Certification & The Future

Organic and biodynamic certification has become a hot topic amongst our Australian winemakers. The question is “do you prac-tice what you preach?’” if your vineyard is organic or biodynamic why not seek certifica-tion and why the move for so many already practicing winemakers is just not so easy.

Tellurian from Heathcote Victoria has recently gained certification and is now one of the only wineries in its region to be fully certified. Heathcote now boasts 50+ vine-yards, whilst most practise organic farming the majority are not certified. We caught up with Daniel Hopkins of Tellurian Wines to see if Certification is the way of the future.

As organic wine is on the rise for Australian wine buyers, and the popularity of seeking out “a wine that is made from grapes that have been grown without the use of artificial or synthetic chemicals…” becomes a ques-tion heard more and more by bars and retail-ers, is it time that certification may be the way of the future?

There are two prominent organic certifying bodies in Australia that most winegrowers will use to prove that their wine is organic. These are Australian Certified Organic
(ACO) and the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia (NASAA). However the process that is involed to gain certification can be a long winded and expensive practice, something that many smaller, independent producers may not be finacially viable.

When did you first start growing grapes for Telluiran?

Dad planted our first block in 2002, and thought Shiraz is the obvious place to start given it is Heath-cote’s best performed variety. We planted more shiraz in 2003, and again in 2006, with the first of our alternate varieties planted in 2011 - Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier, Marsanne, Nero D’Avola and a bit of Riesling.

How many of these years have you practised organic viticulture?

We ran the vineyard with low chemical inputs from the outset, but it wasn’t until we planted our high density block in 2014 that we decided to start farming organically. We realised it wasn’t a huge leap to make.

Do you see Organic Certification as a somewhat necessity for our future winemakers/wineries?

There have been many growers practicing organic farming without seeking certification, because they believe it’s the best way to farm the vineyard. Certification isn’t the most important part of the process, but we are now strong believers that organic farming produces great results, and there’s no doubt organic farming is best for the long term health of the vineyard.

What was the main shift for you to obtain certification?

The main shift was the move to an under-vine cultivator to manage the weeds. Initially this was a painfully slow process as the equipment on our tractor limited speeds to walking pace. We don’t have a big vineyard, but for one driver, one tractor it took months to cultivate the entire vineyard. Once we upgraded the under-vine cultivator we could run the tractor at faster speeds and still get a great result more efficiently.

Do you feel the consumer is now sourcing Organic wine because of lifestyle and health decisions?

There have always been consumers inter-ested in organically produced food and wine, but the awareness of organics appears to have increased in recent times. We hope consumers enjoy our wine because of the quality, style and reflection of our vineyard. We farm organically because we believe it will produce the best results now, and into the future for the next generations. The fact that consumers are becoming more aware of the benefits of organic farming is great, but it’s not the reason we’ve made the change. We aim to make great wine first and foremost, the fact that it’s grown organ-ically is a bonus.

Have you noticed any varietals that really strive due to your organic approach?

The varieties we produce all seem to grow well organically. The benefit appears to be consistent across all varieties.

Would you consider yourself a Low-fi or natural producer?

There’s probably a stereotypical image of producers that I’d associate with Low-Fi or Natural tags and I don’t think we fit that image, but we do actively try to minimise the winemaking influence and allow the fruit to reflect our site, region and the varietal characteristics.

With Heathcote now having a vast number of wineries do you know how many of these are certified organic?

There’s about 60 vineyards, only about 20 wineries, and a few are organic, such as Jasper Hill, but as far as I know we’re the only ones certified.


Tellurian Tranter Shiraz 

Heathcote, VIC

90% de-stemmed and 10% fermented as whole bunches, with batches fermented separately in open top stainless steel, concrete and 5 year-old 5000L French Oak fermenters. Batches remained on skins for 14 to 64 days. Matured for 16 months prior to blending, in a combination of French oak puncheons, demi muids and barriques, and a small portion in older American oak barriques. Medium to full-bodied shiraz showcases Heathcote’s trademark minerality, depth of flavor and intensity. Certified Organic.