30 June 2020
by Conrad Pohlinger, Elderton Viticulturist
After the challenges of the hot and dry conditions last year, we are pleased to be getting into the start of a new season with some rain. In the vineyard, autumn and winter give us a chance to step back from the growing season and look at the bigger picture of long-term developments and get excited about what we are doing for the coming year.
Soil health is important
So much of what we do in the vineyard relates to soil health and it is largely the post-harvest period that we analyse and improve our soils. Immediately after harvest we planted our cover crop, which grows in between the vineyard rows.
This year we went with a blend of oats, vetch, radish and snail medic. Each of these has a role to play: oats shade out weeds, radish provides sub-surface bulk to open up soils and the vetch and medic provide nitrogen for vine nutrition. All of these will then slowly break down in the spring and boost the organic matter content of the soil.
We have also been busy getting compost spread to further boost the nutrition and organic matter of the soil- helping them maintain more microbial life and hold more water over winter, reducing our need for irrigation.
The big task of pruning
Now the vines have reached dormancy we get into pruning season. This is possibly the most important job for the year. Choosing how many buds and what shoots we keep will directly influence how the vines grow the following season. With the past two seasons being very difficult for the vines we have opted to leave fewer buds to give them a chance to grow some strong shoots and fully replenish nutrient reserves.
Planning for the future
At the same time as pruning, we are taking cuttings of some of best performing and oldest blocks to replant some blocks at Greenock. This method of selecting planting material is known as ‘Massale Selection’ and produces a diversity of genetic material in the vineyard. This has the challenge of each vine being subtly different (versus Clonal Selection in which they are all identical) but creates a more complex system with higher resilience. It is also a privilege to be able to maintain the thread to the past and stay true to the Elderton style and heritage with this technique.
Vineyard Update, June 2020 by Conrad Pohlinger, Viticulturist