Organic wine, like organic food, is produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and artificial fertilizers on the farm, and without wine additives which are residual in the end product, with the exception of careful use of sulphur dioxide to prevent spoilage & premature oxidation.

Using organic farming methods in the growing of grape vines enables;
- Farming to be sustainable through optimisation of organic material (humus) in soils
- Vines sustained by sustained natural fertility of the soil and enhanced biological health in
   soils, rather than by using synthetic soluble fertilisers
- Wines produced with flavours that better represent where they are grown
- Reduced necessity for irrigation - humus in soils enhances water retention
- Elimination of harmful farm chemical impacts on the surrounding environment
- Elimination of potential wine toxins for wine consumers, and
- Promoters of good bugs in the vineyard ecosystem which naturally defend the plant against
  insects and disease

The National Standard for Organic and Bio-dynamic Produce is a programme managed by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) which is regularly reviewed and amended according to submissions to include or exclude certain farming inputs. The national standard sets out the allowable inputs for production, processing and labeling of organic produce. Any farmer or processor who wants to export produce that is labeled organic or biodynamic must demonstrate compliance with the current Standard each year.

Biodynamic is simply a form of organic farming. The concept originated with the 19th Century Austrian philosopher, Rudolph Steiner. He was interested in the interdependence of all of nature including the effect of the lunar cycle on nature. He also understood the essential nature of biologically active soils. He coined the term “biodynamic” to encapsulate the healthy natural farming environment and encouraged the development of farming techniques to optimize natural systems and used a lunar calendar as a reference for timing of critical activities.

A farm needs first to certify organic, and then if biodynamic principles are added to the farming program, then the term biodynamic can apply. In our Orange vineyards we have added biodynamic practices in recent years. Tamburlaine Hunter and Orange vineyards were all first certified organic under Australian standards through annual independent audits by the Biological Farmers Federation of Australia (BFA). It takes three consecutive years of audits for the vineyards to be certified as ‘A-grade certified’ organic. In the second and third years the vineyards are certified as ‘in conversion’ prior to full certification. Biodynamic practices are now being utilized by us in both regions. Tamburlaine winery is also certified as a “processor”, which simply indicates that we have a series of winemaking protocols which complies with the Australian Organic Standard and where wines are made at any time outside this regime, we have systems which ensure no contamination between batches. All contractors used in vineyard work and in the bottling of end product need to be compliant with the standards as well.

Today, more than ever before, it is commercially attractive to use “green”, “eco” or “sustainable” claims on products. Organic certification is the only protection for consumers and producers, as is stops non organic producers from falsely marketing themselves as organic.

Weed Control
In agriculture, weeds have often been identified as the enemy. Although they use water and nutrients, they can be managed in organic farming by mulching, mowing, mechanical weeding, and by naturally occurring growth suppressants which are not harmful or residual. Mid vine row grass/plant cover replenishes soil humus naturally, insulates soil and reduces evaporation, provides food for microbes and maintains soil aeration through grass root penetration. Organic farming discourages clean cultivation of soils and accepts the benefits of naturally occurring ground covers.

Continuous use of various herbicide chemicals to kill weeds results in:
- Reduction of soil biology responsible for mineral breakdown and nutrients available to vines
- Resultant reduced organic matter in soil, soil water retention, soil permeability, soil oxygen
  availability and natural soil nutrient replenishment cycle
- Reduction of soil biology active in defending the plants & fruit against disease.

Controlling Pests
In the vineyard the main pests are: light-brown apple moths, mites, aphids and caterpillars. Non-organic farmers use pesticides to remove these problems, but as pesticides are non–discriminatory, they also kill natural and harmless predators. The fewer predators the more potential for chronic pest attacks.

New pesticides are frequently being developed for non-organic farmers as nature builds up resistance to chemicals and/or as they are found to be harmful to farmers and consumers.

