The Big September Wet

HUGH ON THE RECENT DELUGE

Author: Hugh Hamilton Date: Tuesday, 4 Oct 2016

THE BIG SEPTEMBER WET

We fared quite well out of the ‘big wet’ in September. The only block that had water inundation was the lower lying parts of the Black Sheep block which has a creek running through it. The creek broke its banks on two occasions during the month and I took some pictures to give you an idea of the conditions.

This is the (usually dry!) creek on our Black Sheep Vineyard after the deluge.
We had 136mm in September, in comparison to 28.5mm in 2015!Fortunately this block is extremely well drained and the water soon disappeared with no adverse effects. 

Now for the consequences. The main concern at this time is the possibility of an outbreak of downy mildew. This fungal disease could potentially ruin the forthcoming crop. We have looked over our vineyards and (so far) there is no sign of this happening. Shoot growth has been very slow this year because of the cold Spring, so an outbreak is fairly unlikely. We think we’ll be able to apply another preventative spray from early next week (10th October). This would be an organic spray so all is well with our efforts to remain organic grape farmers. Naturally if there is an outbreak we’ll be obliged to spray with whatever fungicides are available to eliminate the problem, but that’s a hurdle we’ll jump over if needed.

The other consequence of all this rain is the likelihood of very vigorous canopy growth over the remaining Spring and Summer. It won’t affect the number of bunches as these are set by the vine back prior to last vintage, but bunch weights may increase giving us a bigger crop than desirable. We’ll  ‘green harvest’ some of the bunches if the crop load looks too high, which I’m anticipating it will. This means a team of hand pickers will go through the vineyard and cut off the fruit and drop it on the ground. I anticipate this happening twice over this growing season. We should also be able to assist in managing the crop level  by not irrigating the vineyards until later in the summer, depending on how much heat we have. 

With regards the canopy growth, we’ll have to take a number of courses of action to manage this. If there is too much canopy the flavour won’t develop and the wine will taste too herbal. The shading of the bunches means the grapes may not ripen evenly. We will therefore set a programme of going through each vine to thin out the excess shoots that might cover and shade the cropping shoots. We will also have to pluck leaves off the remaining shoots to let in air and light. With plenty of airflow around the fruit we can minimise the likelihood of further fungal diseases taking hold.

As I have said a number of times in the past, each season throws up its challenges.

See all the photo on Facebook here.

Cheers,

Hugh

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