Millton Vineyards

March 2009

A Biodynamic vineyard and winery

In 1984 James and Annie Millton established their winery on the banks of the Te Arai River near Manutuke where the early settlers first planted grapevines in 1871.

Originally Annie's father had developed vineyards on his estate at Opou in Manutuke during the late 1960's. James and Annie returned to Gisborne after experience gained in the famous wine regions of France and Germany, and by 1983 had taken up the challenge of growing grapes at home on Gisbornes clay soils.

In 1984 they started trying to grow grapes without herbicides, insecticides, systemic fungicides and soluble fertilizer using no irrigation. At the time everyone said they were crazy. They spent the next 25 years proving that it was possible and not only that a successful proposition.

The Milltons were the first fully commercial and certified organic winegrowers in NZ. That happened in 1989.

The Millton Te Arai Chenin Blanc has been included in the recent book '1001 Wines You Must Try Before You Die'.

Details of Business:

Size Of Combined Estates

30 hectares

Average Annual Production

50 - 75 hectolitres/hectare

5 - 8 tonnes/hectare

10,000 cases

About 25% of the wine is currently sold overseas although James is on record saying hed be happy if 100% was sold via the front gate.

More about Biodynamics:

James says the difference between organic and biodynamic is that the latter looks at the things you need to do to create more life and energy in the soil feeding the soil and the soil organisms.

But theres no hippie residue here just a desire to work in a healthy environment and keep it that way. Far from being a convenient way to market our wine, it is the protection of our own health and the environment in which we work which motivates us to pursue this direction. Wine, after all, is a natural art form to be enjoyed in moderation by all people.

From the Millton Website:

The difference that Biodynamics presents from "organic" farming practices is that it recognises that there is a growth force or energy force which is related to the cosmic rhythms. This means that the movements of the moon and other planets have a profound influence on the soil, plant and animal life. Using specially formulated Biodynamic herbal preparations, which are applied to the soil, compost and liquid manure enhances these processes very much.

What is Biodynamics?

Biodynamics is a method of organic agriculture which can be applied to any farm or horticultural enterprise, by following a series of practical steps.

The steps emphasise building soil fertility, and are carefully tailored to the particular property. They include :

-biodynamic sprays.

- stocking with different animals

- widening range of pasture

- multi purpose trees

- recycling of organic waste egg composting

-crop rotation

- Changing from chemical pest control to prevention strategies based on good plant and animal nutrition.

Biodynamics is a systems approach - the farm is viewed as a living whole, in which each farm activity affects the others. Management is based on the farmer's own careful observations, plus the results of tests and analyses. This leads to a modern approach in which traditional knowledge finds a renewal.

What are the Advantages?

Because Biodynamics uses very limited external inputs, and reuses most on farm waste, it has a low impact on the environment. It provides an economical way of farming in which most of the costs are met at the time they incurred. It thus offers a solution to conflicts between economics and the environment.

A further benefit is the quality of the produce. Flavour and keeping quality of the foods, lustre and comfort of fibres provoke favourable comment from consumers.


James used to collect manure from a biodynamic farm but now runs his own cows. The manure the cows produce is used for making compost, as well as being used in some of the preparations.