Nick Gill: Complexity, Grazing & Rootstocks

Nick Gill: Complexity, Grazing & Rootstocks 1500 1000 Sectormentor

Regenerative Viticulture Series #8
Abby Rose in conversation with Nick Gill

Nick Gill, a leading regenerative viticulturist from New Zealand, joins Abby Rose in conversation. They discuss the learnings from the last 20 years of regenerative viticulture experiments that Nick has implemented at Greystone Wines, how others can get started and what he sees is possible going forward.

Key insights from the session:

Regenerative Viticulture is about working with complexity

Use the 5/6 Soil Health Principles and Leibig’s Law of minimum to help experiment and figure out what is best for your context. When you try something, it’s vital to keep observing closely to see what is and isn’t working; Nick made the crucial point that different blocks will have different needs depending on slopes, soils etc.

Tips on how to retrofit your trellis so animals can easily ‘mob’ graze across vine rows all year round

Being able to graze sheep all year round has been one of the biggest positives at Greystone. They cut their tractor passes in half and have seen the vines thrive. It took 1-2 years to retrain them higher, but the positives of this transition outweighed the negatives. Retrofitting the trellis system wasn’t difficult or expensive. In the webinar Nick explains how they did it.

Sheep/animals need additional knowledge and observation

If you are introducing animals into the system then you need someone with knowledge of their behaviours. For example, Nick and the team at Greystone found that the sheep would eat the grapes in January/February if they weren’t able to quickly and easily access water. By putting water troughs at both ends of the vine rows the sheep didn’t touch the grapes.

Regenerative Winemaking

Nick and the team are asking questions about how regenerative principles extend to the winemaking? They have brought the winemaking into the field for one of their wines, to get a true experience of the vintage, including climatic variations. Nick feels there is a lot more to be explored here.

Three Key Tools

For Nick, after his experience over the last 20 years at Greystone, he feels 3 key ingredients to implement a regenerative viticulture system are: high trellising for year-round animals in the vineyard, subsurface irrigation and working with high vigour rootstocks. In his experience, as you introduce more diversity and complexity into the vineyard, the high vigour vines perform better and the complexity of the system keeps their vigour more in balance, whereas low vigour vines can end up yielding very little, which is less commercially viable.