By Glenn Mills
Celebrated local winery, Crittenden Estate, has been awarded the top accolade in one of the world’s most significant competitions recognising outstanding sustainability practices and wine quality.
The 2020 BRIT/FIVS International Sustainable Winegrowing Award is an annual event attracting entrants from around the wine world who take a leading role in implementing sustainable land management practices. Crittenden headed a top-notch list of international wineries including fellow Australian wine icon Henschke with other finalists hailing from Spain, Chile, Portugal and USA.
Employing sustainable land management practices has always been central to the family’s philosophy when it comes to producing high quality wines. As one of the pioneers of the local wine industry and a perennial innovator, Garry Crittenden was amongst the first to see the potential of the Mornington Peninsula for wine growing and planted vines near Dromana in 1982.
Since those early plantings, the Crittendens – now led by second-generation winemaker Rollo – have never seen more clearly the connection between their work in the vineyard and the resulting quality of the wines produced. “There is no doubt these efforts are contributing to an increase in the quality of our wines, which is really rewarding. We will continue to push harder with our land care and wine advances for future generations,” Rollo Crittenden said.
It seems the critics agree with a raft of gold medals at the recent Mornington Peninsula Wine awards and a Crittenden wine featuring in the recently announced @drinkeasyawards ‘Ten Best Drinks in Australia’.
While taking a step back from day to day operations, Garry remains as passionate as ever about the land. This applies in particular to the 400 cubic metre pile of compost the company produces every year from waste bi-products such as grape pressings and stable waste from surrounding properties. The resulting compost, carefully fermented over a 12-month period, is applied to the vineyard at key times of the year to promote healthy vine growth and disease resistance. This, in addition to an innovative cover-cropping regime where nutrient rich crops such as oats, peas and dwarf broad beans are planted between the rows, ensures that a good source of nitrogen is made available to the vines while allowing moisture to be retained in the soil during the long summer months. And with the harvested vegetables made available to friends, family and staff the entire community benefits.
The use of these innovative practices has enabled the Crittendens to do something truly remarkable in winegrowing circles; eliminate the use of synthetic chemical sprays.
Another positive consequence of this approach is the extraordinary growth in the biodiversity of plants and insects on the property. The introduction of bees has ensured the fertilisation of a wide range of fruiting trees, while serving to control a nuisance population of wasps that used to regularly feature as the grapes were harvested. Large and healthy colonies of native wildlife – including birds, mammals, reptiles and fish – have also noticeably recolonised the property, harking of a return to yesteryear.
Building strong connections with the local community and disseminating knowledge was another key criteria for the sustainability award. This is something the Crittendens have always done with great passion, hosting field-day events for new vineyard techniques and participating in the state parliament’s Environment and Planning Committee session on what the local community can do to tackle climate change. Efforts to advocate for more community proactivity in sustainability and regeneration are also being forged by the next generation with Garry’s grandson Oscar presenting at school about the risks of discarded plastic straws, as well as actively campaigning local businesses to find sustainable alternatives to straws.
The wine included as part of the awards submission was the 2017 Cri de Coeur Pinot Noir, a wine that represents the culmination of the family’s efforts to create the best possible environment in which to produce an extraordinary wine. Recently awarded 97 points by James Halliday’s 2020 Wine Companion, BRIT’s President and Executive Director, Dr. Ed Schneider praised the winning Cri de Coeur, stating that “the combination of sustainable programs with the family’s love of the land has produced a wine that is truly outstanding”.
You can visit the Crittenden Wine Centre in Dromana where a personalised selection of Crittenden wines is matched to the palate of each individual guest. The team have usually also selected a few favourite museum wines from the ‘Old & Rare’ cellar as a special treat, so the experience is well worth a visit.
Leaving the final words to Rollo: “As a family business we are focused on taking positive actions today to create a more sustainable platform for our vines to continue providing the fruit that we, and hopefully future family generations, can turn into exemplary wine for years to come”. With the next generation already involved, that future seems assured.