The lead up to vintage has seen some nervous moments in the vineyard. On January 16 we had an unseasonal downpour, with 65mm of rain falling over two days. This led to minor outbreaks of grey mould (botrytis bunch rot) in white grapes through some vineyards (see photo below). Fortunately Grace Farm escaped the berry splitting that can compromise bunches and lead to grey mould. Interestingly, we used none of the synthetic fungicides which target botrytis and we feel fortunate that our programme of sulphur, kelp and fish emulsion sprays have kept the vines in good health and the fruit in pristine condition.
At present the vineyard is completely netted and we are eagerly awaiting the first pick of chardonnay in about 10 days. For the moment we are selectively handpicking leaves from any cabernet vines that require more bunch exposure. This is the point at which the wine is made in the vineyard. Good exposure to sunlight ensures that the red wine grapes ripen fully with no green characters. At Grace Farm we are fastidious about managing vine canopies to achieve the desired wine style, as shown below.
The sauvignon blanc canopy, as seen below, provides a perfect contrast to the high bunch exposure of the cabernet sauvignon. This image shows the minimal bunch exposure we aim for in sauvignon blanc (and semillon) in order to preserve the delicate aromatics and zesty acidity that we desire in our white wine blends. Canopy management is, therefore, a prime factor in driving wine styles and is the essence of “viticulture” at this point of the growing season.
For now we look forward to a week of fine, warm weather to get into the swing of things!
Words by Tim Quinlan, Grace Farm Viticulturist.