Viticulture and Sustainability

Rachel Lilburn - Wednesday, April 22, 2015
We talk with our viticulturist, Jon PEET, on how he manages the vineyards in order to produce exceptional grapes in a sustainable manner.

What makes your Vineyards and Winery different from others?

The over-riding philosophy at Elephant Hill is about quality. At the same time our purpose is to sustain an environmentally sound vineyard and winery based on integrity and a passion in what we do.

Elephant Hill is owned by the Weiss family, their vision is to create the total wine experience through exceptional viticulture and winemaking. That quality is also underpinned by true sustainability, the wines reflect this in that they are true to where they are from and true in the way they are grown and made.

Sustainability is important for you, why is this?

At Elephant Hill we have a strong drive and belief in sustainability and the preservation of the land for future generations. All our vineyards are 100% accredited by the Sustainable Winegrowers of New Zealand (SWNZ).

Our fervent desire is to steward the land in a manner that leaves it in a better place for future generations to enjoy and as such we tread as lightly as possible on the earth. We promote sustainable management of natural and physical resources; land, air & water and we believe in a balanced & integrated approach. We maintain and add value to the environment while at the same time ensuring our business is sustainable & remains part of the local community in the future. We believe environmental sustainability is part of business sustainability. We produce distinctive, premium quality wines that reflect the unique terroir of our 3 vineyards. To do this we must sustainably manage the sites to allow them to produce terroir driven wines.

How do you go about ensuring this?

Biodiversity- We strongly promote soil and vine health, both require a diverse vineyard ecology and use of natural predators to fight disease, e.g. Parasitic wasps for leaf roller caterpillar and ladybirds plus spiders to control mealy bug.

Energy - We reduce tractor passes to a minimum and only mow when necessary to promote inter-row flowering. We hand harvest our grapes and reduce vine vigour which means less canopy, less trimming and plucking and low crop loadings.

Chemicals - We use natural products to promote soil and vine health eg. Foliar sprays that elicit plant defence mechanisms and mycorrizhal soil stimulants to improve vine uptake. We promote natural habitats for predatory insects and use specific chemicals to target pests rather than whole scale approach to eradicate. We regularly use a local by-product with extensive use of composted products on low organic matter soils. Soil conditioning sustains long term soil health and improves water use efficiency

People - With our extensive use of hand labour we employ locally accredited contractors and ensure staff are employed to national standards and practices. Our vineyards are a part of local community, providing a source of employment.

Air - We minimise use of fungicide sprays through extensive canopy management and only apply products when disease models show high risk. When we do apply it is with natural products to enhance the vines self-defence systems.

Water - We have a biological LYVE Winery waste water system allowing the recycling of winery waste water back into valuable clean water used to irrigate our head lands. This uses naturally occurring bacteria to breakdown the compounds and give us clean usable water. Solids separated from the water are returned to the system to replenish the bacterial population and used for compost. In the vineyards we precisely measure soil water for the appropriate use of irrigation so the vine gets only what it needs. This reduces the wastage of valuable resource for long term sustainability and aids in soil management and reduces vigorous growth and negative effects on wine quality.


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