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Harris Organic Wines, Australia – Deborah and Duncan Harris

July 6, 2012

Over the years, we have found that using ecologic methods to grow and produce wine not only rewards us for our efforts with great vineyard results, but also makes beautiful, full-bodied and flavoursome wine. We do not use pesticides or herbicides in the vineyard.  The main threat in the Swan Valley district is mildew – which we manage by using Bordeaux mixture prior to fruit set and then leaf-thinning around the fruit.  We plough ‘weeds’ and nitrogenous species in, using a strip-digger between the vines. We became certified organic with Australian Certified Organic in 2006, mainly due to consumer demand – many customers were attracted to our wines because we used little or no sulphur as a preserving agent.

We established the vineyard in 1998 using principles of permaculture because it is the most sensible method of any agricultural venture from the point of view of sustainability – ecologic and therefore economic.   One main determination was to have a dry grown vineyard – for reaons of maximizing the quality of the fruit as well for reasons of sustainability and independence from bore watering. A dry-grown vineyard means careful management of the vines in their first summer or two with infrequent deep watering – thereafter the vines are on their own as far as water sourcing is concerned.

We had low winter rains a couple of years ago and so that vintage was in fact enduring drought conditions.  Some vines were stressed. We gave the stressed vines water and culled all the fruit from them.  Additionally, an area in the vineyard became attacked by garden weevils.  We reseached the life cycle of this pest and placed ‘collars’ around affected vines to trap the weevils. The garden weevils were unable to breed and disappeared.

Our most recent “water challenge” was very heavy midsummer rain.  This was a disaster for most other vineyards in the district because of mildew.  We were very worried as we cannot use sulphur sprays etc. to combat mildew.  However, to our great delight we found that our vineyard was relatively unaffected by the mildew.  We believe this was due to 2 reasons: firstly, our vineyard is extremely healthy and therefore resilient.  Secondly, we believe that the fact that we do not irrigate meant that our soil was much more absorbent and so did not become waterlogged.

We do everything by hand; from the pruning of the vines to, most importantly, the picking of the fruit in late summer; this means there are no machine battered vines or wines at Harris Organic Wines – you could say that we are happy producers of “free range” wines.

Crookshanks the Cat

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Shep the Dog

website: www.harrisorganicwine.com

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