Saturday, 21 May 2011

Monty Waldin addresses the second Organic and Biodynamic UK Vineyards Meeting

The second Organic and Biodynamic UK Vineyards meeting was held at Laverstoke Park Farm last week. The theme of the day was Biodynamics and Compost Teas and we were lucky enough to have Monty Waldin give a talk on the application of Biodynamics in the vineyard.

Monty explained that Biodynamics is based on organic practices but also uses natural forces (like those provided by the moon), medicinal plants (such as chamomile, stinging nettle and dandelion), minerals and natural cow manure composts. This strengthens the vines which also produce healthier, more vital wines, reflecting the character of the vineyard.

Presentations were also given by Vinodh Krishnamurthy, from Laverstoke Park Farm Laboratories, who explained the importance of the Soil Food Web, and Alex Valsecchi of Albury Vineyard who talked about the preparation and application of Compost Teas.

There were around 40 attendees representing 15 UK vineyards as well as a number of consultants and organic suppliers. A very successful day demonstrating the ever increasing interest in Organic and Biodynamic viticulture.

Sustainability in the Vineyard

I recently attended a very interesting Wineskills workshop on Sustainability in the Vineyard, facilitated by Professor Steve Wratten -a cockney living in New Zealand! Steve is a leading light in the Greening Waipara project in Lincoln, New Zealand, which aims to build biodiversity back into the wine experience.

Steve poses the question "How can nature help us with agriculture?" Agriculture, including viticulture, damages biodiversity and in New Zealand has caused major declines in their native plant and animal populations. He argues that the current high level of chemicals used in viticulture  is unsustainable.

So what to do? At Waipara they are conserving their remaining undisturbed habitats and introducing additional biodiversity to enhance the services that nature can provide for free in the form of biological control of pests, pollination, improved soil quality, conservation and eco-tourism, to add value to vineyards and reduce reliance on herbicides and pesticides. Fifty North Canterbury vineyards have already signed up to the scheme.

For our part we are already organic so we don't use herbicides and pesticides. However we we will be looking at surveying our current wildlife, planting cover crops to improve biodiversity and creating a biodiversity trail around the vineyard. We also look forward to adopting any sustainability standards that emerge from the current initiatives being undertaken by the UKVA and Plumpton College.

For more details of the Waipara project:

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Vine Mortality

We have now made a count of dead vines that were planted last May. Overall we had a 2.8% mortality rate, with the Chardonnay faring the worse. The detailed analysis is as follows:

Cultivar Rootstock Dead Plants Total Planted % Mortality
Pinot Meunier 865 41B 24 1250 1.9%
Pinot Meunier 925 41B 33 1250 2.6%
Pinot Noir 115 Fercal 17 1100 1.5%
Pinot Noir 459 Fercal 3 1100 0.3%
Pinot Noir 870 Fercal 8 1100 0.7%
Pinot Noir 872 41B 7 1100 0.6%
Seyval Blanc SO4 27 1175 2.3%
Pinot Gris 457 Fercal 4 175 2.3%
Chardonnay 95 Fercal 36 1450 2.5%
Chardonnay 124 41B 83 1450 5.7%
Chardonnay 277 41B 110 1450 7.6%
Total 352 12600 2.8%

It's interesting that the Chardonnay 124 and 277 cultivars fared so badly and that the Pinot Noir did so well. In the next couple of weeks we will be replacing all the dead plants by hand. 

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Chilly on the Vineyard

Gary and Philip after lighting the Boujies

I was rudely woken by the weather station alarm txt this morning at precisely 2.51am.... with news that the wet bulb temperature had dropped to 1.3 degrees and that the soil temperature was already below zero.

So it was off to the vineyard in the dead of night to fire up the frost guard machine and to light the orchard burners and boujies. Thankfully Philip and Gary responded to my call for help and between the three of us we had everything lit by around 3.45am.

There was a light ground frost with the weather station wet bulb reading reaching a low of 0.4 degrees and the soil temperature falling to -1.6 degrees at 3.41am.

Now back home at 6.30am with temperatures rising above zero now that the sun is coming up over the tree line. Thankfully no frost forecast for the rest of the week. zzzz