As far as events in the vineyard calendar go, flowering is up there with the most important. I however have always felt a bit hard done by when it comes to grape flowers. The word “flower” to most people would conjure up an image of something pretty, colourful and often pleasantly fragrant. Imagine the visual symphony that would wait for you each day if you were a rose grower for example. Sadly, in my opinion, the grapevine produces some of the most boring flowers you will come across. No visual symphonies for us.
The weeks since my last blog can be summed up in one word, windy. We have been hammered this spring and beginning of summer with day after day of very strong wind. This has not only had an impact on the vines but also the staff. Each week by Friday lunch break I can see some pretty tired faces in the staff room after yet another week of battling away against the wind. For the vines it has meant slower growth and broken shoots. In some parts of the vineyard the vines have started flowering with less leaf than would be ideal. Somehow though nature always comes up with its own way of sorting things out. Broken shoots will have an impact on how the vines are pruned next winter, on some plants choices of suitable canes to be laid will be very limited.
Grapevines are self-pollenating so do not require bees to pollenate the flowers. The weather is the biggest influence on how successful flowering is. High humidity, rain and gale force winds are the enemy at flowering. The flowering period so far has been quite kind to us. Apart from a few very windy days we have enjoyed warm weather with little to no rain. If a vine is too stressed flowering can be compromised and nutrient deficiencies can also have an impact on good flowering and fruit set. At Escarpment Vineyard we send leaves away to a lab to be analysed for levels of nutrient. The results are studied by our consultant and he suggests a foliar nutrition programme so we can ensure the vines have the correct levels and balance of nutrient at flowering.
Hot on the heels of flowering is the stage of development called fruit set. It is at this point that we get our first true indication of what sort of fruit volume we may be looking at for the coming vintage. Those calculations will be worked out over the coming weeks.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and the best of luck for 2015.
Janine Pedersen, Vineyard Manager