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Showing posts from February, 2009

Notes on Cabernet Sauvignon - Vintage 2009 - UPDATE 26/2/2009

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Cabernet Sauvignon is always thought to be a tough variety. This year many Cabernet vineyards have held very well when compared to Shiraz (and often very well compared to Grenache).
In the Sellicks region Cabernet is holding. Most fruit burnt from the early heat wave has shriveled up. Some vineyards, where fruit is exposed to the west sun, have stewed fruit but in general fruit is sound. Some growers have been asked to removed stewed fruit before the block is harvested. 
Vines further to the north in Blewitt Springs Cabernet is looking more tired. Cabernet is shriveling up. This is a concern as the fruit is not yet ripe and has tobacco, or leafy characters in the skin. These blocks still need some time to develop ripe fruit characteristics.
Treat each vineyard in a case by case basis. If you get the opportunity look at vineyards that in a similar location as yours and look for differences. Which way do the rows run? North/South? How do they water? Have they used sulphur late in summ…

Olive Nutrition - Pre & Post Harvest

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Sam Freeman notes that; Irrigation is much more important than nutrition for Olive trees. Olive trees are not big feeders. Nitrogen (N) and (K) Potassium deficiency are the only common issues. Other nutritional issues occured very rarely.
Pre Harvest - Oil Accumulation.
As we head through this period, from late March into April, Olives accumulate oil and ripen. Oil olives are just beginning to change colour.
During this phase it is important to maintain adequate calcium levels within the fruit. Calcium is important for cell development and skin strength. Much of the McLaren Vale region has subsoils high in calicum (eg. Limestone) however orchards on heavy, black soil or the light sands of Mt Compass are likely to be low in Calcium.
The use of Calcium Nitrate at this stage will greatly improve fruit set and development, as cell expansion rates increase within the fruit.

Post Harvest - Building up carbohydrate. After harvest, applications of nitrogen are important to assist in the uptake…

Questions about Irrigation - Q&A

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When running short of water can you skip post harvest irrigations? The short answer is no, it is not ideal given the type of dry seasons we have been having. Salt levels are building up in soils and vine vigour is generally decreasing. This is especially noticeable on hard, cracking clays.
The period between the fruit being picked and the leaf fall is important to the continued health of vines. This period;
Allows vines to recover from the season,

Allows replenishment of carbohydrate reserves,

Stimulates some new root growth and nutrient uptake,

Can help to flush salts from the soil if irrigation is applied in a large enough amounts to cause leaching. Therefore you need to maintain healthy canopy in most cases irrigation is vital to do this.
Can we wait until next Spring before giving fertiliser?
Post harvest fertiliser is timed when the vines have a flush of new root growth. Root growth after harvest in dry soil is obviously going to be less than root growth in Spring, when the soil is …

Harvest on the Range

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Is the Range the future of McLaren Vale?

In times of heatwaves and water shortages the naturally higher rainfall and cooler conditions found along the Range are helping to maintain fruit quality during otherwise tough vintages. This season looks like no exception.
As a rough rule of thumb vineyards in the Range Rd, Kuitpo and Hope Forest areas run two to three weeks behind McLaren Vale. This gives the opportunity to produce more delicate flavours from traditional varieties like Shiraz, as well as produce alternative cool climate grapes like the Pinot family, Sauvignon Blanc and others.
The Range area is suited to these varieties because of a longer and slower ripening period. During January the ripening period is stretched out to be four to six weeks later than the warmer climate region of McLaren Vale.

The slower ripening is due to higher altitude producing cooler weather. Also on many mornings a low cloud hangs on the range that takes several hours to clear. This further cools the a…

Shiraz Harvest

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Shiraz Flavour - Berry Sensory Analysis

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Shiraz fruit is beginning to show some flavour in many of the remaining vineyards. Acid levels are dropping and many of the best remaining vineyards are booked in for harvest. This give us a chance to get out and taste as much fruit as possible and come to our own conclusions about the vintage.
If I had to some up the ripening season it would be in a few words I would say, "Veraison interrupted."
It has been a difficult ripening period and this has showed through in the way flavours have developed. Most vineyards were affected by the heat and normal verasion did not develop evenly. Even now two weeks after the heat blocks have a high degree of variation.
The bunch shown above is typical of Shiraz this season. Some of the berries now have ripe seeds (brown and crunchy), macerated pulp (juicy) and skin that are chewy and bleed colour onto your fingers. These are the three simple things I look for in mature, high quality Shiraz.
Great news to see these signs!
However, some be…

Phylloxera on the March?

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The threat has always been with us (the Phylloxera aphid arrived in Australia circa 1877) but since it remained, against the odds, confined to the North Eastern Victoria and Nagambie areas for so long, it has dropped off many wine growers radars. Maybe it's the recent increase in plantings which has reduced the distance between vineyards, or maybe people became too casual with the protocols after getting away with living with the threat for so long but something has changed and Phylloxera has now quickly become a more immediate threat to all own rooted vineyards in Australia.
Phylloxera represents a clear and present danger to Australian vineyards now. For how serious this could be we only need to look back to history to show us how.
Phylloxera was thought to have arrived into Europe sometime around 1858, or 1860. It was introduced from North America. It can hardly be seen with the naked eye. There had been trade in grape stock between the two continents for over two …

WARNING - Risky wine deal!

