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Singlefile Wines

Viv Snowden
6 February 2019 | Singlefile Wines Blog | Viv Snowden

Viv's Vineyard Update

What a day to be in Denmark!  Temperature 30 degrees C at 11am, 50% humidity, no cloud cover, light breeze.  

Geese were patrolling the pinot noir vineyard at dawn and were encouraged to leave at muster after inspection revealed a few nibbled bunches which are colouring up (and obviously getting nice and sweet) at the start of veraison. This is the time to install the bird netting to protect the vines from our major pests, the voracious silver eyes and relentless crows.  

Cane pruned young Pinot Noir Clone 777 is ripening rapidly

Spur pruned mature Chardonnay Gingin Clone is lightly leaf plucked to allow light and airflow for final ripening period

One year old grafted Chardonnay Gingin Clone onto 30 year old Shiraz rootstock will show us what it can do this year!

Meanwhile it is exciting to anticipate the fruits of our labour. Vineyard and machine maintenance during winter dormancy leads to pruning in July. Then the emphasis is on nutrition of the vines leading to budburst in September. We then watch out for pest management if necessary and buckle down to canopy management throughout the stages of vine growth including shoot thinning, wire lifting, hedging and leaf plucking. Finally once the fruit reaches veraison (softening and ripening) we apply nets to protect it from bird damage.   

During the season it is the role of our viticulturist to ensure that the vineyard is maintained in optimum health with quality rather than quantity as the major driver. This requires an understanding of the soil, the grape variety, the local climate, the style of wines we strive to achieve, the mechanical equipment, operational techniques and overall expert logistics to ensure that all these elements are managed efficiently. This calls for reliable teamwork and the viticulturist must liaise with the owner (vigneron), the workers, the winemaker and take note as the season unfolds of the often fickle “Mother Nature”.  

The science/art of managing a vineyard (viticulture) and the science and study of wine and winemaking (oenology) are taught at universities. The viticulturist must master the key technical methods required for viticulture, vine physiology, vine pests and diseases and water and soil management.  

What is the ideal skill set and personality of the viticulturist? I asked Jordan Ellis, who has had 20 years of experience as a viticulturist, for his personal perception:

What attracted you to viticulture?

Viticulture is a challenging and dynamic field. All decisions must be carefully considered and are heavily influence by the following elements - an evolving market place, manufacturing constraints, a multi layered sales and distribution system and of course, Mother Nature herself. By crafting a product that it is both unique and subjective, particularly after negotiating the said constraints, one feels a sense of satisfaction, pride and ownership.

Where and when did you undertake your studies?

Murdoch University Western Australia. Studied Environmental science before switching to viticulture in 1999, back when Australian unwooded Chardonnay was the “flavour of the month” and prior to the New Zealand Sauvalanche.

What are the key attributes of a successful viticulturist?
  • Understanding and embracing the Terroir of the vineyard. For example, there is no point trying to produce a Barossa styled Cabernet Sauvignon in the cool climate of Tasmania.
  • Mitigation; you cannot control the weather. In cool climate viticulture Mother Nature will throw you the odd curve ball. Be ahead of the game, stay on top of the vineyard canopy management and keep your sustainable vineyard spray program tight.
  • Understand the people that are a part of the brand and vineyard. Viticulture is intensive, as the viticulturist you cannot do it all. Listen and be open-minded. The most successful decisions are based on sound context and observation. Your colleagues are your eyes and ears…use them!
  • And finally understand vine balance. Exceptional wine starts in the vineyard. A structured well balanced vineyard will in turn produced the same virtues in the wine.
What are the key challenges you face each vintage?

Picking decisions! Get this wrong and your entire years’ work has been compromised.

What is the aspect of your role which you find most rewarding?

This is simple… Drinking the fruits of ones' labour!



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