Back to nature at Richmond Plains

DEBORAH WALTON-DERRY AND PETER MORICE
Last updated 11:00 07/07/2011
LARS

Lars hand plunging the pinot

Lars and Sam
Lars and Sam in their vineyard

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Lars Jensen and his wife, Sam, believe in working with nature – so it's hardly surprising they have been described by some as "environmental idealists".

The couple own Richmond Plains, an eight-hectare vineyard near Nelson. The vineyard has been certified organic since 1992 and, in 2008, became the first New Zealand vineyard to carry both organic and biodynamic certification.

The vineyard was also the first to produce certified organic examples of those twin stars of New Zealand grape growing – sauvignon blanc and pinot noir.

The vineyard is actually a carbon sink; more carbon is being put back into the earth through compost and mulching than is being created in the production of the company's wines.

Lars and Sam describe themselves as corporate refugees. "We never really fitted the regimented mould and were looking for a better lifestyle – one that nourishes the soul," says Lars.

"While living in Wellington I studied wine through the bottom of a wine glass at regional tastings, trying all the wine I could find while taking a correspondence course in viticulture and winemaking at EIT in Hawke's Bay,"

As Sam was originally from Nelson it didn't take long for a collective interest in wine and a better lifestyle to result in a plan being hatched.

By 1999 the Jensens were in Nelson and Lars was working in export sales and marketing for Sealord Shellfish. The wine "idea" was still percolating away and after Lars began working with local wineries to market and sell their wine, the opportunity arose to buy Richmond Plains.

The couple jumped at the opportunity and began their life as grape growers in 2005. "As Richmond Plains was already certified organic since its inception, this was a unique opportunity for us to produce delicious wine that was healthy to drink and good for the environment," says Lars. "Since then we went on to become New Zealand's first certified biodynamic vineyard in 2008."

Lars says life and work are constantly throwing up new challenges and opportunities but he and Sam are thriving on their particular way of growing grapes and making wine. "It's a great feeling to make something that people love as well as knowing we are doing something very positive for the environment by working with nature."

Richmond Plains wines have enjoyed recent international success. On May 9 we heard that the company had just won the first gold medals ever specifically awarded by the Hong King International Wine Challenge for organic and biodynamic wines.

The gold medals were awarded to pioneering winners Richmond Plains Sauvignon Blanc 2010 and Richmond Plains Chardonnay 2009. The sauvignon blanc then won the inaugural Best of Show Organic and Biodynamic trophy and the Gentlemen's Favourite – where the males on the judging panel award their preferred wine over all categories.

The same competition saw their Nelson pinot noir 2010 and Blanc de Noir 2010 both awarded silver medals. The blanc de noir is an unusual style – a still white wine made from pinot noir grapes.

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Which brings us to the matter of organic and biodynamic – what's the difference? Organics is about reducing man-made chemical inputs, pre-empting problems by observation and using complementary insects and plants to keep pests in balance and diversity within the vineyard.

Biodynamics is more of a belief system that can sit alongside the more scientifically proven field of organics. Managed by the moon's cycles, biodynamics is a natural extension of organics that takes in a wider holistic approach, seeing the vineyard as a whole living ecosystem influenced by the earth's natural rhythms. It introduces preparations made from cow manure, herbs and minerals to spread beneficial organisms throughout the vineyard.

Richmond Plains Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($19.95)

The aroma is a gentle blend of mineral, dry grass lemon and some richer savoury notes. The palate is juicy – here's a wine made in a vibrant, easy-drinking style. Light to medium bodied with tingly acids and plenty of lemon flavour without the raciness. Gooseberry, mineral and nettle flavours dominate and there's a lovely smack of sweetness in the finish that we found attractive.

A thoroughly enjoyable wine and spot on for those who prefer to consume organic foods and beverages – certainly a great value wine on all fronts. To buy online, go to richmondplains.co.nz

Brown Brothers Crouchen Riesling 2010 ($15.99)

We've reviewed this low-alcohol wine (10 per cent) before, but it's so lovely we couldn't resist giving it another try. The aroma is delicate yet lifted with some tempting floral, mineral, stone fruit and citrus notes. The palate is fabulously sweet, fruity and utterly delicious. Sweet citrus, grass and pear juice flavours combine with grape fruitiness and floral aromatics to produce a well rounded wine that finishes crisply.

This bright and breezy wine is immensely appealing and makes a wonderful aperitif, food wine (think Thai or seafood) and it also goes well with light desserts. Serve well chilled.

- The Marlborough Express

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