Background | Leaving behind an extensive background in agriculture and horticulture, Grant began his viticulture career near Alexandra in 1999. In 2000 Grant had an opportunity to work in Bannockburn, initially at Bald Hills and later at Carrick, quickly moving through the ranks to become their viticulturist. In 2003 Grant established his own business, initially specializing in sustainable vineyard management, then progressing to organic and biodynamic viticulture.
Viticulturists Grant Rolston and Gary Ford head Vinewise, with both men actively involved in all vineyard operations. They are supported by a small, select number of block managers that have an intimate knowledge of their respective vineyards. Grant also has a Certificate in Wine Production.
Clients | In April 2011 he said he had a range of clients (45th Parallel, Archangel, Bald Hills, Gibbston Valley, Kingsmill, Olssens, Quartz Reef) with conventional, organic and biodynamic vineyards. Rolston was managing 160 hectares in total. Of this 25-ha was in conversion to biodynamics (full certification due for the 2012 vintage), and 7-ha was in conversion to organics (full certification due for the 2012 vintage).
Cost of conversion to organics | Rolston estimated that for Central Otago vineyards the costs (April 2011) of conversion to organics or biodynamics would be around a couple of thousand New Zealand dollars per hectare “which would go mainly in changing irrigation systems, staking or re-staking vines, and making compost. With the financial crisis in around 2009 some clients who wanted to go organic decided in fact not go through with it because of the start-up costs switching to organics would entail. The main cost in their case would have been with the irrigation lines, moving them up off the weedkilled strip along the ground directly under the vines and hanging them off the ground along the vine support posts. You can only practice under-the-vine organic weed control using tractor-mounted discs if those irrigation lines are well out of the way. Younger vine vineyards will need more stakes to, to protect the vines from getting hit by the under-vine weeder. Older vines can get away with a lot less staking regarding under vine weeding.”
Conventional versus organics in practice | Overall Rolston said that ‘the spray programme between conventional and organic does not change that much. One extra cost is you have to be more precise about record-keeping if you are certified organic because you get audited by the third-party organic certifier. The big secret in organics and biodynamics is forward planning. If you are going to cut down on using the harder chemicals and go for softer options, like compost teas for example, you must be aware that the timing of application of these products is hugely important. This is especially true if you are also working with lunar and other celestial cycles in the case of biodynamics.’
430B Bannockburn Road, RD2