On the next episode, screening 13 August 2017 at 7pm on TVNZ 1:
The Soil Beneath
An American couple searched the world to build their vineyard dream and ended up finding the perfect site at Pyramid Valley in North Canterbury.
Claudia and Mike Weersing use biodynamic principles to create world-class wine with minimal inputs.
At the heart of the enterprise is their passion for good soil. Mike believes that because 90 per cent of the biomass of a plant is in the ground, the soil has far more influence on the fruit than anything else.
“If you get your 90 per cent wrong, your per cent on top is never going to be what it should be, so you farm your soil first, and the vines happily follow along.”
The couple searched the world for the right mix of clay and limestone that they believed would make a world-class wine.
“This wine is like nothings else in the world, nothing else in New Zealand, and that’s precisely what we set out to do,” Mike says.
With low yields, their vintages find their way to wine lists around the world, with most sold to the US and Japan. They also focus on specific markets that understand the biodynamic principles behind their winemaking.
They have a passion for restoring the land and water, too. A reclaimed swamp has been turned in to a native wetland and pond for bird species. To keep the pond clear they’ve brought in a special breed of fish to eat algae and fresh water mussels to clarify the water.
But like all farming, winemaking is at the mercy of the weather, and after a difficult summer and delayed ripening, Cyclone Debbie struck the vineyard in April 2017. Half their pinot noir crop was lost and the entire chardonnay block was written off for the season.
Claudia says the loss was huge. “There is a lot of value in the wines here so it’s devastating.”
The Country Calendar crew filmed as they gathered a small harvest team and salvaged what they could.
Claudia says it’s all just part of living on the land. “You just can’t control mother nature.”
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