By Andrew Pike
As we launch into another vintage, the reality of what has been a trying year is perfectly reflected in the vineyard, with many blocks looking very tired and battered.
The season got off to a very sodden start with well above average winter rainfall and then seriously stormy conditions ushered in the new growing season at the end of September. October didn’t improve much with another very wet and cool month which delayed budburst and flowering. It also created all sorts of issues for accessing the vineyard to apply fungicides and herbicides.
When we could get on the ground, it was inevitably windy, so spraying opportunities were few and far between. Flowering and fruit set was delayed by up to a month on recent years and this trendline has held right through until now. Hence the start of vintage is about one month later than the norm in recent years.
The weird weather didn’t end in the spring. We had another significant storm between Christmas and New Year and this created an enormous amount of work in terms of canopy management and clean up. Not to mention the prolific weed growth which followed, and the additional fungicide spraying required to keep Downy and Powdery Mildew under control. Then, just when we thought we had most of it under control, another 55mm of rain fell during January, and 35mm in early February. Just perfect to keep the weeds growing and the disease pressure high for a bit longer! In the second week of February, a four-day spell of more than 40-degree weather, with very little wind, caused a lot of scorching and sunburn of exposed fruit. Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) is a perennial pest of wine grapes and this year the conditions have suited it down to the ground. Many vineyards have seen damage from LBAM caterpillars, which isn’t a good situation, especially if we get additional rain during harvest; it’s a certain recipe for Botrytis infection.
So, all in all it has been a very challenging year in the vineyard. But at this early stage, we believe we are still in with a really good chance of another very high quality vintage in 2017. That’s if the weather gods play their part during the next six to eight weeks. If they don’t, then only time…and our management and winemaking skills will determine the outcome.
Bring it on. And we’ll talk to you all again on the other side!