May & June vineyard update: from a chilly start to supersonic speed

In the beginning of May we tend to be ready to go for green pruning. Antonia, Anja, Nina and Sam had arrived in time to get started, no more frost was in sight but – there were simply no shoots to remove. The unusually cold April kept the buds closed and with just a glimpse of green here and there we had to look for something else to keep us busy.

Which is not hard in a winery. And closing gaps in the vineyards is one of the best jobs for this time of the year. The apple-tree-vineyard had had a hard time last year with spring frost after planting, a drought in summer and a tough winter frost earlier this year. A few hundred plants died and had to be replaced. As we started following the biodynamic rulebook a bit more strictly this year the roots got their little BD 500 bath over night before planting.

For the big vineyard we ended up using plastic tubes as we ran out of wool but the remaining vineyards we planted in the sheep’s former coat did a good job as a mulch that keeps hares away as the most important side effect.

We even found time to fix the hedge made of old vines, garden vineyard in the background.

Well and at some point although still chilly the shoots came out and we could get started green-pruning the plants.

After two days we stopped again, it felt kind of pointless with some buds not having broken yet and I started wondering whether or not harvest might migrate to November …

And then, finally, the sun came. And just when we started worrying about the water supply for all the baby vines it rained again. And this rhythm kept going until today leading to an enormous speed of growth we’ve rarely ever seen. This obviously had an impact on several levels. First of all the shoots exploded. Almost 3cm per day is incredibly fast meaning that coming back to a vineyard after ten days makes you having to deal with an extra 30cm of green. It’s been a challenge to not let (all) the vineyards become jungles.

Second impact of course: timing. While harvest seemed to move back to a time where it was when I was little (mostly October) in April with every week of this supersonic growth it started moving a little closer to what we got used to the last years. It won’t be August but the first half of September seems very likely.

And if you have perfect growing conditions it’s also perfect for mildew. The first major incubation period was much shorter than expected and over night downey showed up for a party we didn’t see coming. Most vineyards just oil spots but at the bottom of the Riesling where the soil is (too) rich it hit the bunches. That’s when it gets a little scary. What’s lost is lost but to not let it get worse we ripped out infected leaves and bunches, gave it an extra dose of copper and in general tried to reduce the time between treatments for all vineyards. Which again was (and still is) challenging as the constant rain doesn’t allow us to drive that often. Driving on rain-soaked soil is not only bad for the soil but impossible on the slope where we have up to 55% elevation. But so far it’s under control and while there are already discussions about the 3kg/ha limit for copper being a problem this season we haven’t used more than 30% of what we could so far.

Fourth impact of the constant rain: flowering didn’t go that well. Often caps got stuck on the flowers so they couldn’t pollinate themselves meaning fewer berries per bunch meaning a lower yield. Positive side effect: for varieties like Pinots or Riesling that tend to have rot issues because the bunches are too tight this could actually be beneficial.

And of course there always has to be a bit of time for other things than just keeping up with the vines. Like sheep-sheering which tends to happen on a Friday afternoon in June. Basti did a fabulous job as every year and having a glass of wine while watching other catching sheep is always big fun.

One afternoon my friend Josef brought us a young walnut tree so the next day we figured out a perfect spot in the middle of the garden vineyard to plant it. The idea of a majestic tree in the middle of the slope is just wonderful.

Every year is different and crazy in some other way. An essay collection about stoic philosophy came in handy the last weeks. Like this.

Everything suits me that suits your designs, O my universe. Nothing is too early or too late for me that is in your own good time. All is fruit for me that your seasons bring, O nature. All proceeds from you, all subsists in you, and to you all things return.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 4.23

Not my favorite epoch but there is something to learn almost everywhere.

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