Pesticides are agricultural poisons that international health authorities allow to be residual in foods below threshold levels. They are however unnatural components which through consumption accumulate in the human metabolism. While excess consumption of any one chemical is clearly detrimental to human health, scientific testing for human consumption is carried out for each new pesticide introduced on laboratory animals before being licensed. The effects of multiple pesticide residuals together in foods have not been, and possibly cannot be, properly assessed for human safety.

The organic approach to pest management is:
i. Ignore low incidence.
ii. Physically remove.
iii. Use hormonal lures to attract away.
iv. Introduce predators and/or specific biological control sprays.
v. Use tested and approved non-residual biodegradable effective inputs.
vi. Optimise naturally occurring population of predators.

Managing Mildew and Fungal Problems
Powdery mildew, downy mildew, and botrytis cinerea (Noble Rot, along with other less ‘Noble’ versions) commonly occur in vineyards, exacerbated by wet years.

The organic approach to managing mildew and fungal problems is:
i. Reduce shaded areas.
ii. Maximise air movement in the vineyard.
iii. Reduce leaves and bunches. Crop thin as required.
iv. Organise spray schedule based on weather conditions rather than a calendar-based spray schedule.
v. Include use of traditional sulphur and copper prophylactic sprays.
vi. Stimulate existence of positive fungi and bacteria on vines.

Fertiliser Application
Nothing beats healthy soil as a living medium for sustainable plant health - and while plants need a balance of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in the soil (macronutrients), all naturally occurring elements in soils contribute to healthy soil. Rock phosphate can be used on organic farms to supplement naturally available phosphorous. Lime and dolomite are naturally occurring calcium sources. Phosphorous and calcium are key to the health of soil microbes. Maximising soil humus is the key to a sustainable nutrient supply in vineyards, and composts provide nutrients from natural sources as the plant needs them.

i) Chemical Fertilisers
Synthetic chemical fertilisers are highly soluble and release nutrients rapidly. It is difficult accurately assess how much of each nutrient is naturally available to vine requirements in any particular season. The result is that non-organic farmers who use these may well be over-dosing. Excess fertilisers in soils result in leaching of fertilisers into creeks, rivers, dams and water reservoirs, resulting in environmental pollution. The manufacture of chemical fertilisers of their subsequent breakdown are major international contributors to greenhouse gas production. Agriculture is in fact, the largest contributor of N?O(nitrous oxide), one of the pernicious greenhouse gases.

ii) Organic Fertiliser Approach
The organic approach is to build up the nutrient levels in the soil using organic material, rather than adding supplements directly to the vines. In the process of building healthy soils production can be released.

Organic fertilisers include seaweed, nettle, worm teas, organic nitrogen, organic acids, phosphate rock, and composted recycled organic waste, and lime /dolomite.

Worm tea and composts are produced as part of our ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM, see below). Ground cover crops such as clover, rye and other companion species between the rows to add to the organic content and to add nitrogen. Grazing animals can be used as vineyard managers and recyclers after the fruit is harvested until the next spring.

In the winery it is relatively easy to turn our organic fruit into organic wine. Yeast ferments are helped by the absence of agrichemical sprays. More and more, so called ‘wild’ yeast ferments are being used for our wines as vineyard organic management enhances healthy populations of naturally occurring yeast on grapes skins.

Natural fining agents like milk, fish and egg are allowed in organic wine production, and bentonite clay and potassium bi-tartrate are used to stabilise white wine.

Maintaining critical sulphur dioxide levels is important in managing potential oxidation and microbiological spoilage in the winery and in the bottle. We use sulphur dioxide in this way as one “preservative”. Alcohol, pH management, grape phenols, tannins also assist in wine preservation. Some sulphur dioxide is naturally produced in fermentation and exists to some extent in all wines, even if not added. Use of sulphur dioxide is allowed in Australian organic wine products, but is kept to a minimum. NB – all quality red wines – organic or non-organic – have low sulphur levels.

Where producers choose NOT to add sulphur it is generally stated on the label. These wines may have some benefits for some consumers but will deteriorate more rapidly than those with added sulphur.

