Sound science point of difference for Waipara winemakers

More than two decades of soil science work in the Waipara area has been compacted into a document launched at a Vineyard Soils Day at Black Estate Vineyard.

Former Lincoln University soil scientist Dr Philip Tonkin, Associate Professor Peter Almond, current Head of the Soil and Physical Sciences Department, Trevor Webb from Landcare Research, and other scientists, have spent around two years drawing together available information on the geology and soils of the region gathered in the last 20 years, along with the records of former Soil Bureau surveys.

The result is a record which Dr Tonkin says all wine growing regions should aim for.

“I want this to be a blueprint for what should be achieved in other areas where viticulture is practised,” he told wine growers, wine industry representatives and Lincoln academics presenting their research findings at the seminar.

Black Estate winemaker Nicholas Brown said afterwards:

 “Judging by the feedback I have received from growers it is clear that there is a lot of interest in seeing the final report and then using that information to better understand our region and more clearly promote its character to our markets.”

The Waipara region is home to at least 70 vineyards growing on distinctive landforms and an impressive variety of soils, with the Omihi Valley having some of the most fertile in New Zealand according to Associate Professor Almond.

Speaking at the seminar, Associate Professor Roland Harrison, Director of Lincoln University’s Centre for Viticulture and Oenology, said the concept of “terroir” – the relationship between wine and the parent materials in which vines grow – is well-recognised by wine growers, wine makers and consumers. But it is tenuous and at times merely anecdotal. However soil attributes are relevant to heat, water storage and drainage, and in this way do influence wine qualities.

“We are better off thinking about what soil does, for example its influence on growth, than simply about the rocks from which the soils are derived.”

Associate Professor Harrison told local vineyard owners that getting to know their soils better is an integral part of promoting their vineyards and that the document is another step forward in marketing at cellar doors.

“Looking at the whole geology of an area is useful for understanding and telling the “story” of a vineyard. Celebrating differences and variety and diversity is crucial for marketing and the landscape here reflects these.”

Dr Tonkin added that while the document gives growers information, the process goes both ways and feedback from those using the information is required to confirm its content and get everyone “talking about things in a consistent manner.”



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