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Moorilla, Tasmania – David Walsh (owner) and Conor van der Reest (winemaker)

April 27, 2012

Conor van der Reest

From Conor:

Our new winery focuses on a much smaller and much higher quality output. We use estate fruit that is grown in a sustainable manner, with organic and bio-dynamic techniques.

Our decision to change from the previous vineyard-winery management system was based on a number of factors.  Upon my arrival five years ago, I found that my vineyard manager, who had also only recently joined the company, was keen to learn more about our soil and property in order to remodel the old management plan.  We both recognized and knew that our property had been heavily degraded over many decades of conventional farming.  Investigation soon showed that we had nearly completely lost or degraded our organic layer and due to our extremely shallow soils. Past management were relying more and more on irrigation and inorganic fertilizers in order to keep the vineyard producing.  We were both very keen to move away from the conventional practices, which if they had not caused or contributed to the seriousness of our problem had certainly not helped improve it.  Hence, we made the decision to move towards a sustainable management model.  We did not make the decision with the intent to use it as marketing tool, rather it was the obvious prospect that if nothing was done to improve the property, our soils would be degraded beyond hope of regeneration.

We have been making our own composts and mulches for the past 5 years.  This has been the primary focus of our plan; to get as much organic matter back into the vineyard in order to increase our bulk density and decrease our reliance on irrigation.  A switch from conventional fungicides has been very positive and we continue to see low disease pressure.  We’re currently investigating a number of options to control weeds in a few difficult areas of the vineyard due to some odd trellis conditions.  Cover cropping and beneficial insect reserves are works in progress.

Our site, while originally rural, is now surrounded by houses.  It is working so close to this urban environment that has probably been our most difficult obstacle.  We have worked for the last few years in order to develop our organic and biodynamic methods in order to gain the most advantage from them without causing any disruption to our neighbors.  I suppose the other impediment is a work in progress: rabbits.

We are currently in the middle of a long and continuing battle with rabbits.  As many know, Australia is plagued by these introduced pests, Tasmania is no different.  Land degradation through burrowing, digging and foraging here is a huge problem.  Their effect on the vines is more manageable, however their largest impact has been on destroying most of the cover crops we sow and the beneficial insect harboring before they are able to do their job.  Once we cope with our rabbit population, our cover crops will be able to grow over winter to allow us to bring grazing animals in the spring, giving us the chance to complete our desired cycle.

So, overall, we are happy with our work in the vineyard.  It has been a steep learning curve but results are improving every year.  I think when we see that the vineyard is healthier, the wines are fermenting better and the work gets easier as we get more practice it’s funny to look back and wonder why it wasn’t done in the first place.  We know that we have a lot of work ahead of us. It’s a long term commitment that we are fully prepared to undertake.

website: www.moorilla.com.au

 

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