Different countries take different views on levels of residual sulphur in wines. Most organic producers agree that minimal use is desirable for high quality wines with cellaring potential and will, in conjunction with an excellent bottle seal and good cellaring conditions, best preserve the desired fruit properties of wine.

MYTH – All wine is organic / naturally grown.
Non-organic producers have commonly promoted the idea all wines are made ‘naturally’, conveniently overlooking the pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and residual fertilisers used in modern non-organic vineyards.

MYTH – Organic wine is more expensive.
Good organic management systems in the vineyard mean that organic wines cost no more to produce. Retail wine costs have more to do with scale of winery production and yields on specific vineyard sites.

MYTH – Organic wine doesn’t have sulphur preservative.

MYTH – Organic wines do not age.
Organic wines containing sulphur dioxide allow wines to age as per non-organic wines. Wine ageing is dependent upon sulphur dioxide level, tannin, alcohol, and acidity.

MYTH – Organic means no spraying.

MYTH – Organic wines means letting nature take its course.
Organic vineyards and organic winemaking require sound scientific and technical knowledge, careful management and hard work. See SUSTAINABLE FARMING and ORGANIC WINE MAKING APPROACH.

MYTH – Eco-friendly is the same as organic certification.

MYTH – Organic farms cannot exist next to non-organic ones.
Organic farms can exist next to non-organic farms and retain their status. Chemical drift from other farms is a potential problem. A buffer zone is required from neighboring non-organic farms. Organically certified farm soils and plant tissue are tested for residual chemicals as part of the audit process. At Tamburlaine we recycle our winery waste water. Any soluble nutrient from upstream users is mitigated by reed bed absorption before irrigation water is used on the vineyard.

MYTH - Organic wines are inferior in quality to non-organic wines.
Tamburlaine is rated 5 stars by James Halliday, one of Australia’s leading wine authorities. We have also won many awards for our wines (see AWARDS), as have other organic wineries. Many iconic world wines come from organic vineyards, but in some cases not promoted as such on the labels. Many producers around the world are now trialing and converting to organic management systems.

1. Why did Tamburlaine turn to organic wine?

When CEO and chief winemaker Mark Davidson and a small group of investors purchased Tamburlaine vineyard and winery in the Hunter Valley in 1985 they were not thinking about organics at all. Davidson’s training was in non-organic farming. Tamburlaine’s goal was then and remains the production of the best quality wine. With increasing vineyard experience and the obvious room for improvements, Davidson was drawn to organic farming.

There were many factors that convinced Tamburlaine to change; failure of the systemic vineyard chemicals, deteriorating soil health, increasing farm occupational and health issues and our own questions and concerns about chemical residuals from grapes into wine. Ultimately we wanted the best quality and consistency wine possible from season to season.

It took trials over a number of seasons to hone our organic management on each vineyard site, and then to the decision to certify all vineyards under the Australian Organic Standard. During this process Tamburlaine saw sustained benefits in the field and in the winery. By removing the large number of commercial chemicals commonly used in Australian vineyards and replacing them with biodegradable and biological solutions, we were happy with the results – the vineyard was healthier and the wine was better.

2. What is organic wine?

Organic wine comes from organically managed vineyards, without synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. The soils in these vineyards are not degraded through continuous cultivation, retaining natural health and providing longer term sustainability.

Winemaking inputs are also managed according to Australian Organic Standards. As part of this process sulphur dioxide (SO2) additions are made to juices and wines. Other than the fact that this compound is naturally produced in fermentation, it is used by winemakers because a relatively small addition makes such a significant difference to slow spoilage of wine in the winery and in the bottle. Excessive use is very undesirable however. Organic wine aims at keeping SO2 levels to a minimum.

Higher levels of SO2 are used in white wines, but a little known fact is that any wine and whites in particular can benefit by being decantered shortly before consumption.

3. What are the principles and methods of organic farming vs. “conventional”?

What is often referred to as “conventional” viticulture (grape-growing) is the result of the introduction and use of a large number of chemicals since WW2. These changes to farming practises on the whole are having a range of negative consequences on our soils and plants, and on food safety as well. Over time pesticides, herbicides and fungicides affect soil fertility and kill soil and vineyard biodiversity; the result is vineyards with lower natural fertility and poorer disease resistance. What is being found now is that more systemic chemical sprays and soluble fertilisers are required in agriculture each year to maintain farm outputs.

