See Saw – Annangrove Park, Orange Brendan Jarrett

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See Saw Wines, in New South Wales’ high-altitude region of Orange, has committed to sustainability across their three vineyard sites, as well right through the production and packaging of their wines. The operation is now all certified organic, with viticulturist Brendan Jarrett focusing on building a balanced system that is built on healthy soil and minimal water use. Their Annangrove Park Vineyard accounts for around 40 per cent of their output, with the vineyard arrayed over a 200-metre range in elevation, topping out at 900 metres, with great variation in aspects and soil types. Chardonnay and pinot noir are natural stars, but the vineyard also has the region’s only prosecco.

Justin and Pip Jarrett have been winegrowers in the cool Orange region for over 25 years, now owning 170 hectares across three sites. Their Annangrove Park Vineyard was planted between 1995 and 2003, with a total area under vine currently 70 hectares, though just under 7 hectares of gamay are due to be planted in 2022. The current varietal composition is chardonnay, shiraz, pinot noir, pinot gris, prosecco, cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc.

The viticulture is managed by Justin and Pip’s son Brendan Jarrett, who was announced as a Nuffield Scholar in 2021, with his focus being “the latest innovations and best practice management systems in the wine industry to help viticulturists adapt to increasing climate variability and market pressures”. It’s a neat reflection of just how much sustainability drives the See Saw operation.

All the See Saw vineyards are certified organic, while pursuing solutions that are both economically and environmentally sustainable underscores the entire operation, from growing to packaging. Solar power arrays are employed on all properties, while supplementary power sourced from the grid is supplied through a certified renewable energy operator. Waste on the property is recycled where possible, while they work with suppliers to reduce excess and non-recyclable packaging. Lightweight bottles are used for the See Saw wines, and cardboard is 80 per cent recycled, with all packaging recyclable

Sheep are grazed amongst the vines during winter to control weeds, reducing tractor passes and in turn reducing diesel use and soil compaction. The long-term aim is to use automated electronic machinery for tasks that require a tractor, ideally with on-farm power storage.

Grape marc (the skins, seeds and stalks) and vine cuttings are composted on site, while water for irrigation comes from dams filled by runoff. The irrigation system has also been installed underground, which reduces water losses and therefore use. Soil moisture is monitored via soil probes to target irrigation applications, while compost is spread based on the individual needs of different sections of the vineyard, which is determined by aerial surveys.

“We’re big believers in healthy soil, healthy vine,” says Brendan Jarret. “We have implemented a full soil program where blocks are soil tested to understand carbon levels and nutrient deficiencies, and midrow sowing and compost is used to improve and manage this. We have also flown over most blocks with a drone to map health and vigour of vines, which allows us to analyse why some areas function better and adjust our management accordingly.”

The vineyard also has its own weather station, which allows Jarret to more accurately forecast conditions that could generate disease risk. This information is then used to direct the organic spray program responsively, or for longer predictions to structure the canopy to increase sunlight penetration and improve airflow.

The data collected across the site is also used to direct future vineyard plantings and restructuring of existing vines, says Jarret. “We continuously try to develop varieties that are best suited to our climate and soil type, undertaking our soil mapping and vine health research is allowing us to make informed decisions about future varieties and their suitability to ensure we do the right thing for our ecosystem and the end product.”

This process saw prosecco planted, which is the only holding of the grape in the region. Pinot noir was also identified as a strength for the site, so multiple clones were planted to both test their individual performance and enhance complexity in the wines. Chardonnay was already well established as an Orange specialty, with the wines typically flavoursome but with a fine line of acidity.

The Annangrove Park Vineyard is also interesting in that it has a large variation in geology and elevation, spanning from 700 to 900 metres on what is an extinct volcano. “Having this variety allows us to have great choice of soil types, block orientation and variety,” says Jarret. “It allows us to produce different flavours, different varieties, and styles.”

This detailed management of the property is critical to producing the best wine possible that truly reflects their lofty and cool site, but Jarret underlines that this is only possible with their committed approach to farming in a sustainable way. “We aim to run a balanced organic system that focuses on soil health and reducing water use,” he says. “Sustainability and organic production underpin how all day-to-day business decisions are made. We believe that a healthy ecosystem will provide a healthier vine and in turn improve fruit quality.”

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