A bunded waste area provided a useful opportunity for Nautilus Estate to become one of the early adopters of a quality composting programme in 2003. Vineyard consultant Bart Arnst suggested using the Japanese Bokashi method which does not require turning or produce strong smells and so is ideally suited to a fairly large amount of compost situated near to the cellar door and a main road! The compost recycles grape skin, stalks and juice lees into nutritious mulch for the vineyard. This compost now represents a significant resource of organic matter and we produce about 300 cubic meters a year.
The compost is not only a source of nutrition but a helpful tool in managing the variability of our soils. In our Opawa vineyard (in the Wairau Valley flood plain) soil profiles run East-West along the course of the old river bed, whereas vines are planted in North-South rows to maximise their exposure to the sun. Consequently within a row there are significant differences between areas of high and low vigour. Judicious use of our composted mulch has allowed us to even out some of these differences and achieve more uniform ripeness – and better flavours – in the vineyard.