McVitty Grove Winery just past Mittagong is a model of sustainability in winemaking practice and production. Their new label – Tractorless Vineyard – is carbon-neutral and biodynamic. Sheep are run in the vineyard, keeping the grass down and fertilising the vines to create a naturally-balanced environment.
As winemaker Jeff Aston explains, “we like the idea that we’re not having to drive tractors up and down the vineyard; having the sheep means we’ve got beautiful grass growing right up to the base of the vines, they’re healthier and are getting better water retention. We’re now finding that with the sheep, our biodynamic blocks are cheaper to run than traditional ones. We don’t need to drop fruit, we don’t need to leaf pluck – the vines naturally come into balance.”
The sheep that browse the vineyard also are run through the adjacent olive grove. They eat low hanging fruit, giving their meat – available in the McVitty farm shop – a unique flavour profile. The shop also sells McVitty’s homemade apple cider vinegar – originally developed for the sheep as an organic drench supplement – along with herbs, vegetables and fish farmed through their aquaponics. This produce also supplies the restaurant, which uses ingredients from McVitty estate wherever possible.
For Jeff, it’s all about creating an ecosystem on the farm where each entity feeds into another and contributes to the same goals. “You’re listening to everything that’s happening in the environment and acting accordingly,” explains Jeff. “We’ve got fish, we’ve got cows, sheep and vegetables; next year we’re going to experiment with running chickens under the vineyard nets.”