Working with the environment like we do, we have a deep appreciation of its interconnected and circuitous nature. The rain that feeds the rivers that flow from the hills and mountains of New Zealand into the sea, all originated from the sea. And being an island nation, we New Zealanders have a unique connection and appreciation for the beaches and oceans around us.

That is why we jumped at the opportunity to sponsor the Surfrider Foundation, firstly the originating organisation in the US, and now the Australian arm of their operation as well.

The Surfrider Foundation was founded by a group of surfers in Malibu, California in 1984 with the mission to protect the world’s oceans, waves and beaches through coastal protection schemes, education, public advocacy and clean-up initiatives. Over time, the Surfrider Foundation and its important messages has spread to over 80 countries and active chapters around the world, and an expansive volunteer network with the Australian chapter being founded in 1991 on the Gold Coast.

Among their most important and interesting initiatives is not only cleaning up plastic and pollution in our oceans and waterways, but working to prevent pollution in the first place by promoting good environmental practices at hospitality venues and businesses, particularly those on the coast, and advocating for marine protection and conservation. Their work in maintaining public beach access through advocacy and litigation has also resulted in dozens of beaches remaining open for public enjoyment and appreciation.

While there may not be an obvious link between Surfrider Foundation and wine, with Babich Wines’ long-running history of promoting sustainability and sensible environmental practices in winemaking, our support for likeminded organisations such as the Surfrider Foundation is an easy fit.

So, while the world is large, complex and disparate, it’s important to recognise that we only have one environment. When we each do our little bit, whether picking up a plastic wrapper while walking on the beach or supporting organisations like Surfrider Foundation, we can help ensure that future generations enjoy the world, and our wines, the same way we do today.

 

Doing the right thing for Cure Kids

Founded in 1971, Cure Kids is now the largest non-government funder of child health research in New Zealand, with more than NZ$60 million invested into child health research projects spanning mental health, respiratory conditions, cancer, neurological disorders and more. The list of breakthroughs is astonishing, and has saved, extended and improved countless children’s lives for decades.

To recognise their important work in child health, and help Cure Kids celebrate their Golden Jubilee and 50th anniversary, the team at Babich Wines have created a special release of Babich Black Label Cabernet Merlot 2019. The release is limited to 1000 cases, with all profits going directly to Cure Kids to help fund the research that ensures they can support children’s health into the future.

The specially branded Cure Kids 50th Anniversary Babich Cabernet Merlot will be available in New Zealand from 16 September 2021, and only while stocks last. You can purchase exclusively through Glengarry stores and online at www.glengarrywines.co.nz/curekids, with free delivery nationwide!

With a history stretching back more than 100 years over three generations of winemaking, we’ve naturally taken a long-term view of the world, working with an eye on the future and future generations. Our commitment to sustainable winemaking today, is driven by our commitment to those inheriting the world tomorrow.

And while sustainability, and caring for our vineyards and the environment comes naturally, so too does caring for our community through many years of support for causes like Cure Kids, and our desire to inspire community-minded thinking around the world.

If you happen to be in New Zealand and in a position to support Cure Kids, we’d encourage you to join us by purchasing in-store or online, and be rewarded with a stunning, limited release wine in the process!

New Zealand Wines Made with Care; yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Here at Babich Wines, we feel a particular connection to the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) Made with Care campaign, which promotes our country’s food and beverage industry around the world. As a New Zealand wine exporter, telling the world the story of what sets our produce apart is vital to our industry’s success.

For us, the Made with Care campaign is confirmation that we’ve been doing things right, ever since we planted our first vines over 100 years ago. Since 1912, every generation of the Babich family has committed to building a sustainable business that allows the next generation to continue making deliciously drinkable New Zealand wines, for generations of wine lovers to come.

We see it as paying it forward, for our family, for wine lovers and for the planet. And it starts with caring for the land and the vines. You need great land, to grow great grapes, to make great wine.

But what does ‘Made with Care’ mean at Babich Wines?

First of all, it means crafting our wines sustainably. To us, sustainability is less a trend, but rather a concept that has been at the roots of our legacy, craft, and success since day one. It’s a key ingredient of our slow, careful process in an ever-changing, always-on world. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Care also means craftsmanship. Every one of our wines is the result of the love we have for our craft. We’ve been making wine for three generations, drawing on knowledge that is even older, but always with an eye to the future. Care means innovation and refinement; for example, we’re producing more and more organic and vegan-friendly wines. We know wine drinkers want them, they’re amongst the fastest growing wine segments in the world, and we have the craft, care and experience to craft wines with the quality and character that has made Babich Wines famous the world over.

Every wine we produce is made with care – with vision, thoughtfulness, ingenuity, and true craft. We’ll never stop striving to delight wine drinkers and make the everyday extraordinary through the care that goes into our sustainably crafted wines. From grape, to glass. Every time.

That hard-working spirit is something that runs deep in our veins; and we’ll keep ‘paying it forward’ for as long as we exist.

