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Hyundai Country Calendar


Episode 22: Taste of the Land

On the next episode, screening July 18 at 7pm on TV ONE:

They don't spray for pests. They control weeds by hoeing them. They don't use artificial fertilisers and they don't irrigate.

Yet they still produce, on average, five tons of grapes per hectare.

This week, Country Calendar visits an unusual vineyard in one of the most beautiful settings in New Zealand - Rippon, on the shore of Lake Wanaka.

The vineyard used to be part of Wanaka Station, which, like most in the region, ran sheep and cattle.

But Rolfe Mills, the father of the present generation of owners, thought the location would be ideal for growing grapes and planted his first vines in 1975.

Despite scepticism from others, he persevered - and ultimately proved the critics wrong.

Nick Mills, Rolfe's son, took over the direction of the property and the wine-making after four years learning his craft in Burgundy, the home of the pinot noir grape in France.

Several vineyards he'd worked on were run bio-dynamically and, after visiting many properties throughout Europe, he decided this was the method best suited for Rippon.

The bio-dynamic system is described by some as 'organics-plus'. Originated by Austrian thinker Rudolph Steiner, it treats the land as a living organism and therefore, not to be abused.

Hence, no artificial fertilisers, no weedicides, no pesticides.

Under this system, careful management is crucial and several of the current generation of the Mills family are actively involved in the operation.

Nick's sister, Charlie, is the vineyard manager, brother David is the property manager and wife Jo runs the business side of things. Whilst Nick is ultimately responsible for the wine-making, he also sees his role as overall caretaker of the soils, the produce and the people.

Rolfe's widow, Lois Mills, spends part of each year in France but is always at Rippon during harvest time.  She says her late husband would be proud to see what the next generation has achieved with their wines.

Useful Links
- To contact Rippon, email
Rippon Vineyard and Winery
- The Organic Explorer entry on Rippon.
- For more about organics in New Zealand, visit Organics Aotearoa New Zealand or phone Organics Aotearoa on 0800 FUTURE, or 0800 388873.
The Central Otago Winegrowers Association.