Supernatural Wine goes back to basics for a better product

By Ruby Harfield

Supernatural Wine Co. viticulturist and winemaker Hayden Penny at the Millar Road vineyard among a green manure crop including mustard, buckwheat and phycelia. Photo / Duncan Brown
Supernatural Wine Co. viticulturist and winemaker Hayden Penny at the Millar Road vineyard among a green manure crop including mustard, buckwheat and phycelia. Photo / Duncan Brown

A Hawke's Bay company is leading the region in organic winemaking by going back to basics.

Supernatural Wine Co. is an organic wine company in Hawke's Bay which produces certified organic, naturally vinified, low sulphur white and skin-fermented white wines.

Viticulturist and winemaker Hayden Penny said the secret to organics is returning to traditional methods.

This means that no synthetic chemicals are used and only natural fertilisers are used on the soil.

For winemaking, only sulphur dioxide is added as a preservative.

"There are more than 100 legal additives you can use in wine from milk to eggs to dried fish guts.

"We believe every season tells a story and we believe the best way to express that season is by not manipulating the wines too much."

The main focus for the company is to use organic and biodynamic methods to build soil health, which in turn creates a more robust vine and less need for chemical sprays, he said.

"Instead of being reactive we try to be proactive and stay one step ahead of what is happening in the soil and in the vines.

"Microbiological processes are a huge part in building a healthy soil and helping soil function."

To help the soil, the company grows green manure crops during the spring and early summer which are turned back into the soil helping activate microbes and giving the soil a boost of organic matter.

Conventional methods can be much more reactive because non-organic growers can use powerful chemicals to solve problems such as fungus on vines, he said.

"In organics it's really important to build vine health."

Mr Penny is also the Hawke's Bay representative for Organic Winegrowers New Zealand (OWNZ) and would like to see more of the region's wine companies take an interest in organics.

OWNZ has a goal of having at least 20 per cent of the country's grapevines under organic management by 2020.

From memory, most regions are on their way at about 8-12 per cent but Hawke's Bay, which is the second largest growing region, is only on about 3 per cent, Mr Penny said.

"Part of what I want to do with Organic Winegrowers New Zealand is to find out why there is such hesitation with Hawke's Bay winegrowers.

"I want to talk to people in the industry about why there is a resistance to it.

"I'm not trying to tell people they have to start growing organically."

But he would like to help people understand more about what organic growing means, what the benefits are and what the issues are.

"I think it is the only way forward.

"You have to get into it, embrace the idea and be passionate about it.

"You don't just sit back and let the soil do the work, you need to be really proactive active in the vineyard and watch the vines like a hawk, especially over high disease pressure periods."

The hard work is worth it, though, because Mr Penny said he can walk away from the vineyard every evening and know he is leaving the land in a state where it is going to be able to be used by future generations.

"It's 100 per cent worth it and I, personally, think the wine tastes better too."

Supernatural Wine Co. was founded in 2009 by Millar Road owner Gregory Collinge and winemaker Gabrielle Simmers.

Ms Simmers now runs Salmanazar, an export collective focused on taking New Zealand's organic and biodynamic wines to the world.

With the help of Mr Penny, Supernatural Wine Co. obtained full organic certification with BioGro New Zealand in March 2015 and commenced biodynamic farming practices in 2015.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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