Being the best custodians of our site we can be for future generations.
Our mantra has always been “great wines start in the vineyard”.
We planted our first vines at Crittenden in 1982 and managed the vineyard in a fairly conventional manner, as was common at the time.
After 20 years or so of what we thought was careful management of our immaculately kept vineyard, we noticed our soils were depleting and the quality of the fruit had changed.
This led us to embark on a fundamental change in the way we treat our vines and importantly, our soil.
Since the mid 2000s we have abandoned pesticides, fertilisers and herbicides and moved to a natural and sustainable way of farming.
The additional methods we have adopted across our property such as composting and inter-row crops have been the most important and effective processes for our vineyard, transforming the health of our site, vines, fruit and wine.
Get to know more about how we have returned to a more natural way of farming below.
We have been farming our vineyard in a sustainable way since the early 2000s. Today our soils are healthy, our vines are thriving and we use nothing but nature to farm.
The work nevertheless, is still ongoing. We constantly monitor the health of our vineyards and our surrounding farm to continually improve our commitment to biodiversity and a sustainable winegrowing business now and into the future.
We work hard to give nature all the resources it needs to thrive.
A big part of our sustainability and biological farming practice is compost.
We’ve come to learn through our work with soil specialists, viticultural scientists, Landcare and our local catchment authority, how compost can restore microbial populations.
The bacteria and fungi in compost radically improves the health of the soil and supports the root systems of our vines, amplifying the ability of vine roots to absorb nutrients.
With more nutrients getting to our vines, the vines are consistently performing better year on year, are more resistant to disease and develop fruit with full flavour and complexity.
Our compost heap typically measures around 300 cubic metres - or 50 full tip trucks.
It consists of grape skins and stalks from vintage, hay, fine wood chips and horse manure. It is turned regularly over 12 months to encourage an aerobic bacterial ferment.
When it is perfectly cooked (yes it gets hot and steamy), it will be full of worms and other critters plus a plethora of diverse microorganisms. We then spread it evenly under vines in the Autumn, to prepare the vines for their long winter dormancy.
This is also the time we sow a green manure crop. Between each row we plant crops such as oats, peas, broad beans and buckwheat. These green inter-row species help to regenerate nitrogen and other essential organic elements in the soil, plus attract favourable insects, birds and other species to provide balance and a biodiversity necessary for a thriving ecosystem.
The biological changes we have seen in the vineyard and the results, have far exceeded our expectations.
The soil is rich and alive, the vineyard retains water to support it through the summer and the vines are healthy and much easier to manage. We have also tracked the level of anthocyanin in the fruit - anthocyanin is the building block of colour and flavour in grapes. We have seen a notable increase in anthocyanin.
As a consequence, our wines are more expressive, more delicious and more decorated with independent critics awarding favourable reviews and gold medal scores to our wines since the mid 2000s.
Water is becoming a more valuable resource and we are very mindful of how we can use water more efficiently and sparingly on the vineyard.
Most of our vines are old enough to now have deep roots and not require frequent watering, however there are some periods over the summer months when irrigation is essential.
Back in 2013, we invested in a recycled water system to support the vineyards, landscaped lawns and gardens across the property, with clean A class water.
The work we have done to improve the soils across the site does mean we rarely need to irrigate but it is good to know the water we do use has been used somewhere else, and the health of our site means there is very little water wastage.
It might not sound like the most attractive part of a vineyard and winery, but managing waste on any farm is often a challenge. It’s particularly a challenge to do it with minimal impact on the environment.
At Crittenden we installed a wastewater treatment plant which fully complies with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. This system allows us to treat and clean winery wastewater, which has a mix of high acid grape juice and other substances which run out of the winery particularly during intense processing times at vintage.
We have also invested in the infrastructure required to connect with the local town waste management system, meaning we have no on-site sewage disposal or treatment which can be hazardous to manage.
The Crittenden winery, office, Wine Centre and all other operational buildings operate on solar power and we are frequently generating enough energy to put back into the grid.
We installed solar panels across all of our buildings in 2017 and we anticipate this will be a critical component of our emissions reduction measures which we expect to measure annually from 2023.
With the anticipation that more and more people will be driving electric vehicles in the future, we installed charging stations in our car park in 2020.
If you own an electric vehicle, please feel free to use our charging stations during our opening hours and enjoy a wine tasting while you wait.
If you'd like to read about our sustainability initiatives in more detail, please feel free to download a digital document here.
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