In contrast organic farms use naturally derived minerals and extracts as nutrients and biodegradable and biologically targeted sprays where necessary. Protective vegetable oils, and drying spays of sulphur and copper are used well in organic vineyards. The emphasis in organic systems is prevention over cure and maintaining the vineyard’s naturally-occurring beneficial organisms to aid in disease resistance.

Organic matter in soils is critical for all farming, but is the focus of organic farmers. This affects water retention, healthy biology and natural fertility. Tamburlaine recycles its own organic matter from the winery and also uses inputs from other accredited sources where necessary to keep its farms productive.

Premium wines come from lower yielding vineyards, not the heavily fertilised and sprayed vineyards which rely on a lot of irrigation. Organic vineyards do not have high yields. Organic farmers monitor vineyard conditions very carefully to minimise disease risk, and their chemical cost is generally much lower. While some aspects of annual organic vineyard management can be more labour intensive, overall organic vineyards are no more expensive and sometimes less expensive to operate on a hectare basis, compared to non-organic vineyards. Organic farming of grapes needs training, expertise and an understanding of the ecosystem as a whole.

4. What are the benefits? Health and environmental

Organic farms are the most sustainable, least polluting producers of quality wines in the world. The maintenance of the naturally healthy vineyard conditions for as long as possible is the basis of any wine’s consistency and reputation. Australian wine industry journals these days are dotted with more and more new research supporting a shift to more organic systems to improve wine quality. Some of the most iconic wines in the world are from organic vineyards.

One has to wonder whether national food standards are being written for the chemical producers rather than for consumer protection. The accumulation of agrichemicals in our bodies from what we consume is increasingly a concern for consumers even though they can’t necessarily taste the absence of agricultural chemicals.

5. What is biodynamic agriculture and where did it originate from?

Biodynamic principles include:

  • Observing nature – how different climate conditions and different soils influence growth
  • A moon calendar is used as a guide for the timing of key farm activities.
  • A focus on optimising soil biology, organic matter and thereby, its vitality.
  • Appreciation that healthy, living soil produces vital, clean and nutritious food.
The scientist/philosopher of the late 19th century, Rudolph Steiner expressed the ideal of the self-contained farm; where farm produce and organic wastes would be re-cycled to sustain the viability of the soil.

Steiner also advocated the use of “homoeopathic” preparations made from naturally occurring plant and animal materials and designed to enhance the farm’s life forces. For more specific information on biodynamic visit wine critics website - Max Allen

6. What are common misconceptions about organic wine?

  • That it won’t age well – this is only true of wines without added SO2. Organic wine does not mean sulphur-free. Sulphur is a natural by-product of the fermentation process of wine-making. You literally can’t make wine without them. It keeps the wine fresh and stable and is acceptable under the Australian Organic Standard.
  • Organic wine is more expensive – not true.
  • Organic farming is not scientific. Organic/biodynamic is very scientific and precise and is facilitating some cutting edge development of effective natural and biological inputs for crops. It doesn’t just let nature take its course.
  • Organic farms cannot co-exist with adjacent chemical-farms. They can; although there are prescribed buffer zones that must exist between the two.
  • Organic means “preservative free” (no added sulphur dioxide). They are not related but are mutually exclusive in winemaking. Organic methods comply with the Organic Standard and sulphur use is allowed in the Australian Organic Standard. A few winemakers are marketing wines (organic or otherwise) that have no added sulphur (labelled “preservative free” or “no added sulphur”). All good winemakers aim to keep total SO2 levels in wines low. Large amounts do not assist the bouquet or the palate of wines. Excessive sulphur in reds actually bleaches colour. Whites generally have significantly higher SO2 levels. Wine has a number of preservative aspects before sulphur is used – alcohol, pH/acidity, phenols/natural antioxidants, sterile filtration, sterile bottling, stelvin closures (screw-caps). A very small number of consumers react to the presence of sulphur, however it continues to be used because it is very effective as an anti-oxidant and for biological stability in very small amounts (mg/L or parts per million).

