Black Estate is a family owned Vineyard and Winery Restaurant comprising of three organic hillside vineyards, operating since 2007. Married couple Nicholas and Penelope alongside Penelope’s parents Rod and Stacey purchased the original 8ha Black Estate Vineyard, which is now known as ‘Home’. By 2016 they had expanded to around 16ha by purchasing ‘Damsteep’ Vineyard and ‘Netherwood’ Vineyard and Winery.
Each vineyard is unique and lies along a 10km stretch of slopes that are mainly clay limestone soils. Upon purchase, each vineyard was converted to operate using Organic and Biodynamic practices with a vast selection of vines planted including Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir. The family work together in synchrony forming a great energy for the end result – Nicholas is the winemaker, using a gentle and guiding technique. Penelope runs the Marketing, Sales and General Management also overseeing the award-winning restaurant that opened in 2012.
Ten years after purchasing ‘Home’, each vineyard was successfully converted to organics and now holds organic certification. Black Estate wanted to be organic because all of the quality wines they enjoy happen to be Organic or Biodynamic – coincidence? They believed they could make better quality wines if they farmed organically, so that’s what they did. The more they learned, the more they realised that they chose this path to make healthier products and to look after the land that we are all custodians of.
With better soil health due to less interference from system sprays, made for a healthier and more vibrant vineyard and subsequently producing fruit with expressive flavours. With a drive to make original wines of high quality and a unique character, certification was inevitable once Black Estate aligned all three vineyards to their organic status. Certification was a straight forward process, because they were fully organic by the time they started the journey of certification (conversion to certification usually takes 3 years, but with retrospective registration this allows you to get certification in as little as one year depending on what markets you would like to export to).
“There was always someone at the end of the phone or email who could help keep us going in those initial stages – great people to work with and very well organised”
The first year of certification was the most challenging for Black Estate – to obtain certification every aspect of your practice must be transparent to allow for assessments that will determine whether you meet the requirements, which means lots of questions and forms to fill out.
“After that [first year] it is very simple if you carry on being organic. We loved the way the auditor came to our vineyard for an entire day to complete the audit in one swoop. We ticked all the boxes, and by the end of the day it was an amazing feeling”
The simplicity from going beyond the first year comes with the BioGro Client Portal – this is an online system that saves all information uploaded and allows Black Estate to update their Organic Management Plan when necessary. Another beneficial factor is the BioGro Inputs Approval System – all certified inputs for organics are readily available to view using the portal and helps Black Estate choose what products they are allowed to use in their organic production
“We are most impressed with having this checklist on the website, this really takes the risk away from our staff members making a mistake – we are also impressed with the staff we deal with, they’re always on hand to help”