Dear me. The romanticism of grape growing and wine making is
being tested continually at every stage of this gruelling season.
Yes, of course, we are well versed in the various ways the
weather can affect the crop quality and quantity and we are always
prepared for some of these challenges to occur during any season.
However this season has been quite breathtaking in its
audacity to throw down challenges, to both vine and grower, month
on month. We press on!
We began in September with some unseasonal warm weather which
pushed the buds out earlier than usual. Our usual diligent
attention to our frost protecting fan saw it serviced by the
installer just prior to the first frost of the season.
Unfortunately, the fan was rendered useless by a basic
servicing error and it failed to run during a -2.7 degree frost
event. We are still assessing the extent of the fruit loss,
but it was certainly significant. Perhaps even more troubling
was the weather in December when the vines began to flower and set
their crop. The ideal is calm, warm, even weather. We
had windy, cold, erratic weather highlighted, in the most perverse
way, by hail. The result has been a poor fruit set. On
the positive side, the good rains through October and November have
seen the canopy grow very well and regardless of what occurs crop
wise this season, the vines will be set up for winter pruning and a
likely strong start to the 2015 season. Yes, we do think in
long timeframes with these vines!
The start of December saw the rain clouds turned off and it has
been unremittingly dry for two months now. We have had 25mm
and a startlingly long run of hot weather, peaking with five days
of 40 degrees or above in January. And on it goes. The
day after the five year anniversary of the catastrophic Black
Saturday bushfires we experienced a high wind, 41 degree day
and a fire exploded into life just over the hill from us,
thankfully to the east. This fire, three days later, is no
longer threatening towns but continues to cause anxiety and the
risk of burning stumps and trees reigniting another front remains.
So, we do have some smoke haze around us however the grapes
are yet to begin ripening and the expectation, like in 2007 and
2009, is that we will mercifully be unaffected in a qualitatve
Some good news; this season we have moved to under vine
cultivation, as opposed to previous regimes of straw mulching
(loved by wildfires) and undervine mowing (vineyard looks like a
park however weeds push their roots deeper to compete with the
vines' roots). This move has been a wonderful success.
As well as turning the undervine competition over and having
the weeds die off and break down back into the soil it also opens
up the soil (reducing any hard layer/compaction), to air and
moisture, and it also has the ability to work compost into the
soil. Like all things vineyard related, timing is the key and
when this activity is done correctly the result is really
So, here we stand in February and wonder where the season is going.
Hot and dry, a small crop. Where earlier in the season
the expectation was for a mid April harvest this is being revised
to an earlier start. Maybe early April, depending on the
twists and turns of the Autumn. The Heathcote Shiraz vineyard
is looking healthy and strong and the fruit will be ready in
another couple of weeks. We have a bottling in mid March to
begin to ready the 2013 wines for release later in the year.
For sure, it's a testing cycle that makes up vineyard and winery
work, but contemplating new wines beginning their evolution in
bottle and another harvest, regardless how small, is very