We’ve set the audacious goal of increasing the size of our organic vineyard estates by 50% in the next three to five years. Converting conventional vineyards to organic is a long process, with each vineyard needing to operate on fully organic principles for at least three years before being certified as organic.

But after more than 100 years of Babich winemaking, what’s a few years? We take a long view, operating our vineyards in a way that will be sustainable for generations to come. Which you can do if you see to it that you never take more from nature than what you give back.

All of our vineyards are certified sustainable, with the proportion certified organic by BioGro growing year by year. Our oldest organic vineyard, Headwaters, has been certified organic for more than a decade already.

Our drive to expand our investment in organic vineyards is based both on sound environmental practices and a thirst for innovation. Winemaking is a time-honoured and traditional art, but has thrived in New Zealand not only because of the excellent terroir, but also due to a bold, enterprising spirit that brought our wines to the top of the wine world.

Most of the viticulture practices we use are similar across all our vineyards, whether they are organic or not. Using smart canopy management to maximise airflow and reduce the instance of powdery mildew and botrytis is a technique we use everywhere. We also use irrigation sparingly, giving the vines just enough to thrive.

The main requirement that sets organic vineyards apart is that no synthetic agrichemicals may be used on them. In practical terms, this means that pests and diseases need to be controlled only using natural products and great care in vineyard management.

Fortunately, living in clean, green New Zealand makes this easier than in some parts of the world. There are simply fewer pests to contend with, mainly mealy bugs and leaf roller caterpillars.

Weed control can also be a challenge, as you don’t want the weeds to take up the water and nutrients in the soil, depriving the vines. We have devised ways to address this challenge without resorting to synthetic chemicals.

The first step is the choice of vineyard. If the land is fertile enough, it doesn’t matter if the weeds take some of the nutrients, there is enough left for the vines. In fact, on some vineyards, weeds may help control excessive fertility to actually benefit the vines.

We can also deliver water to the vines in a way that the weeds struggle to get to, by installing underground irrigation. Babich is one of only a few wineries in New Zealand that uses underground irrigation. The weed roots tend to be very shallow, so the deeper vine roots will have first dibs on the water.

To get rid of unwanted weeds, we are investing in a new piece of equipment that uses flail brushes to chop weeds down closer to the trunk of the vine, reducing the competition between the weeds and vines for nutrients and water.

“Using organic methods, it takes more inputs to harvest fewer grapes than on other vineyards,” says our Marlborough viticulture manager, David Bullivant. “But we see the benefits not only in environment sustainability, but also in great fruit quality. When you unpack it all, expanding our organic vineyards is a no-brainer.” 

With all of our grapes now in the winery, and winemaking well underway, our 2021 Vintage is starting to take shape. And it’s certainly one to watch. Here’s what our winemakers had to say on the 2021 Vintage.

Marlborough
Overall, 2021 was an excellent year for Marlborough and for Sauvignon Blanc. An early Spring brought forward budburst but cold November rain drew out flowering and late frosts contributed to a lower than ideal fruit set. A dry January was followed by rain in March that assisted ripening, bringing the fruit to excellent condition. We started harvesting early, but not exceptionally so compared with recent vintages.

Sauvignon Blanc
Our Sauvignon Blancs are bursting with tropical fruits, perfumed thiols, displaying great depth and purity. Budburst was early in our Marlborough vineyards and fruit set light. After a wet start the season was very dry with average temperature.  As a result, we had a nice long ripening period even with an earlier harvest.

Light crops and a long ripening season have resulted in flavour and concentration. This year we see lots of ripe tropical and fruit salad notes. We’re also seeing plenty of perfumed thiols; Blackcurrant, Passionfruit, and Broom. We’re bottling the first of our Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc now, with our Black Label Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc still on lees, developing yet more weight and complexity. We’ll bottle that in a few months.

Pinot Noir
Low crops have resulted in some incredible tasting fruit across all three of the valleys we grow in.  Our Pinot Noirs are deeply coloured and flavoursome. They’re just starting their secondary, or malolactic, fermentation now.

Rosé + Pinot Gris
The Rosés are vibrant and our Pinot Gris are fresh and balanced.

Our Organic wines
We are thrilled with the quality of fruit coming from our Organic vineyards. The Sauvignon Blanc is displaying its typical characters (mineral, citrus, and spice) and showing real depth with layers of flavour. We will allow this to further develop on lees also.

Hawke’s Bay
Warm Spring temperatures brought forward flowering, kicking off the season early. A trend that continued with the earliest harvest we’ve ever had from Hawke’s Bay – starting with Chardonnay on the 23rd of February. No pressure at all to pick as the weather was kind and the fruit condition excellent.

Chardonnay
Low crop levels meant concentrated and ripe flavours.  Both our Irongate and Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay look weighty and flavoursome.

Reds
The Syrah and Bordeaux reds are shaping up to be intense, dense, and long at this early stage.

Another vintage, another exciting selection of sustainably crafted wines. This is the stage of winemaking where the magic happens and we live for it. Here’s to 2021!