7. What do you think is the public perception of organic wine?

Unfortunately the Australian market is not well informed and often misinformed about organics. There are some very large interests behind non-organic food production and there is a real danger where chemical companies and agricultural research are too closely aligned. This skews the information available to the public and politicians and leads to some poor decisions affecting our food security and sustainability of our farming country.

The demand for organic wine options and other organic products is increasing as people become concerned about their health and environmental issues associated with non-organic products. Here and overseas, organic wine is still not well understood but in the European Union and in some parts of South-East Asia there is a greater appreciation of products with organic certification.

8. Who drinks organic wine and what is driving the market growth?

Consumers who seek out organic wine want what all wine consumers want; that is, quality and value. The quality and reputation of organic wine now available in Australia is better than at any time in the past. The increasing affluence of any market increases the likelihood that consumers will be more discriminatory in their purchasing considering health and product environmental standards more than price alone.

Food security generally is an international issue driving market growth. There are numerous pesticides, herbicides, fungicides that are commonly found as residues in non-organic wine. More people now see organic wine as an essential choice in the better restaurants and retailers.

9. How do consumers know if a wine is truly organic?

The Australian Certified Organic bud logo as Tamburlaine displays on its labels is the principle guide for Australian consumers. The Australian certification is very stringent, but overseas certifications vary in their governance considerably. The logo means that the vineyards and wine production fully comply with the Australian Organic Standard – part of the Australian Food Standard. There are many unsubstantiated claims and more “green-washing” by corporations all of the time.

10. Is going ‘green’ also good for business and brand?

Since Tamburlaine has “gone green” opportunities continue to open up, in export and here at home. Against the trend, the business has continued to grow. Leading wine authority James Halliday has given Tamburlaine a ‘red’ five-star rating in his 2012 Australian Wine Companion.

11. Why aren’t more Australian wineries going organic if there are obvious benefits?

It’s to do with conformism and the fear of change. The certification raises issues of administration and ongoing compliance which some farmers are uncomfortable with. The industry also has other pressing concerns including the fallout from the global financial crisis, the strength of the Australian dollar and the international oversupply of wine. Also organic farming isn’t the answer for all Australian wine production. It is only practical for producing premium wine and not necessarily viable for wines priced below AUD$10.

12. Which is Tamburlaine’s best-selling wine?

Tamburlaine sells proportionately more red wine, but with the current strength of the Sauvignon blanc market, Tamburlaine’s cool-climate Orange vineyard release is going gangbusters, with its rich aromas of passionfruit, orange blossom, pineapple and green apple freshness on the palate. Its recommended retail price is only AUD$20.00 and can be ordered at

13. Is the organic wine industry growing?

In a very competitive world market, the organically produced wines are in general punching above their weight, but accurate stats are hard to extract.

Organic farming is at the core of the latest drive to further improve grape quality. It is being led by smaller more dynamic companies, like Tamburlaine who have the expertise and confidence and who can take decisions to change things. Many producers around the world will change their farming methods in the next decade, but not all will evidence this on labels. So the consumer will be none the wiser in many cases. Very large producers will keep “one leg on each side of the fence” until the last moment.

In 2003 Tamburlaine adopted a formal Environment Management System (EMS). This working document underpins our business systems and decision-making, and includes:
- Sustainable farming
- Water management
- Solid waste management
- Energy efficiency
- Environmental purchasing

Sustainable Farming
Pokolbin and Orange Vineyards
The Pokolbin vineyard has been planted since 1966. Sustainable viticulture practices were introduced after 1999 with a full organic program commencing in 2003. The Orange property was progressively planted from 1997 until 2001 and began organic trials in 2003. The whole 100ha vineyard moved into organic conversion in 2006 and biodynamic practices were trialed until 2008 and are now used across the entire vineyard.

