Seresin Estate: Achieving Natural Balance Through Biodynamics
As the month of April brings focus to the ways in which we can nurture the planet that gives us so much, we thought it would be a good time to get better acquainted with a winery that lives in harmony with the Earth 365 days a year. We were fortunate enough to speak with Michelle Connor, General Manager, and Tamra Kelly-Washington, Chief Winemaker, of Seresin Estate in Marlborough, New Zealand to discuss biodynamics and why these practices breathe life, elegance and refinement into their wines.
What inspired the creation of Seresin winery?
Owner Michael Seresin’s first up close and personal look into the world of wine was in the early years of having a home in Tuscany. Wine is a part of culture in Italy and this resonated with Michael. He loved how wine, as a common interest, united people from all walks of life.
How large is the Seresin Estate?
Raupo Creek is just under 90 hectares in total, 52 of which are planted in vineyard. We also have established preparation plant and vegetable gardens, olive groves, pinole trees, grazing areas for our farm animals and large native plantings to encourage native birds. As biodynamic farmers, we also keep a portion of our property fallow each year.
How did Michael Seresin determine which vineyard sites to produce wine from?
When Michael was looking to purchase Raupo Creek, he completed some intensive soil sampling to establish a clear picture of the soil profile in order to make very informed decisions on which varietals would perform best in the different areas. Raupo Creek is a unique site in Marlborough in that it offers a number of aspects and soil types from north facing clay slops to more free draining flats.
What have you found to be the most surprising thing about the wine business or winemaking process?
So many things, but the one in my mind is how small a global industry it is. This is fantastic as you get the opportunity to work with people from all over the world who each bring their unique skills and experiences. It is a young industry in New Zealand and I particularly enjoy how open the New Zealand wine community is to sharing knowledge and experiences. There is a feeling of all being “in this together,” and I rarely feel any sense of competition. This in some way may also be because Seresin is such a unique producer in the New Zealand industry.
What prompted the decision to have the Seresin estate farmed biodynamically?
This came from Michael very early on when Seresin was being developed. Michael established wonderful connections with some amazing producers in the Old World by spending time with them and asking questions. Michael is very curious by nature. He talks about the time he spent with Anne Claude Leflaive who said to him, “if you can grow grapes and make wine without chemicals, why wouldn’t you?” It is from this that Seresin’s biodynamic journey began.
How are biodynamic farming practices different from farming organically? Are all biodynamic wines essentially organic as well?
Essentially they are, yes. I often describe biodynamics as an elevation of organics. Quite simply, the big difference is that in biodynamics we produce our products to be applied for health and nutrition ourselves on the property from manure and homeopathic plants that we have grown ourselves. The concept of biodynamics is largely about farming in a sustainable way in a closed unit, so everything you need for the health of your property and crops is produced on that same piece of land.
Why do you believe biodynamic farming is important as it relates to producing great wines?
You only have to look at the list of who are considered to be the best premium boutique producers in the world to see there is a correlation between biodynamics and producing truly exceptional wines consistently. Biodynamics looks at the health of your property on all levels, from well below the ground surface to the atmosphere. There is no question that this holistic approach to farming builds greater resistance and encourages balance as nothing is being forced.
If you could ensure that all of the vineyards in New Zealand were to implement one or two biodynamic practices, which would you choose and why?
If your question was about organics, my first response would be to make the use of glyphosate illegal.
In relation to biodynamics, for me it would be preparations 500 and 501.
500 is horn mature—cow manure fermented in a cow horn or porous vessel over a period of 6 months. This preparation is dynamised in water and applied to the property. It encourages root growth and humus and it also brings incredible life to the property. You can feel it and we see it in our animals who are often very playful after we have applied 500.
501 is horn silica—made from finely powdered quartz crystals and buried in cow horns or porous vessels for 6 months (spring/summer). This is applied as a foliar spray and it encourages growth. I love watching it be sprayed on the property in a super fine mist. Because the tiny particles of quartz refract light, you see rainbows everywhere. This preparation also has benefits in managing disease as 501 has drying qualities.
What do you feel is the greatest differentiator between Seresin wines and others produced in the region?
For me, there is an ‘Old World’ energy that runs through all of the wines. The wines feel alive, and yet are very refined and elegant. This is what defines Seresin wines and comes about partly from the way the vineyard is farmed and partly as a result of the minimalist, careful handling of the grapes and wine in the winery. The wines are not rushed and are left to achieve a natural balance on their own time schedule with a bit of love and nurturing from the team!
If you had to select a grape varietal that best represents your personality, which would it be and why?
Chardonnay—a variety that has great depth and structure and is not afraid to be its own self. It can show many different shades but is always a wine to inspire and create many conversations.