Burgundy.  Here in NZ we saw a few vineyards that purported to be organic but were mixing conventional with organic practice. However, Leflaive were the real thing. They have invested in the whole ethos from the beginning. When we set Huia up there were very few organic and biodynamic leaders to look to, and the available information was very non-specific to the wine industry. Mike’s and my interest in the environmental health of the vineyard was not common as everyone wanted tidy vineyards as a priority. The most real NZ organic and biodynamic vineyard and winery that we watched over the years is Seresin Estate here in Marlborough.

Maintaining organic vineyards must present a different set of challenges than normal plots, what’s been the most unexpected challenge you’ve faced?

The main challenge is controlling the under vine weeds but that was not unexpected – just more difficult in a good growing year. The most unexpected challenge is maintaining the vineyard machinery as the incredibly stony soils cause so much wear and breakage.

Has your involvement in MANA [Marlborough Natural Winegrowers] changed much of your winemaking processes? How have you found working with other like-minded wineries?

Our involvement with MANA has not changed our winemaking at all. We continue with our own specific winemaking evolution.  Working with like minded wineries is very invigorating as we share information and innovative ideas. This does give greater confidence to trial projects such as no or low sulphur wines etc. In the vineyards all of MANA benefit from sharing labour when making the Biodynamic preparations. We have promotional activities where we all participate and host wine writers and trade which is effective and a whole lot of fun. We all enjoy each other’s company. Good wine, good food and good company!

What 3 reasons would you give to persuade a customer to try organic wine?

1) Certified Organic Wine is traceable with real transparency from vineyard through all the winemaking processes through to the bottle.

2) The ingredients of the wine have complete quality integrity and this is usually displayed by a purity of flavour in the wine.  

3) The organic wine should taste as good if not better than a non organic wine. 

Which has been the most rewarding wine that you’ve made?

The most rewarding wine we have made where we are seeing more density with floral and fruit flavours develop every year is the Huia Sauvignon Blanc.

If you’d like to increase your range of Organic and Biodynamic wines, speak to your Account Manager or get in touch.


10th December 2013

Company No. 2550982 | 109a Regents Park Road London NW1 8UR | Call: 0845 263 6924 | AWRS Number: XVAW00000101595

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