"Sustainability" has become something of an overused term in recent times, but in relation to our property, and our viticulture it still has real meaning.
It is our philosophy that all land managers have a custodial obligation to the land, which includes managing the use of the land to ensure that no damage is done, and that as far as possible earlier damage caused by unsustainable practices is repaired, and that current practices are such that they can be continued well into the future, without ecological damage or loss of biodiversity .
In our case, working on land that is generally steep, and has naturally low fertility soils, with a history of relatively intensive sheep and cattle grazing, we have chosen to use only those parts we deem as suitable for "productive" use, and allow the remainder to naturally and slowly revert to something like its pre-European state.
Grazing pressure on the cleared land has been substantially reduced during our tenure, and this has resulted in a rebounding of both native vegetation, and native mammal populations especially the kangaroos, wallabies and wombats. Birdlife has also blossomed over that period.
In managing the vineyard operation, the key has been "minimal intervention", so you will see no ploughed land between the vine rows, only a ragged natural sward kept in check by grazing kangaroos and occasional mowing which helps to mulch the vines. The vineyard is not "manicured", instead a multitude of different plants are encouraged to grow, leading to a diverse plant and insect life attracting a huge variety of birds and other predators.
Growing and harvesting wine grapes does not remove anything very much from the soil chemistry, as the ripe grapes are primarily water and sugar produced from the air by photosynthesis. With no protein or green matter removed, there is no need for nitrogen fertilisers, so that only a minimal adjustment is occasionally needed to ensure that the vine nutrition is satisfactory. Vine prunings are not burnt, but mulched back into the vineyard where they came from.
We are not seeking high cropping rates - our maximum goal of a mere 4 tonnes/hectare has not been achieved in any season so far.
Choice of vineyard equipment is also important. We use only low-volume sprayers for the necessary mildew control spraying and this minimises soil compaction by allowing the use of a light weight multi-wheeled tractor and sprayer combination. The fungicidal sprays are also restricted to only organically approved copper and sulphur based products so there is no build up of synthetic chemicals in the soil. A full sized tractor is only used for the annual deployment and retrieval of the bird exclusion netting which is necessary as an un-looked-for consequence of the environmental conditions we encourage.
The workshop and accommodation on site is also set up on "sustainable" principles, with off-grid solar and wind power providing electricity and hot water, composting toilets, grey water disposal, and of course rain water collection.
Even the collection of run-off water for the irrigation of the vineyard that is occasionally required, has been set up so that the dam uses water collected only from our own property to avoid any potential contamination by the activities of other land holders, and which is then pumped to a hill-top storage tank where it is gravity fed to the vineyard.
We make no claims that our wine is "organic" as we believe that subscribing to yet another set of management rules would merely reduce the flexibility we have to make our own intelligent decisions, however we do believe that our vineyard fully lives up to its claim to be "sustainable' in every sense.