Bellbird Spring has joined a burgeoning list of New Zealand vineyards making the change to organic, wine production.

The, family-owned vineyard has announced it has been certified as organic by BioGro, New Zealand’s leading organic certification agency.

They are one of seven certified organic vineyards in the Waipara Valley.

It is a labour of love for Guy Porter, the vineyard’s owner, grower and winemaker, who has long practiced organic viticulture as a way of promoting sustainability.

“I think certification will give customers the assurance that comes with an independently certified endorsement,” Mr Porter says.

“We are really excited to be recognised as a sustainable and environmentally-friendly vineyard.”

Bellbird Spring is just the latest in a steady stream making a change towards sustainable practices.

New Zealand has jumped from having just six certified organic wine growers in 1999, to boasting 165 certified organic vineyards, 69 certified organic wineries and 104 companies as of 2015.

Organic wineries now account for almost 10 per cent of all wine production.

While sustainable practices had been a way of life for years, Mr Porter sees the value in gaining official certification.

“We realised it wasn’t enough to have organic practices,” Mr Porter says.

“We needed to be seen to have them, and that required accreditation.”

Because Bellbird Spring was already practicing organic viticulture and using organic-registered inputs, BioGro granted the vineyard some retrospective accreditation so they did not have to wait the standard three-year conversion period.

The first Bellbird Spring organic wines were expected to be on the shelves within the next 12 months. However, Mr Porter says the taste of his much-loved wine would remain the same.

“Our wine styles are very traditional. We use relatively few inputs, and those we do use are appropriate for organic production.”

While Marlborough is the biggest wine-producing region in New Zealand, it actually only produces about 5 per cent of the domestic market’s share.

BioGro spokeswoman Elissa Jordan says many wineries were making the shift to organic production.

“There is increasing and ongoing interest in conversion,” she says.

“While many newcomers will try for a couple of years and then withdraw, once a vineyard has been certified for more than 3 years it is likely to stay certified for the long term.”

Jonathan Hamlet, chair of Organic Winegrowers New Zealand, says it is a positive shift for the wine industry.

“One of the biggest advantages is sustainability and looking after your land for the long-term and not having the negative effects of the synthetic input on your vineyard,” Mr Hamlet says.

“It’s about giving value to your product and showing you have a really big commitment to that sustainability.”

Mr Hamlet hoped other vineyards would follow suit in becoming organically certified.

“We think it’s a really positive move for the New Zealand wine industry as a whole.

“New Zealand is a very clean-green country to be producing wine and we think that being as sustainable as possible is key to us holding value to our product and giving it integrity when taking it to the world.”

What is organic wine?

Organic wine and grape producers rely on working with ecological processes and naturally derived products. The use of synthetic chemical fertilisers, pesticides, or herbicides are not permitted in organic wine production. Organic wine producers often rely on cultivating and nurturing rich soil and insect life.

About Bellbird Spring:

Bellbird Spring is a small, family-run vineyard located in the Waipara Valley.

New Zealander Guy Porter has worked in the U.K. wine trade, studied winemaking at the University of Adelaide’s , Roseworthy Campus, and worked internationally as a winemaker. In 2002 he returned with his family to North Canterbury, where they planted their original vineyard, Home Block.  Block Eight, their second vineyard, was planted in 2004.

Bellbird Spring uses traditional practices such as oxidative handling of juice, indigenous fermentations and the use of old oak barrels to form characterful wines for food.

Pinot Noir grapes are fermented with indigenous yeast in small lots, worked by hand-plunging.

Family is important to Bellbird Spring, with three generations living on the vineyards.