Tuesday, 13 August 2013

A Biodynamic quartz tonic for the vineyard

Alex dynamising 501

We were up very early today preparing biodynamic preparation 501 to spray on the vineyard.

Biodynamics is based on organic practices but also uses natural energy forces (like those generated by the moon), medicinal plants (such as yarrow, chamomile, stinging nettle and dandelion), as well as mineral and natural cow manure composts. This strengthens the vines and produces healthier, more vital wines, reflecting the character of the vineyard.

501 is made using crushed powdered quartz which has been stuffed into a horn of a cow, buried in the ground in spring and dug up in the autumn. Like horn manure (preparation 500) it is dynamised in rain water and then sprayed over the vines. Preparation 501 is used to enhance growth and to help prevent fungal diseases. At this time of year it needs to be sprayed as near to sunrise as possible for maximum effect and to prevent burning of the leaves.

Alex thinks that I'm completely bonkers but we will see! Some of the best wines in the world practice biodynamic farming, including  Coulee de Serrant, Domaine de Romanee Conti, Domaine Laflaive, Beaux Freres in Oragon and Henschke in Australia. In Burgandy alone there are more than forty biodynamic estates.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Leaf Removal

Leaf Removal using a Collard machine
Around this time of year it is important to remove some of the foliage around the forming bunches of grapes. This opens up the canopy which improves airflow and reduces the risk of disease. It also allows the grapes to be exposed to more sunlight which improves flavour characteristics. Those of you interested in more detail should read Dr Richard Smart's excellent book Sunlight in Wine.

Last year we removed the leaves by hand but now that we have 21,000 vines it's too much work to do manually and so this year we decided to use the services of Andy from Upperton Vineyards who has a machine made by Collard to do the job.

Rapid pulses of relatively low pressure air literally shake the leaves to pieces and blows the debris out of the canopy leaving the grapes more exposed to the sunlight. The process only took about a day and a half for the whole vineyard.

Bunches exposed after leaf removal