Leaders in organic wines, James & Annie Millton, talk about its growing popularity and the process of making award-winning biodynamic wine.
When James & Annie Millton returned from several years’ work in the great wine regions of Europe in the Eighties, they seized a chance to take over Annie’s father’s vineyard Opou in Manutuke, Gisborne. They ploughed all their knowledge into the land and set up New Zealand’s first organic and biodynamic winery in 1984, building the winery and expanding across two more sites in Manutuke.
“Gisborne’s soil and climate play a major role in our wines,” says James. Their vineyards are close to the Pacific Ocean and the cooling sea breezes keep the climate friendly and temperate in high summer.
“We are the only dry farmed region in New Zealand reducing our footprint on the land and our precious waterways.”
The winemaking process at Millton is gentle and precise, preferring time to fine the wines rather than technology. Only natural yeasts are used, allowing fermentation to be decided by the season.
Traditional viticulture is practised across the vineyards and all are dry-farmed with no insecticide, herbicide, systemic fungicide or soluble fertilisers used.
As James explains, “Today’s generation of wine drinkers care far more for the provenance of what they consume and the footprint it leaves on the planet. It has been a delight to watch so many transfer to organic viticulture over the years.”
But 35 years ago, many people didn’t understand what the Milltons were doing. “Being the first organic vineyard in New Zealand many of our peers thought we were crazy. We even named two of our wines Crazy by Nature as a nod to the days where organics was seen as something reserved for the great unwashed and biodynamics was entirely unheard of.
“Our intervention in our wines is minimal and this allows both the season and the soil to sing without interruption or intrusion,” says James.
“Today’s generation of wine drinkers care far more for the provenance of what they consume and the footprint it leaves on the planet.”