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Thistle Hill's vineyard has been formally certified organic since 1993. Our new vineyard, Erudgere, is also managed organically and is currently in ‘pre-conversion’ on the way to full certification.
What’s the difference?
Connoisseurs often choose organic wines because they want authentic, full flavours and complexity.
We don’t use synthetic fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides. These chemicals leach nutrients from the soil.
Our grapes grow naturally from the rich nutrients and minerals in our soil. The vines work harder and have deeper roots than non-organic vines. The end result is complex wines that are a great representation of our vineyard and the Central Ranges Wine Region.
Think about when you buy a tomato or any other produce at a farmers market. An organic tomato tastes much better than one purchased in a supermarket. Organic grapes are no different. They are full of flavor and create excellent wines just as nature intended and as humans have been doing since Roman times, before chemicals were invented.
What about preservatives?
A lot of people confuse organic wines with ‘preservative free’ wines. Sometimes you’ll find organic, preservative free wines but they are actually two different types of wine.
Preservative Free’ means no sulphur dioxide was added to the wine after fermentation. This does not mean the wine is sulphur free. Wine naturally contains sulphur, which is called sulphites when in wine, but ‘preservative free’ wines have much lower levels.
Sulphur is natural and has been used to make wines since Roman times. It literally comes from the earth and is released by volcanos. Still, there are people who have developed allergies to sulphur in foods and they may want to try a preservative free wine or organic wine. All organic wines must have low levels of sulphur and Thistle Hill adds very little. We also try to use other preservatives such as vitamin C. Adding preservatives ensures our wines don’t ferment in the bottle and ensures their long life in your cellar.
One other interesting bit of information for anyone who gets headaches from wine. Studies now show this may be caused by the 4-5 pesticide residues commonly found in non-organic wines.
And of course everyone has heard that you don’t get hangovers from organic wine!
How Do We Control Insects and Disease?
Insect control is easy ... we rely on birds, wasps, lizards and bats. Since day one Thistle Hill has encouraged bird and animal life at our vineyard through extensive tree plantations, the creation of natural waterways and the building of nesting areas. We recreate a natural balance by ensuring enough native predators call the vineyard home to control unwanted pests. Harmful chemical sprays kill off these natural predators which is why pests can be such a problem in non-organic vineyards.
Disease control can be a bit more challenging because grapes are susceptible to fungal diseases. We’ve never had a problem at Thistle Hill because our vines have never been sprayed, making them much hardier and more resistant than non-organic vines. The vines have built up their own resistance. Just to be safe we do give them a bit of help by occasionally spraying a mixture of natural sulphur and the mineral copper (this is often called Bordeaux mix). This mixture prevents fungus diseases from starting.
For weed control, we use mechanical methods, such as slashing and an undervine mower.
What Does ‘Certified Organic’ Mean?
‘Certified Organic’ means that the product has been grown and managed according to strict standards that are verified by an independent organisation through yearly and random, unannounced audits. Every product that uses the words ‘organic’ on its label should also mention the certifying body that audits that product. Since 1993, Thistle Hill’s vineyard has been certified organic with the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA), certificate 2211, and every bottle of organic wine that we produce has this NASAA certificate number on it.
How Are Organic Vineyards Audited?
Every year, a representative from NASAA inspects our vineyard and wine processing facility, studies our records and periodically tests our soil, water, grape vine leaves and even our wine. This ensures that we annually meet the NASAA standards and guarantees genuine organic certification. We can also be audited randomly.
Why Did We Choose To Be Organic?
We chose to grow our grapes organically at Thistle Hill for a number of reasons:
- Wine Quality: We believe in using only the best grapes to produce our wines. The best grapes come from organic vineyards.
- Your Health: We don’t believe you should be drinking four to five pesticides, herbicides or fungicides in every glass of wine.
- The Environment: Organic production uses sustainable farming methods to preserve the environment. This prevents damage to our natural environments from the use of harmful chemicals, such as artificial fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides.
- Our Water: Farming methods that are environmentally friendly contribute to the overall quality of our lakes, rivers, estuaries, ground and drinking water.
- Our Soil: Organic agriculture builds nutrient rich soil that becomes more productive over time, resisting topsoil erosion.
- Our Future: Organic farming embraces the principle that agriculture must meet the needs of present generations without compromising the needs of future generations.
- Biological Diversity: Organic agriculture respects diversity within the environment, including protection of soil, plants and wildlife habitat.
- Energy Savings: Organic farming is less reliant on non-renewable energy resources, substituting these sources with renewable methods that are economically feasible.
- A True Economy: Consuming organic food and wine is an investment in the future of our planet. Today's choices can free our planet from costly pesticide-related environmental clean-ups in the future.