Set against the mountainous backdrop of the Pisa Range in New Zealand’s Central Otago is Amisfield – one of the largest single-estate vineyards in the region.
Once a prominent Merino sheep station, the vineyard, established in 1988, is a privately owned 494-acre estate that specialises in producing pinot noir and aromatic white wines.
And, it has much to celebrate.
For the first time, the winery has been named Riedel Vineyard of the Year at the recent New Zealand Organic Wine Awards.
“We see organic agriculture and winemaking as a matter of integrity and a necessity in today’s world.” – Craig Erasmus
Now in its seventh year, the independent wine show continues to discover and promote the country’s best organic wines.
The awards featured more than 40 vineyards, with this year’s wine submissions up by around 10% on 2019.
South Island wineries accounted for a large percentage of the entries, according to the New Zealand Organic Wine Awards’ observations. Forty-five per cent of wines entered originated from Marlborough, while 20% of entries were from Central Otago wineries, with a similar number from North Canterbury.
Other regions with entries in 2020 include Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne and Northland on North Island.
The Riedel Vineyard of the Year accolade marks a significant step in Amisfield’s journey to full organic certification.
In its decision to transform from conventional to organic farming, Amisfield has been “in conversion” to BioGro organic certification in various stages since 2015.
The vineyard’s 2021 vintage will be its first to use 100% organic fruit.
“This is an irrefutable confirmation that making the strategic decision to embrace organic practices in both the vineyard and winery was the right thing to do,” says Amisfield CEO Craig Erasmus.
“We see organic agriculture and winemaking as a matter of integrity and a necessity in today’s world.”
Craig further explains that when the decision was made to convert to organic over five years ago, it was because it would be in the best interest of the land and integral to building an intergenerational family wine business.
“If we really wanted our wines to be an authentic expression of our place, then an organic approach was the only way forward,” he says.
“The vineyard and winery teams have put heart and soul into this journey, and it’s both gratifying and humbling to see the result.”
In addition to being named Riedel Vineyard of the Year, Amisfield also achieved champion status at the awards with its Breakneck Reserve Pinot Noir 2017 and Lowburn Terrace Riesling 2019.
“Committing five years ago to change the entire vineyard to organic practices called for teamwork by all,” adds Vineyard Manager Andre Lategan.
“Moving away from the chemical lull of conventional farming led to an exciting and challenging embrace of nature, our Papatūānuku, from the soil below to the sun above, and weaving in ever-improving new technology,” notes Andre. “Seeing our efforts recognised in this way really warms the heart.”
The estate features a purpose-built winery that produces around 35,000 cases annually, with pinot noir accounting for over 60% of the production and the balance made up of sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, riesling and chenin blanc.
Amisfield also extends to Lake Hayes, Queenstown, which is home to its three-hatted bistro and cellar door.
The bistro is headed by the 2019 Cuisine Good Food Awards Chef of the Year winner, Executive Chef Vaughan Mabee. The dishes are all designed to be paired with Amisfield’s wines, allowing guests to enjoy the full experience.
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