BY ANDREW PIKE
We’re in the throes of another winter and it looks like being a classic Clare affair; constant showers, drizzle, low cloud, cold winds and matching temperatures.
But we are definitely not ‘whingeing’. To say we need a good wet winter would be an understatement. The dams are still pretty much dry, the underground water reserves need a good recharge and the reliability of mains water supply for irrigation is in the balance, given the current state of the Murray Darling basin catchment.
The 2016 vintage is all safely tucked away, with some of it in bottles and on shelves already. Possibly the earliest we have ever had our new vintage wines on the market. On reflection, 2016 is likely to go down as a ‘good strong average’ vintage for us, although early white varieties probably suffered a little more than most due to the extended hot and dry conditions through November to January.
Fortunately 35mm of rain at the end of January, and a cooler than average February, provided some much-needed respite and the vintage flowed smoothly, albeit at an accelerated rate of ripening. The last grapes were harvested early in April making it another in the recent run of early and short vintages.
So now it’s time to turn our thoughts to the next season and we’ve been busy with our annual program spreading gypsum, lime and compost, agro plowing mid-rows and planting cover crops. Winter pruning is the next big job and that will get underway early in July. We’ve also spread straw under vines across another 10ha, as part of our routine soil management and soil moisture conservation program.
Going against the grain in recent years, we’ve undertaken a small vineyard planting program, planting about 5ha last year, with another 2.5ha planned for this year. Not surprisingly, Riesling is the main variety, along with a bit more Pinot Grigio and also our second attempt at planting the much-admired Spanish variety Albarino.
About 10 years ago we planted what we (and many other producers) thought was Albarino…only to find out later that it was in fact an obscure variety known as Savignan (or Savagnan).
Unlike most who planted it initially, we have persevered with our Savignan and have just made our 5th vintage of the wine dubbed ‘The Imposteres’, which is available through our Cellar Door or online purchasing.
This time we’re certain the Albarino is the real deal and we look forward to the first small batch of wine, probably from the 2019 vintage.
The redevelopment of existing vineyards is an ongoing priority and this year we’re again planning to redevelop approximately 5ha of older plantings. The vines either require major rehabilitation or are no longer viable for commercial winemaking. So we opt to change the variety through top working or grafting.
In either scenario, the vineyard undergoing redevelopment is out of production for at least a year and depending on the success of the operation, may not get back into full production for up to three years. Nonetheless, vineyard ‘redevelopment’ remains a quicker and more cost effective means of bringing new varieties into production, and or retaining valuable old vine assets.
Anyway, another year and another season rolls by…but no two years are the same which is what makes it such an enjoyable and interesting place to work, rest (?) …and play!