Organic Shiraz Best in the Region – Expert

Canowindra Region 2012 Organic Vintage Report by Jason O’Dea, Family Member, General Manager and Viticultualist, Windowrie Estate

During 2012 vintage I looked at over 200 acres of Shiraz from within 100 miles of Canowindra and have no doubt in my mind the organic blocks were cleaner (ie had less disease) than conventional vineyards. I looked at 3 different organic vineyards and maybe 10 conventional vineyards

They had less Botrytis at harvest and better colour and structure in the finished wine. It was apparent across red varieties (Shiraz and Merlot and to a lesser extent Cabernet) but was not an issue for whites as it was dry during the white harvest.

A few observations:

  • Organic blocks were generally lower in yield however even light crops in conventional vineyards did not hold up as well.
  • It would be fair to say that lighter crops in conventional vineyards had larger /tighter bunches/berries and much bigger canopies than organic blocks.
  • The organic vineyards have a history of good pruning and well spaced bunches but many of the conventional vineyards did not. However even well spaced bunches in conventional vineyards did not hold up as well.
  • Air flow is considered a big issue for reducing botrytis incidence. While many of the organic vineyards had an open canopy (due to pruning well) there was a lot of trash under the vines and down the mid rows at critical times which was not the case for many conventional vineyards. (I started to wonder if the cobblers peg was fighting the Botrytis!)
  • I am unsure of spray programs across the organic vineyards however with a little investigation it does not seem that any one application was applied by all growers that was not also applied in conventional blocks.
  • I suspect that the skins on the organic fruit were slightly thicker (no measurements but generally smaller berries) although there was some serious splitting in the organic vineyards but the botrytis did not seem to follow as it did in many conventional vineyards even where the baume was in a suitable range for botrytis infection

I’m still scratching my head on the above but the wine produced by the organic blocks is definitely some of the best we have in the winery in what was an extremely difficult year.

About Jason (pictured above with Sam Statham from Rosnay and Herb Gardner from Gardners Ground): Jason O’Dea completed Viticulture at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga in New South Wales in 1994. In 1996 he travelled for 18 months on a global vineyard discovery tour, studying different viticultural practices in North America, South America and Europe. Since returning to Australia, Jason has applied this knowledge to the management of Windowrie’s vineyards while developing new ideas for further improvements to wine quality. Windowrie makes wine on contract for Rosnay and other organic vineyards in the region.

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