Boutique Martinborough winery Vynfields is the toast of the prestigious Hong Kong Jockey Club – annual membership fee $400,000 – with its organic and biodynamic tipple.
Owners Kaye McAulay and John Bell believe their labour intensive and biodynamic (see below) process is central to the wine's distinctive flavour and high-end success. It’s a marriage of back-to-basics mentality with innovative and shrewd branding. What’s more, McAulay is certain that if other New Zealand producers moved beyond aiming for sustainability and toward organic and biodynamic production then New Zealand export earnings would rise.
“If New Zealand wanted to be smart economically – forget what your beliefs are – and made all the Kiwi wineries organic, we would make a fortune.
“We get such a premium for it and New Zealand has all these natural assets and talent at our disposal, “said McAulay.
At the annual Toast Martinborough wine festival, she looked out to the crowd and conceded that although the majority of the crowd passing through the marquee would relish Vynfields' award-winning wines, they would have no clue what biodynamics is and why it produces such quality plonk.
"The biodynamics is kind of like organic ‘plus’. You are making everything completely free of artificial chemicals. This makes strong, naturally immune vines with no chemical residue and you leave the land in a better state,” said McAulay, the former chief executive of BioGro.
Bell said the cultivation of quality wines begins with organic products and their winemaking follows on from this with hand plunging, gravity transfer and minimum pumping.
All of this is done in accordance with planetary alignment and moon phases, which affect the water content of the vines and grapes.
Sound crazy? McAulay said this is the point where they lose people. “They think it’s just the domain of loonies and kaftan wearing hippies – but it’s quite the opposite.”
Biodynamics is difficult to explain using traditional scientific frameworks and does require a fair bit of faith, she said, but the awards speak for themselves.
International awards, such as Vynfields’ taking the top honour at London’s international wine awards for its 2009 pinot noir, are used to promote the winery more so than their natural practices.
“We were raking in awards, international ones. So we pushed that before the biodynamics and organic labels on your wines.
“But now the top hotels and restaurants are into the biodynamics – it’s the next big thing.
She said top restaurants and bars appreciate that with biodynamic wine there is little to mask the flavours and the full expressions of the terrier and process.
“In blind, 'brown paper bag' taste tests, we come out on top. People say there is a vibrancy to our wines.”
McAulay hopes soon there will be more than just six wineries in New Zealand with the international Demeter biodynamic certification, an accreditation she said will set our exports apart more so than ‘sustainable’ tags.
“For me, I don’t think ‘sustainability’ certification goes far enough.
“Wine growers will have to expand beyond sustainable if they want to make the most of the world export markets.”