It has been brought to our attention certain buyers new to the region have been approaching growers to take their fruit.
They are offering terms where they will pay for the grapes in fifteen months. They are offering the grower $1,000 per tonne for Shiraz if the fruit sells for $3- a litre as finished wine. For every 10 cents below $3 dollars they will deduct $50 off of the price of the fruit.
This means if the finished wine sells for $2 per litre the grower will be paid $500. If the fruit sells for $1 per litre the grower will not receive any payment.
Growers are advised to take extreme care with these deals. All of the risk is with the grapegrower. Seek legal advise before entering into any agreements of this nature.
Warn your neighbours to of the same if they are offered this type of agreement.

Salt in Seasol? Q&A

An interesting question this week;

"Does Seasol make grapes taste salty?"
Seasol, and other commercially available kelp based products, are harvested from the ocean. The kelp is then prepared into a solution either by physical and heat extraction, cold pressing (like olive oil) or by using enzymes to break the kelp down.
Seasol is 0.33% w/v Sodium and 0.92% w/v Chloride. In rough chemistry this means in a litre of Seasol contains 0.33 grams of Sodium and 0.92 grams of Chloride.
If you applied three applications of Seasol in a season at 5 litres per hectare, 15 litres in total, you would apply approximately 5 grams of Sodium and 14 grams of Chloride. This is a small amount in comparison to amount per hectare to that salts deposited in the soil from common practices like applying super-phosphate, gypsum and of course irrigation water.
Irrigation water at 800ppm of salt (800 mg/l) applied at 1 megalitre (1 million litres) leaves 800 kilograms of salts (0.08g x 1,000,000) in the so…

Albarino Identity?

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A press release from the AWBC has cast doubt on the identity of Albarino, aka Albarinho in Australia.
Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation, Winemakers’ Federation of Australia and Wine Grape Growers’ Australia are aware that doubt has recently been expressed regarding the true identity of certain vines planted in Australia and described as “albarinho”.
Late last year one Australian viticulturist sought confirmation of the identity of some albarinho vines planted in South Australia and sent samples to France for DNA testing. Results received late January suggest the samples from this vineyard represent examples of the variety savagnin, rather than albarinho. Further work is being conducted to replicate these findings.
At this stage our investigations suggest that vines described as “albarinho” in Australia are from one of a very limited number of sources. In fact it may be that they are all from the same source. Therefore doubt about the identity of the “albarinho” vines that have been…

Cool weather helps vineyards - UPDATE 9/2/2009

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The return of cool weather has given vines the opportunity to return to normal ripening. In some vineyards green berries have resume veraison and are colouring up. Vines with healthy, functional leaves should now move quickly to ripen their remaining fruit.
Berries convert acid into sugar and other metabolites like anthocynins (colour) and flavanols (flavour).
The vineyard, pictured above, in the Sellicks Foothills has shed berry weight and lost fruit to sunburn, but it is holding leaves and has potential to be A/B grade quality. The weather over the next two weeks will need to be gentle to allow the vines to 'return' to normal ripening.
If you are running low on water allocation, prioritise your water to look after high value fruit. Also post harvest water and fertiliser will be vital for next season, it is advisable to keep some water for that. If your vines are water stressed after picking this could cause poor dormancy and poor bud burst for next season. It is a juggling…

2009 state of the vintage meeting

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On Wednesday the 4th of February, two hundred grapegrowers met at the Bocce club to discuss the state of the 2009 vintage and look at the effects of heat damage on the vines and on the market.
Hosted by Derek Cameron, chairman of the McLaren Vale Grape Growers Council, Derek was joined by Peter Hayes. Warren Randal, Adam Jacobs and Jim Zerella represented winemakers and fruit brokers respectively.
The take home messages from Derek were;
- Some vineyards should be abandoned this year because the fruit is damaged.
- There is still some good grapes, but it may take differential picking and care over the next two weeks to get the best out of the what remains.
- Growers need to support each other through these hard times. Help your mates and look out for their health.
Peter Hayes the current OIV President and wine industry consultant reported;
- In hot weather soil temperatures rise and kill roots in the top 30-40cm.
- On hot days the vapour pressure builds up inside the plant and stops ph…

Heat at Harvest - UPDATE 2/3/2009

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As the heatwave ends take stock on the condition of your vines and the ripeness of your fruit. Some vineyards are recovering and fruit is re-hydrating, as shown above, however others are in very poor condition as need to be immediately harvested. Unfortunately some vineyards have been rejected on the grounds of sunburn and defoliation. Grenache and white varieties have been particularly heavily damaged.
Many wineries have decided to bring this fruit in this to balance high beume fruit they are expecting in the coming weeks.
The main quality issue is fruit variability. Many vineyards have green, normal and sunburnt fruit in the same bunch.