By Andrew Pike | Dec 2015
Another viticultural season is rapidly rolling by and there are early indications for an above average crop, thanks to rapid vine growth and ideal conditions for flowering and fruit set. Of equal importance, conditions have not been favourable for pest and disease establishment. In any form of farming, it never pays to ‘count your chickens’ too early and despite the likelihood of another record early vintage, there is still a long way to go before the 2016 vintage grapes are safely in the winery.
In a global sense, climatologists have declared 2015 as the warmest year on record. While conditions in the Clare Valley may not have reflected this, there is no doubt things have changed during the past decade. Springs are getting drier and there appears to be a decline in total annual rainfall. This year has been no exception, with our irrigation dam and rainwater tanks looking rather sad. Without a significant summer rainfall, we’ll have sufficient reserves to ‘squeak’ through the summer and vintage period, but a continuing lack of rain beyond this period would be very concerning.
The bottom line is that we need significant and secure quantities of high quality water for both winemaking and brewing…and of course for domestic purposes. So we have made the decision to install a reverse osmosis (RO) desalination plant that is capable of generating sufficient high quality water to cover our critical needs. Our bore water is fine for irrigating vines and maintaining the gardens and grounds, but its quality does not stack up for drinking, winemaking and brewing. A small RO plant will remove undesirable salts and minerals from the bore water. The ‘waste’ stream generated will be blended into our existing winery and brewery wastewater treatment process, with an estimated increase of less than 10% in salinity, allowing us to continue using it for irrigating vines. All in all a very good insurance policy against the seemingly inevitable march of global climate change.