Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Vineyard in November

The vineyard in November

November is probably the only quite month in the year for a vineyard and it should be the time for a vineyard manager to take a well earned rest. For Alex this means she will have time to take her 500cc motorcycle test!

Having completed the harvest, the vines are winding down and there isn't a lot to do before we start pruning in December. Last week we sprayed the vines with a copper solution to kill off any disease and later this week Alex will drench the ground with compost tea to improve the fertility of the soil and return some of the nutrients that were used for the grapes.

Once all the leaves have fallen and the wood has ripened we will start pruning the vines. It's going to be quite a task this year as there are 21,000 that need to be expertly cut back, leaving the best canes to tie down for next years growth. Luckily we have December, January and February to complete the task.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Alex, cow horns and some dung!

Horn Manure in the making

Now that we are biodynamic we have started to make our own biodynamic preparations. One of the most basic is Horn Manure (preparation 500) which is made by burying cow horns stuffed with dung from lactating organic cows.

Biodynamics is probably the most advanced form or organic viticulture. "Bio" means life and "Dynamics" means energy. It is an holistic approach which harmonises nature's elemental forces of the earth (the soil), water (the vines), air (the weather) and fire (the sun). It also recognises that the phases of the moon have a significant influence on plants.

Earlier today we buried our first cow horns on the vineyard which will be left there over winter. Alex wasn't too happy that the dung was pretty fresh but none the less did great job of stuffing it into the horns! The horns are dug up in the Spring, the contents dynamised in water and then sprayed on the vines. The purpose of this preparation is to improve the fertility of the vineyard. It also connects the vines to the land to encourage a sense of terroir in the grapes and ultimately the wine.

It is difficult to understand how the small quantities we use can make such a difference, but just because it is difficult to comprehend doesn't mean that it doesn't work. Many great vineyards and wineries around the world are convinced by the biodynamic approach, including Domaine Leflaive and Le Roy in Burgundy, Coulee de Serrant in the Loire, Beaux Freres in Oregon, Hensche in Australia and Jean-Pierre Fleury in Champagne.