Margaret River winery, Voyager Estate, has announced that it is transitioning to organic certification, with 40 hectares of vineyards already in conversion as certified by Australian Certified Organic (ACO).
Steve James, Voyager’s Manager Winemaking & Viticulture said that the move underpins the winery’s long-term commitment to sustainable farming, and with the current farming techniques already in place it’s actually not a massive transition.
“In many ways this is not a big move,” James told TheShout. “We’ve been heading down this pathway for a long time and we’ve been following a lot of principles of organic farming with using compost and eliminating herbicides at a lot of our vineyards. So the final steps to transition for us, have not been that great.”
In explaining why the winery has decided to convert to organic, James told TheShout that there were a couple of key reasons behind the decision.
“There is the focus on trying to make wines that truly reflect the soil and the character of our vineyard as much as possible. I think we are claiming to make wines of terroir then you need to be managing your vines, if not organically, then pretty close.
“Also, a big one for me is farming in a more ecological way; working with nature as much as possible rather than trying to control nature.”
In terms of pest management, James added that being organic as yet hasn’t been a problem and that a lot of initial fears actually proved to be unfounded.
“We get a pest over here called a weevil and we were a bit concerned about whether that might get a bit out of hand if we weren’t using the previous control methods. But it hasn’t been a problem, in fact because of the way that we are now cultivating under the vines, I think some of those practices have helped solved the problems. And by not using harsh chemicals we’ve got a lot of predatory insects in the vineyards, which do help, so it’s definitely a bit of a nature balancing act, and using nature.
“I really like this kind of farming. I’ve been farming for nearly 30 years and this is just a really lovely way to farm. You can’t take an easy option and it makes you think outside the box about the way that you farm and it’s just a really enjoyable way to farm.”
The estate currently has around 40 hectares in conversion and James said he is about to sign the paper work to have another 40 hectares converted, which will be around 85 per cent of Voyager’s vines and by this time next year he is planning to have the whole estate under organic farming. The full certification of being organic by ACO is a three-year process.
2018 is a landmark year for Voyager Estate as it celebrates 40 years since the first planting of its vineyards in Margaret River.