The viticulture practices at Chard Farm are guided by a low impact and environmentally friendly philosophy. We are committed to continually increasing soil health, minimising water use and incorporating sustainable practices.
Starting in the winter, vines are pruned with a strong view to quality over quantity. All vines are hand tended throughout the year with a minimum amount of vehicle movement over our delicate soils. Local farmers provide Merino sheep to keep the grass and weeds under control. The cold, harsh Central Otago winters have a natural cleansing effect on bug and fungal populations.
Come spring and the merino sheep are used for the second and final time in that season. Each vine is assessed and any excess growth is dropped to the ground to return to the soil to break down for future use. In an exciting development, compost has been produced on site from skins, stalks and other winery waste at harvest. Compost is spread by hand and shovel on any vines that may need a little extra love and attention. One of the key components to Central Otagos success as a wine growing region is our arid climate and low humidity. This allows for low vineyard disease control inputs as there is low fungal disease pressure. We open up our vine canopies to ensure good airflow along with natural Sulphur and Seaweed canopy applications
Entering summer the vines begin to flower. The vineyard team is busy lifting and thinning the canopy to ensure developing berries are receiving the famous Central Otago sunshine. Grass between the rows is left to grow long and then mulched to ensure maximum soil moisture retention and aid in increasing soil organic matter. Again, each vine is assessed for health and any excess fruit is removed to ensure the remaining crop is of the highest standard.
Autumn is a wonderful time as hard work in the vineyard begins to pay off. Pinot Noir berries start to take on colour. Ripening is well under way across all varieties. Berries are examined by the chief winemaker and harvest occurs based upon flavour profile and physiological ripeness. Sugar levels are an indicator only of ripeness. Tannin (seed) ripeness is especially important in premium pinot noir. In the Autumn. temperatures fall to near freezing overnight while day time temperatures reach mid-twenties. This allows for the long slow ripening that Pinot Noir loves the all important hang time. This diurnal temperature change is critical for premium pinot noir production. All fruit is hand harvested and every bunch is checked to ensure only the finest fruit reaches the bottle. Fruit is gently placed in low volume bins so as to present full, strong berries to the winery.
Further to Chards sustainable practices, we are currently trialling organic growing practices on two of our vineyards. This involves limiting even further our vineyard chemical inputs and puts more onus on vine health. Undervine growth is controlled by using a soil tillage technique and no herbicides.