Jamie Gray

Jamie Gray is a business reporter for the NZ Herald and APNZ

Nature makes Darling Wines

Organically grown grapes packed with flavour, say growers.

Marlborough winemakers Chris Darling and Bart Arnst don't make organic wines purely out of concern for the environment.

For them, being environmentally friendly is a big plus, but they say it's the quality of organically grown grapes that sets them apart from conventionally grown grapes.

Fruit grown without the assistance of herbicides, pesticides and artificial fertilisers have to fend for themselves against disease and pests, so they have thicker skins.

For Darling and Arnst, partners in the small 5000-case-a-year Marlborough winery The Darling Wines, it was the quality and thickness of the grape's skin that made all the difference.

"Ultimately, it is obviously better for the land," Darling said. "But we are actually doing it more for the quality of the wine.

"The thicker the skins get, the more flavour you are going to get in the wine."

To be certified organic, vineyards must be free of anything artificial for three years. That means no herbicide, pesticide, inorganic nitrogen, or any genetically modified material.

What can be used are naturally occurring effective micro-organisms to combat the main threats to grapes - botrytis and mildew. Organic producers can also use sulphur, oils, fish oil and seaweed.

Darling, who has made wines in Australia, France, the Czech Republic and Greece, came around to organic winemaking in 2008, when The Darling Wines was formed.

Arnst, who manages four certified organic vineyards from where the company gets its grapes, has been at the forefront of organic winegrowing here.

About 10 per cent of New Zealand's wine production is classed as organic and Organic Winegrowers NZ - of which Arnst is a founding member - aims to increase that to 20 per cent by 2020.

$17m project to reduce the kick and the calories

The Ministry for Primary Industries and the New Zealand wine industry will spend up to $17 million on a research and development programme aimed at producing lower-alcohol wines.

MPI said it would spend up to $8.13 million over seven years, with $8.84 million coming from industry partners in the form of cash and in-kind contributions.

The ministry said it was the New Zealand wine industry's largest research and development effort yet.

The "Lifestyle Wines" programme has been designed to position New Zealand at the top of the world for high quality, lower alcohol and lower calorie wines, according to the ministry's director of primary growth partnership, Justine Gilliland.

NZ Winegrowers chief executive Phillip Gregan said research indicated that an increasing number of consumers were making lifestyle purchasing decisions, such as choosing healthier foods and lower alcohol wines.

"Our challenge now is not just producing high quality lower alcohol and lower calorie wines but producing them naturally - this will give New Zealand a point of difference and make it the 'go to' country for high quality, lower alcohol and lower calorie wines."

- APNZ

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