Winery - Sustainability
“All of our biodynamic effort is focused on the Marchand & Burch wines with some flowing into Howard Park wines. Some but not all of the source blocks are receiving what I describe as full biodynamic treatment (500 soil spray + 501 atmospheric spray, biodynamic compost, casuarina tea foliar sprays, no systemic fungicides, no herbicides, no synthetic fertilisers and all operations scheduled according to the astro calendar including carrying out harvest and winemaking operations on fruit days).”
Sustainability is at the very heart of our vineyard management.
While not certified, our viticulture is guided by the Australian Standard for Organic Agriculture, which incorporates biodynamics.
We have carefully chosen organic and biodynamic principles from Australia and overseas, to best cater for each individual vineyard block & their nuances, rather than becoming certified under one authorising body.
We are proud of our land and take every effort to go beyond expectations and industry standards in looking after it.
We own four vineyards in Western Australia: two in the Margaret River Region (Leston & Allingham) and two in the Great Southern Region (Mount Barrow & Abercrombie).
In viticulture we follow a ‘closed loop’ philosophy - of giving back to the earth that we take from.
Interview on Biodynamics with Chief Viticulturist, Dave Botting, 30/11/2011
Q1. A lot of organic producers I have been speaking to have said while they are big advocates of organic/ eco-friendly practices in the vineyard and winery, they stop short of being fully biodynamic and certified because it is often impractical and unworkable. Do you agree?
Howard Park has adopted both organic and biodynamic principles and practices in its vineyards and wineries. Its adoption of these practices is driven primarily by a determination to improve the sustainability of its viticulture and to optimise the expression of its vineyard sites, grape varieties and winemaking. While we have not yet sought certification we are equally determined to adopt these practices fully and without compromise. Not seeking certification is more about priorities than any concerns about the practicality or workability of any one of the several standards and certification schemes. Our focus right now is on improving soil health and biological function. Four years in we believe we are already achieving sustainable improvements in vine health and reducing or eliminating the need for inorganic chemical inputs.
Q2. What biodynamic principles do you adhere to/follow and what parts are too regulated/controlled for your liking?
We rely mainly on Pascal Marchand, our Joint Venture winemaking partner who has had close to 20 years of experience with biodynamics in Burgundy, and, to a lesser extent, Biodynamics Australia for advice on appropriate practices and timing. We make our own Preparation 500 and source other preparations including 501 from Biodynamics Australia. The biodynamic compost we apply to the vineyard annually is based on pre-composted grape marc, pressings and lees retained at our wineries which we layer with green material, straw and animal manures before inserting biodynamic compost preparations. The biodynamic preparations are energised using flowforms at each of our vineyards and are applied using dedicated spray equipment. We also augment our wettable sulphur based fungal disease management program with teas made from local plants such as casuarina. All operations including application of preparations and compost to the vineyard, harvesting and winemaking are done at optimal times according to the Antipdean Astro Calender.
We have not found any of the practices to be too regulated or controlled and with good planning we have, so far, not had to compromise on the timing of operations, especially hand harvesting of grapes at otherwise optimal maturity and flavour development.
Q3. Do consumers care whether wines are organic/ biodynamic and do you put it on the label? or is more about making better quality/ environmentally friendly wines?
While our primary focus is on making better quality and more environmentally friendly wines, we believe many of our consumers do care and want to know about our practices. At this stage we rely mainly on informing our interested consumers via our website and other electronic and print media rather than via a registered trade mark on our wine labels indicating certification against a particular standard.
Q4. What are the drawbacks/advantages of being organic and opposed to biodynamic?
Organic and biodynamic agriculture are fundamentally similar in terms of their focus on soil health and reducing or eliminating synthetic inputs. As such we don’t view them separately as having particular drawbacks or advantages. Although many of the claimed benefits of biodynamics are intangible and difficult to measure we intend to continue fully adopting the practices in our vineyards without out comprise and leave it up to our informed consumers to judge for themselves whether or not we are on the right track.