January update from Vineyard Manager, Rich Williams

Rich_01It has been a while since my last update and I’m hoping everyone’s Christmas and New Years was an auspicious one… so very sorry about not keeping up to date to let you know how the vineyard is going.

Things have been moving along up here on the Bendigo terraces. But when I left for my Xmas holidays up north, I’m sure the vines were looking green and healthy. I heard rain had fallen but didn’t think much of it… when I return 68mm had fallen and gale force winds had been thrashing my poor vines around. They were in need of some real TLC.

Pre-veraison - January 2011
Pre-veraison - January 2011

So what happened to that great start we had? With the onset of one of the hottest flowerings on record, we have been gifted the most enormous crop of delicious grapes. That La Nina, hot summer weather that was due our way has not eventuated. Instead the summer has been grey and more windy and wet than the spring.
With every year there is a certain amount of balance needed between leaf area and fruit. Achieving this balance is needed to ripen our tasty grapes and produce great wine. Therefore off comes a large number of bunches down to one bunch per shoot. With such a sizable crop on still relatively young vines, and around 40% of nitrogen reserves are sent to fruiting parts of the vine which is why I believe some of the vines have lost their colour lately; well that and the grey days we’ve had. Now that most of the canopy management side of things has been taken care of, we are doing an all-mighty job removing bunches.

The vines have come out of their lag phase and have progressed into Veraison whereby sugar begins accumulating in the bunches and they change from green to their designated colour. We have completed the final wire tuck all round followed by a trim both sides and top to remove any lateral growth pertaining to shade. The dark side of the canopy has had a combination of lateral thinning and leaf plucking to allow light to penetrate the interior. Suckers have also been removed for the second time and the vineyard has been tidied up with a lawn mow. The crew today were 10 Misha’s crew leaf plucking, 20 Ni-van workers bunch thinning, 4 French exchange visitors with guest photographer snapping, 1 consultant milling, 1 Mainfreight truck delivering new bird nets, 1 fuel truck filling the diesel tank, a tractor trimming, and a very busy vineyard manager trying to coordinate it all.

Pre-veraison Jan1Anyway how are the blocks looking after all that. Lake Front looking very nice with full green canopy, large bunch conformation. Ski Slope is going well with a good sized crop of Sauvignon Blanc this year. No need for much bunch thinning and all well open and trimmed nicely. Dress Circle Pinot Gris is looking quite good but will feel more comfortable after crop thinning has been done. There is plenty of fruit on here with a dark green canopy and good vine health. They are slightly wind-blown on one side of the block as with High Wire block but comes right up to Pinot Noir clones. The Riesling is looking really healthy and freshly trimmed today. Bunch size varies from quite big to very small so should be quite interesting. As with Gewurtz in the Fruit Bowl, my pick this year – I’m very happy with it! Nice and healthy with good crop of grapes, well in balance. House Block Riesling is also looking up to scratch. I was a bit worried early on there would be much fruit on these young plants but still need to do a bit of work opening things up and looking good what’s underneath. Pinot Noir down there is actually quite a bit heavier than first thought so we’ll get in there soon given the chance and cut it back to 1 bunch per shoot. Interesting to see the unusual bunches on the new clone 4 fill out. Block 2 is looking really healthy and green but a little patchy though improving on last year. Still some work to do in here. The Top Block is coming along very well. There are some real differences in clones when compared to last year. 667 and 777 seem to have produced a much smaller range than their Pommard counterparts. And YES I will provide a clonal comparison in due course. The canopy is full height with limited lateral growth this year but with large crop that is being worked on currently and coming up very well. Our High Note target is around 5 – 5.5 tonnes per hectare of which about half of the crop dropped on the ground. Looking to do nets late next week as the birds have already had a bit of a peck at a vine in the Abel and I’m not giving them the chance. Still I want everything finished and up to date before then so we’re busy, busy.
Anyway, that’s enough for now. We’ll be harvesting before we know it.