by Conrad Pohlinger
Heading into Christmas we could not be happier with how the vineyards look. In contrast to the past two years, we have had excellent fruit set in almost every block, particularly for Shiraz. Bunches are full and balanced with plenty of canopy to ripen them beautifully.
The vines have almost stopped their vegetative growth and the canopies are full and healthy. In this part of the world, having good canopy cover is an important aspect of producing quality fruit. Shading the grapes from the direct sun can reduce the temperature by 15OC or more in the canopy, which helps preserve the complexity of flavour we are aiming for. While cooler regions may want the sunlight to help ripen the bunches, the fierceness of the Australian sun and the summer heat can be a real detriment to quality.
Our compost program is really showing its merits this year too. We have barely seen any signs of nutrient deficiencies, a good indication that the vines are accessing what they need for healthy growth.
Our major concern going into this season was an increased risk of disease with the wetter weather. While we still have a few months until harvest, we have been lucky enough to avoid any major outbreaks. Light Brown Apple Moth is the only pest I have seen in any meaningful numbers. One of the few benefits of the really hot weather is it tends to kill them off, so the 40OC day we had a couple of weeks ago dropped their numbers to negligible levels.
It has been a real joy to see so much life returning to the vineyards after a few dry seasons. There are plenty of beneficial predatory insects around that keep the pest numbers in check and walking through the blocks brings a smile to my face to see a healthy landscape.