Wine companies typically throw away up to a quarter of their harvest every year. Before you bemoan the loss of all that wine… no, we don’t throw wine away. It’s just that grape juice comes along with things like grape skins, seeds, bits of stem and whatnot – things we cannot use to make wine. Once the juice has been extracted, this dry marc is of no use to a winemaker, and in the past was carted off to landfill.

But at Babich we’re exploring different ways to make good use of grape marc.

Some of it is provided to farmers as is, for use in stock feed. With recent droughts in New Zealand, farmers are forced to augment their animals’ primary diet of grass. Importantly, the marc reduces farmers’ reliance on palm kernel as an ingredient in stock food, which helps save the rain forest, which helps save the planet from the build-up of greenhouse gases. Neat, ay?

Some of the marc we provide to cropping farmers, who plough it into their fields to enrich the soil, to grow food for people.

Grape marc also offers the potential to be upcycled into more valuable products. Babich provides grape marc to two companies doing research in this area. One avenue is to refine the marc for a higher grade of stock feed, but there are also efforts to use grape marc as a major ingredient in pharmaceutical products. One of these is using the grape seeds for human dietary supplements.

We are watching these developments with great interest, as we just hate for anything to go to waste. Nature looks after us, and we like to return the favour.

We’re lucky in many ways. There’s the great terroir of Marlborough that give our wines their special character, and the excellent wild yeast we’re blessed with in our winery.

But it is also true that we work very hard to get the best results. Like golfer Gary Player said so memorably: “The harder I practice, the luckier I get.”

Babich has certainly had lots of practise making wine in New Zealand for over 100 years.

We believe in being as hands-off as possible in our winemaking to let nature express itself. But we have found that giving nature just the right little nudge at crucial junctures can really bring out the best in our wine. The right temperature, the right yeast, the right racking regime, the right blending… it all helps.

Since 2015, we’ve increasingly been using the wild yeast in our winery. To get the fermentation going, we simply make sure the juice is at the ideal temperature, and then we wait… This yeast has proven to be very good, bringing out great flavours in the wine.

But the wine you buy in the bottle does not just come from a single ferment. Now that they understand the flavour profile of every batch of wine, our winemakers are carefully blending them to create the best combination. And the best promises to be very good in 2021, with outstanding quality across the board.

So, perhaps the really lucky ones are the people who can buy Babich wine!

We love heat in the vineyard. But in the winery… not so much.

Cool temperatures are great to develop fruity flavours when you ferment a wine such as Sauvignon Blanc. That is why you’d often see on a tasting note that the wine was “cool fermented”. By keeping the ferment cool, we can control the metabolic rate of the yeast, thereby influencing how it converts sugar into alcohol and also what flavours are enhanced in the process.

Of course, keeping the wine cool after fermentation helps to lock in the flavours.

Because cooling is so important in winemaking, our Marlborough winery was especially designed with this in mind. Louvres open at night to allow cool air in, and are closed when day temperatures rise to keep the cool air inside. Having a smaller differential between the ambient temperature and the desired temperature of the wine means we need to use less energy.

There is one exception to this chilled-out approach: To start fermentation, we often need to warm up the juice a bit, so the yeast can get going.

Rather than spend a lot of energy to generate heat, we use technology to recover the latent heat released by our usual refrigeration processes, and use that for heating. In effect, the same energy that is already used for cooling some tanks is used to heat others! Pretty neat.

It’s time to give back. With another harvest safely in the winery, one can’t help but be in awe of the natural bounty we receive. So, in the slight lull before we need to get back into the vineyard for pruning, we’re devoting our energies to giving back to nature, by attending to the land around our vineyard blocks.

One of the places we can give nature a helping hand is in the streams bordering the vineyards. The aptly named Boundary Stream in Marlborough, for instance, can get a bit clogged up by gravel washing down from the high country in times of heavy rain. So, we go in there and scoop out enough of the gravel to allow the stream to flow through to the Wairau River unhindered.

Keeping the river to its natural channel and flowing deep enough not only protects our vineyard from potential flooding, but it also helps aquatic life to thrive. Fishes and frogs need to live too.

And what do we do with the gravel?

In true Babich fashion, we don’t want anything to go to waste. So, we use it to pave our vineyard roads!

We’ve all seen the video clips of someone celebrating their victory before they’ve crossed the finish line and then being pipped at the post. That won’t happen with Babich.

Even in a year when we know we’ve done everything as best we can – we’ve created the best possible conditions for our vines to produce excellent grapes and the vineyard is packed with the most luscious fruit – we keep going at it hard until every grape is in the winery. The last thing we want to do, is to undo a year’s hard work in the home stretch.

That’s why harvest is such an intense time for us. We need to get the fruit into the winery at just the right time, when they’re as ripe and flavourful and healthy as they can be. That might mean that we need to get heaps done in a short time frame. For our team, it means early starts and late finishes, day after day for about three weeks. Nature does not take weekends off.

When the last grapes were brought into our Marlborough winery, there were some tired minds and bodies, but also a great sense of satisfaction.

“We want to get the outstanding quality that is in the vineyard into the winery,” says winemaker Adam Hazeldine, “so that we can put it into the bottle for people to enjoy.”

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