22 Feb 2011

The rain has gone, the sun has been shining (albeit half-heartedly) and a steady breeze has been blowing for the past few days--just the right conditions to ripen our precious crop.
We have netted the vineyard to keep birds away from the grapes. This may seem heartless but these birds can do enormous damage. Look at the photo below to see what can happen.

This shot was taken at the end of a row, where the birds begin their attack. A flock of silvereyes or starlings can strip the fruit from a bunch much more quickly than you can load a shotgun to scare them off. We find nets work better.

Now that the birds are under control, we just need to keep the diseases at bay. Fortunately, our vineyard team have done a great job under the most threatening conditions we have seen for many years. Downy mildew, powdery mildew and botrytis are our biggest fears and the incredible rainfall so far this season has placed enormous pressure on vineyards throughout eastern Australia.
We can report no botrytis, no downy mildew and only a small amount of powdery mildew that we have managed to subdue so that it is no longer a threat. Two or three weeks of warm dry weather and we will be very happy. 

Crop thinning and leaf plucking have been mandatory this year to thin out the bunches, reducing clumping where humidity increase can allow diseases to enter and to open up the canopy to air flow. Pictured below is a good example of what we have achieved--a narrow band of canopy where humidity is low and air movement is encouraged plus bunches separate and not deeply buried inside the canopy. If the weather holds, we reckon this could be a great year for Pinot Noir.

By the way, the sugar levels we measured today are:
Pinot Noir--10.2 baume
Chardonnay--9.1 baume

We expect to harvest when levels are between 12.0 and 13.0. That's probably 3 weeks away.
I will keep you posted.