After what has seemed like a lengthy period between the end of pruning and the beginning of a new growing season we are finally into a busy period which will now last until February next year. A few weeks ago we had a reasonably serious frost in Te Muna where our Estate block is situated. Frost fighting began at 11pm and went through until 8.30am the following morning. We use a combination of methods in different parts of the vineyard to fight frost at Escarpment; wind machines, water sprinklers and frost pots. The result of this frost was only minor damage in a few particularly cold parts of the vineyard. This means its business as usual in the vineyard for us.
As the vines start to grow we start the early part of what we call canopy management. This starts with rubbing buds off the vine trunks where they are not needed so they do not get in our way for the rest of the season. Next we start shoot thinning. This comprises of hand removing selected shoots in the crown of the vine and along the cordon. The aim of this is to reduce shoot crowding and also remove non-productive shoots. Later on in the season this will mean that our lovely bunches of fruit will have plenty of space to hang on the vine and receive maximum sunshine for ripening. By the time we have finished the thinning the remaining shoots will be long enough to be tucked into the first wire on the trellis. All of this is very labour intensive and for the workers themselves, very repetitive, but also rewarding to see the vineyard take shape as the season progresses.
The mechanical side of viticulture runs simultaneously with the canopy management . Once the buds have “broken” and green leaf appears we start spraying a regular programme of sulphur on the vines to keep Powdery Mildew away. Powdery Mildew is our main disease that we are concerned about in the vineyard until the fruit begins to ripen, after that Botrytis becomes the main concern. Noel also spends a great deal of time keeping the grass under control between the rows, thank goodness for cabbed tractors with air conditioning and a good stereo.
So far this season the vines are looking great and the weather has been kind to us.
Janine Pederson – Vineyard Manager