The overall goal is to farm sustainability on our Pokolbin and Orange vineyards by farming under the Australian Organic Standard and gain certification under the Standard annually.

Water Management
Tamburlaine recycles waste water. Roof water is collected and re-used. Winery drains are screened for larger solids and then filtered again to 2 mm as it flows downhill away from the winery. The filtered flow is then pumped to an aerobic treatment dam where bacteria break down finer solids and nutrient loads resulting in minimal odour. Daily the treatment dam water is settled and pumped to further storage dams on the farm for re-use after tertiary filtration as irrigation water or on winery floors. For winery use the water is re-filtered and circulated through an ozone generator to sterilise it (measured as > 700mV Redox). For vineyard use the water is sand and membrane filtered.
Screening Brigita
Aerobic Digesters Finished Recycled water

Solid Waste Management
Organic waste streams from the winery and other parts of the business are composted resulting in a reduction of waste to landfill. During the process manures and green wastes are added to form stabilized compost for re-use on farm.
Grape Marc
Worm Beds VCU
Mulch Spreader
A 5 metre high Vertical Composter Unit (VCU) is fed with grape waste marc, wood chip, shredded paper, manure, leaf litter mass and wine solids. The mixture spontaneously heats to over 50 degrees Celsius through bacterial activity. The resultant semi- decomposed, but non-odorous mulch is used back on the farm. Paddock windrows are used to break excess organic waste streams as required.

Worms play a role in our solid waste recycling program. They are primarily active in our “continuous worm beds” which are protected from extremes of temperature. The leachate is reticulated, keeping the composting worms and matter, moist. The biologically active liquid (“worm tea”) is periodically drained off as a biological stimulant on soils and leaves.

Tamburlaine also recycles other paper, cardboard, glass, waste and minimises paper use in the business wherever possible.

Energy Efficiency Management
The greatest energy use is wine businesses is for cooling, heating and lighting. Energy efficiency strategies to date are:
- Energy efficient lighting
- Building insulation and ventilation
- Switching off lights, computers and all equipment whenever not in use
- Power Factor control technology
- Predictive and preventative maintenance schedules for equipment

Future Programs
- Adoption of energy saving technologies like off peak equipment operation.
- Solar lighting where possible.
- Wind & solar power generation
- Energy efficient design when refurbishing buildings.
- Choice of energy efficient equipment upgrades.
- Retrofit energy saving devices to equipment
- Carbon footprint analysis and assess carbon offset strategies

Environmental Marketing
1. Ensuring that customers, contractors and suppliers are aware of environmental policies
2. Tours for schools, the public and other groups.

Environmental Purchasing
1. Where possible purchasing recyclable packaging materials. Tamburlaine was a founding member of the National Packaging Covenant to evidence continual improvement in recycled packaging.
2. Avoid environmentally damaging materials.
3. Where possible use office equipment that can use or is derived from recyclable materials
4. Cleaning products which are biodegradable

Tamburlaine is a partner of the New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change Sustainable Advantage program. The aim is to:
- Gain independent certification for our EMS
- Better manage environmental risk
- Use resources more efficiently
- Better integrate environmental strategies and business planning
- Measure our carbon footprint

Latest Achievements
- Tamburlaine winery fridge plant re-engineered - Annual Savings ; 148 MWh, $100,000 & 450 tonnes cO2
Tamburlaine Fridge plant

- Tamburlaine vehicles / equipment operating on Bio-Fuel – Annual Savings ; 10 tonnes of cO2
Tamburlaine Vehicle

- Tamburlaine nitrogen generator re-engineered saving 75% of annual cost and 65% cO2 reductions
Tamburlaine nitrogen generator

- Tamburlaine vineyard irrigation pump running on “Off Peak” giving a 30% cost reduction
Tamburlaine irrigation pump

- Tamburlaine water treatment aerators replaced – Annual savings ; 90 % cost and cO2 reduction
Tamburlaine Aeration Pond


Home | About Us | Terms & Conditions | Privacy Statement
© tamburlaine. All rights reserved.