July started as June had ended. Sunny and dry. Which totally has its upsides considering the downey mildew hell from last year. The dry conditions offer several other advantages too. If there is no grass growing there is no grass to cut, if the vines grow slower it’s much less work to organize the shoots and last but not least: a dry, sunny vintage is perfect for skin ferments. Woodier stems and seeds (impacting flavor) plus a better extraction of anthocyanin (impacting color) are expectable and as most of our grapes are on the skins for a while that’s a good thing.
We didn’t remove too many leaves but an airy, spacious canopy is one of the best things you can do for the grapes. And the best result is of course achieved by human hands. There are plenty of machines out there to do the job but well, have a look at the pictures below and see if you notice a difference between our Silvaner and one from a neighbor:
Of course there’s a But. While the old vineyards are still doing alright (despite the driest July we’ve had in 40 years) all the babies we’ve planted the last two years would have died if we wouldn’t have intervened. Which means: watering. It doesn’t feel good doing it really when you know water is lacking at so many places. But it would be simply impossible for a young plant to survive in a year like this when it doesn’t rain for weeks and the roots are still short. So just for the babies, with the minimal possible amount for the plants to survive and accompanied by measures to use the water the best way possible. One of it being mulch. And while we had the chance to mulch all vineyards once before the drought kicked in – and that way got the ground covered – the new baby vineyard was just naked soil. So cutting grass to cover it was the only option (until we got more grass from a friend at least).
While a responsibly used irrigation actually a very economical solution our biggest plots of babies don’t have one. So it had to be the tractor with a 1,200l barrel on the back driving up and down. And so the water stayed with the plants and didn’t just go anywhere else but sink in deeply we had to hoe holes next to each plant. About 4,500 of them.
And so watering became a key job this season and while some plants withered despite continuously being watered the majority didn’t grow high but survived – at least July (August doesn’t look better so far).
Another downside to the heat – we’re talking up to 37°C this year – is sunburn. The grapes are more sensitive when it’s dry too and for Bacchus, which is the most sensitive variety we have, it was again too much. A goo amount got roasted.
Still – as we’re finishing vegetation season there are plenty of good looking grapes out there and it looks much better than the last two years, also thanks to this fabulous crew.
And thanks to friends and neighbors. So finishing the month with a bit of a feast was the right opportunity to open bottles and fire up the barbecue barrel.
Time to close the winery’s doors for two weeks and take a last deep breath. We’re prepared for an early harvest.