The arrival of Spring at the winery coincides with the grape vine cycle known as 'Budburst'. Towards the end of August and early September our vines wake from winter dormancy to begin a new growing season. Over October and November the vines flower, producing a beautiful smell across the vineyard and then produce tiny bunches. By late November, the fruit sets.
Out in the vineyard there's quite a bit of "spring action" going on too with signs of budburst and foliage development in most blocks now. Meanwhile, in the Old Lands and Eighty Acres blocks, work is proceeding for the planting of new baby vines (known as rootlings). There’s a fair amount of work in this; first the rows must be ripped and mounded. Next, end posts for the trellis wires are positioned followed by location of intermediate posts along the rows. The actual planting has to be done by hand; each little rootling paced carefully into pre-prepared holes. The young vines will then have to be carefully nurtured for some 3 -4 years before we are able to pick our first crop.
Throughout spring, grape growers nervously monitor weather conditions; searching for any sign of danger from their common enemy; the spring frost. Frosts not only pose a risk to the current season’s crop, but due to the perennial nature of grapevines, can also influence the productivity of vines for several seasons into the future!
You may be wondering what frost damage does to grapevines? Well, simply put, damage occurs when dense cold air flows into low lying areas of the vineyard. The cold temperatures freeze the liquid inside the plant cells. As the frozen liquid expands, it ruptures the cell walls resulting in tissue damage to the new shoots, buds, leaves and sometimes even the vascular tissue of the vine. A frost can range in severity depending on day and night temperatures, humidity, cloud cover and the temperature of the soil in the vineyard. Our vineyard team employs scientifically-proven preventative measures to minimise the frost risk, such as pruning late in the season, mulching to keep the warmth in the soil and keeping the growth under the vines under control. We also have frost fans installed and even employ the use of helicopters to move along the cold air in extreme situations.
Despite this, however, we cannot always protect our precious vines from the ravages of frost damage. And so it was that in the last week of September, the climatic forces conspired to produce cold and icy conditions; perfect for frost to occur. Peter Rogge, our vineyard manager, reported that there had been some minor damage to various blocks on the estate. Whilst this will not prove devastating with respect to our 2019 harvest, it’s still heartbreaking. Our vines are nurtured from the time they are small rootlings and any damage to them causes angst for us all. Each season we sweat through this time of potential danger but because of how strongly we believe in the philosophy of estate grown and bottled, we wouldn't have it any other way.
After November; when the risk of frost subsides we will simply enjoy Christmas and then get on with the business of harvesting grapes for our 2019 vintage wines – and celebrating our 50th anniversary...so watch this space, it’s going to be a big one!