Saturday, 18 February 2012

Organic Wine

The European logo for Organic Wine

The European Commission has voted to implement standards for the production and labelling of organic wine.

Up until now there has been no approved process for the production of organic wine and therefore it has only been possible to label wine as "produced from organic grapes". These new regulations will allow wine to be certified as organic which for the first time will allow consumers to be confident that they are purchasing a fully organic product.

The new laws have been voted on but have not yet been published - when they are they will become law. We will aim to ensure that our 2012 vintage is certified organic

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Ladybird Ladybird fly away home!

Harmonia axydris (Japenese Ladybug)

An interesting and somewhat worrying presentation at the ICCS yesterday by Kevin Ker from Brook University, Canada.

Ladybirds are often regarded as beneficial insects that feed on harmful pests like aphids. However some non-native ladybirds like the Harmonia axydris (known as the Japenese Ladybug) are increasingly being found in vineyards in North America, Canada and Europe, including the UK. This species can cause a real problem in vineyards by tainting the grape must, which can't be rectified in the wine making process.  Apparently in Canada this has been a big problem, resulting in thousands of litres of wine being poured down the drain. 

In the UK its not yet a significant issue, but we will keep a lookout for the Japenese Ladybug which has a distinctive black "M" on the back of it's head.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

What's Hot About Cool Climate?

This years International Cool Climate Symposium for viticulture and oenology is being held in Hobart, Tasmania. I'm lucky enough to be attending which I've coincided with a family holiday in Australia. 

Jancis Robinson opened the conference with a keynote speech titled "What's hot about cool climate", which was an illuminating tour of potential new regions in the world for an expanding market for cool climate wines. She described cool climate wines as more refreshing, generally healthier (with a lower alcohol content) and easier to match with food. 

This was followed by an excellent presentation from  Dr Andrew Pirie on "Defining cool climate viticulture and winemaking". He used the GST (Growing Season Temperature) measure to define cool (14-16C), very cool (13-14C) and too cool (under 13C). Surrey is around 13.9C. 

Andrew maintained that the GST measure also tells you what varietals can be successfully grown; in very cool regions, muller-thurgau, seyval, reichensteiner, and bacchus are found, while in cool regions, such as Champagne (14.1-14.7C), Alsace and Central Otago,  gewurztraminer, pinot gris, chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier, gamey, sauvignon blanc and riesling are best suited. Over 16C varieties such as cabernet sauvignon are grown in areas like Bordeaux.

In the last 30 years temperatures in the south of England have increased by around 1.5C, so we are likely to soon be very firmly in the cool category.

Pruning and Bud Fruitfulness

Alex with Peter Hayes on the vineyard

Earlier this month we were very fortunate to have international wine expert, Peter Hayes, visit the vineyard as part of the Wineskills programme.

One of the topics we discussed was the need to understand Bud Fruitfulness and how it might impact on the level of pruning in the winter. Fruitfulness is the weight of fruit produced by each bud and can be affected by the weather conditions during the previous year. 

Pruning establishes the number of buds retained for each vine. Buds produce shoots which in turn produce clusters, so the greater the number of buds per vine, the greater the potential yield. Shoots also produce leaves and therefore pruning also determines the vine’s leaf area and therefore the vine’s ability to produce sugar; the building block for aroma, tannin and color compounds (essential the quality of the wine).

Proper pruning creates a balance between the vine’s leaf area and the amount of fruit produced. If pruning is not severe enough too many buds are retained, which can result in over cropping which stresses the vine and is likely to result in poor unripened fruit. If pruning is too severe then the optimum yield potential isn't realised. Quality can also be adversly effected as the vines energy is concentrated on fewer shoots creating an over dense canopy.  Pruning decisions not only affect the quality of the current season’s crop, but impact on the quality of next year’s harvest by also affecting “bud fruitfulness".

The poor summer last year may well adversely affect the bud fruitfulness this year, and for this reason we are pruning the vines a little longer with a view to cutting them back further once initially budding has taken place. Next winter we will investigate the possibility of getting a lab to analyse the potential fruitfulness of cane samples from the vineyard, so that we can better judge the level of pruning necessary to give us the best chance of producing the optimum crop levels.