SUSTAINABILITY AT BROCKENCHACK

HOW WE ARE MANAGING OUR GROWING PRACTICES FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS.

With a foundation based on building a legacy for our grandchildren, there has never been a more crucial time to put sustainable practices at the forefront of our vineyard management. Using our knowledge gained over the past thirteen vintages, our family has worked tirelessly to protect our vines and to ensure we continue to produce quality grapes and ultimately, quality wine, in a responsible manner, trying to do our little bit to contribute to helping our planet and our future generations. 

We are experimenting with technologies and practices that will help to future-proof our vineyard, with improved efficiencies and better growing outcomes and crops. Our Viticulturist Joel outlines the sustainable practices we have in place, including how we monitor and maintain the vines, as well as practices in place to alleviate certain pests and diseases.

Water is perhaps the most crucial element in farming, yet the scarcest resource. Over recent years we’ve made improvements to our rainfall catchments and installed three 365,000 litre rainwater tanks, to compliment our dam supply. Storing our water supply in enclosed tanks drastically reduces evaporation, saving huge volumes of water each year.

We use drip-feed irrigation, fed by these large rain water tanks and by the dam, as a highly efficient watering method which conserves water by giving us precise control over watering. Drip lines supply vines with just the right amount of water they need and in the right locations to help focus energy into producing grape clusters, not excess leaves or vegetation. This results in more concentrated, higher-quality fruit.

We walk the vineyard to monitor vines for water stress by examining leaves, shoot tips and tendrils, and evaluating overall vine health to determine the vines’ water needs. During these walks we also check our irrigation systems to ensure there are no clogged lines or leaks, to improve efficiency.

We work closely with an agronomist (a scientist well-trained in studying, caring for and researching crops). Together we measure and critically examine water and nutrient levels in our soils to determine how to fight diseases, nurture growth and improve quality. 

As well as walking the vineyard, we also installed three computerised soil moisture probes around the vineyard to measure and record soil moisture content, sending data straight to our phones, which we analyse and use to determine what levels of irrigation are needed in different parts of the vineyard.

In addition to this we’ve almost finished adding another two foliage wires to the top of the vine posts of certain varieties, to help build a higher canopy during the growing season, which protects the grapes from sunburn and reduce heat stress to the vines, thereby reducing overall water consumption.

We also apply an all-natural clay sunscreen to our white grape vines. Called ‘surround clay’, it not only protects from the impact of sunburn and heat stress, it also keeps our vines five degrees cooler during hot spells. It’s genius! It then washes off with the rain prior to harvest.

Throughout the vineyard, we use straw mulch under vine to improve irrigation efficiency and moisture retention. Mulch helps with weed suppression but also lowers the average soil temperature (by up to 10-15 degrees) by creating an insulating layer for the soil and producing a suitable habitat for beneficial micro-organisms and worms to thrive in. In turn this stimulated organism activity reduces weed growth further, eliminating the need for herbicides.

We also grow permanent grasses in the mid rows of the vines. This again lowers average soil temperature and improves the organic matter content of the soil and is used in addition to the straw mulch and thrown under vine when mowed.

We all know that organisms need nutrients to survive and providing the right vitamins and minerals for optimal growth and strength is critical. We improve our soil health and nutrition by using animal manures and composts. We predominantly use cow and chicken manure and a targeted compost blend. As manures are a natural nutrient source, they feed the worms and micro-organisms, they stimulate microbial activity and improve general soil organic matter.

To add further nutrients we use liquid fertilisers via our drip irrigation and foliar application. These are more targeted at specific key vine nutrient requirements, just when the vines need them the most.

Maintaining balanced vine nutrition helps vine stress tolerance and allows for a more consistent fruiting and canopy growth. We don't just use nitrogen, but it is a significant nutrient that is always a part of a balanced application. We do not use insecticides unless this is vitally necessary, as these will harm our beneficial bugs and insects. Maintaining healthy levels of beneficial bugs and insects helps with natural control of certain unwanted species, thus eliminating the need for insecticides.

Our chickens from the vineyard homestead who free range among the vines also help to reduce certain unwanted insects and weeds.

At Brockenchack we’ve used solar energy since 2014, which contributes to offsetting the global carbon footprint. For the 2020 calendar year our vineyard averaged a carbon offset equivalent to having planted 27 trees each month. Similarly, at Tanunda Cellars (Trevor’s Barossa bottle shop), our carbon offset there is equivalent to the planting of another 30 trees per month. Carbon offsetting is something we plan to continue to have in place for our future generations.

In recent years we have changed over 40% of our bottle types to lighter glass bottles (an average of 17% lighter) which all helps to further reduce our carbon footprint.

Where we used to net all our vines to protect our grapes from being eaten by birds, a process that took around a week’s worth of labour and tractor use to put the nets on and later take them all off again, we have now (2021 vintage) installed solar powered laser bird deterrents. These emit green laser beams across the vines which are not harmful to the birds, but the birds perceive these changing light beams as a physical danger and consider the environment in which the laser is used to be unsafe and simply leave the area.

We are continually on a mission at Brockenchack to find ways to keep improving our sustainable practices in our vineyard to ensure the best future possible for our grandchildren and for our planet. If you have any questions regarding sustainability in our vineyard and our winemaking processes, please get in touchhere.

We often get asked if our wines are vegan, and the answer is yes! We’ve made vegan wines from the outset. You can shop our full range of vegan wineshere