When it comes to plants, we’re rather partial to Vitis vinifera. After all, these vines produce the grapes we use for our wines. But, actually, we plant a great many other species as well.
At our Penarth vineyard in Marlborough, we’ve just started planting 2,000 native trees and shrubs along the edge of a stream that ultimately feeds into the Wairau River. These include tussocks, flaxes, Hebe’s and Coprosma, as well as Kowhai and Cabbage trees. They will not only beautify the vineyard, but will provide a habitat for native birds in particular.
(While we do go to lots of trouble to protect our grapes from birds leading up to harvest, it’s mainly starlings that are the problem, not native birds. We’re quite happy to feed Tuis!)
Even among our vines, we like having other plant species, especially buckwheat and phacelia. With their white and purple flowers respectively, these species are great at attracting beneficial insects to our vineyard. We like having wasps around, as they keep leafroller caterpillars in check, while ladybirds and lacewings keep tabs on aphids and mealybugs. That way, we don’t need to resort to chemicals to protect our vines from these destructive pests.
Beneficial interrow plants are vital for our organic vineyards in particular. We are currently expanding our organic vineyard operations by 80% - replanting one old vineyard block and converting another to fully organic. On these vineyards, we are now one year into the three-year programme before the vineyard is officially deemed organic.
Going organic is a gradual process that takes commitment, but that is one thing we’re not short of at Babich. We’ve been growing grapes for more than a hundred years, and are here for the long haul.