By Ben Burridge
Viticultural Technician, Wither Hills
With the grapes now softening and changing colour, it is time to reflect on what has been occurring in the vineyard over the last month. The long dry summer last season combined with good conditions during flowering has encouraged what is likely to be an early and bountiful 2014 harvest.Conditions have also been ideal for the development and spread of powdery mildew throughout the region. Fortunately disease assessments to date have shown that both our organic and conventional spray regimes have had excellent control of disease. In addition there has been little sign of LBAM (light brown apple moth), suggesting that our plantings of buckwheat and phacelia have supported a multitude of beneficial insects to prey on the caterpillars. This is encouraging considering the final sprays have just been applied and bird netting will be going on in the coming week!
This season I have noticed a significant change in the vigour of the organic Sauvignon. Excess vegetative growth has been greatly reduced, leading to a better balanced canopy with less urgency for trimming and leaf plucking. So far this hasn’t had any detrimental influence upon the phenological development of the crop and in the next few weeks we will be quantifying this through grape sampling.In addition to this, pre-harvest yield estimates suggest that the organic Sauvignon Blanc bunches will be significantly smaller than the conventional. Whether this leads to a more favoured wine is yet to be seen, however it will make a good talking point at the final Organic Focus Vineyard meeting later this year.