October in the Tamar Valley, Tasmania

Winderdoon is a small vineyard of 80 vines, capable of producing about 20 dozen bottles of high quality Pinot Noir.

This month I shall look at the tasks undertaken in my vineyard and in my cellar during the month of October;

the second month of growth in the vine.

In the northern hemisphere this would mean April, when you vines have over wintered and are starting their new cycle.

Tasks in The Vineyard

Insect Pests
Monitoring for Pests & Diseases

 

1. Bud Thinning

Despite careful pruning, new buds often burst forth from the crown of the vine and produce canes that will crowd the crown,

leading to poor air circulation and the risk of disease later in the season.

Examine the vine and leave buds that will most likely develop into replacement canes for the next season.

You need to consider the type of pruning method you will be promoting.

I use Scott Henry so I am aware that I need to leave more options without overcrowding the crown area.

Remove any excess buds or shoots from the crown area of the vine.

The picture below shows the excessive growth in the crown of a pinot noir vine in late October.

I removed 4 shoots (pictured) from this area, to allow plenty of air circulation between the canes.

 

crowded_head

Crowding in the crown of the vine leads to poor circulation of air and higher risk of fungal disease.

head_thinnedshoots_removed3 shoots have been removed from the crown area, opening up the crown and allowing better ventilation.

2. Sucker Removal

The trunk of the vine holds many latent epicormic buds which will sprout at the start of a season

in an attempt to allow the flow of sap in the vine to produce fruit at a lower level.

These need to be brushed off with a wire brush or your hand in a pair of gloves.

Do not allow these shoots to harden before removal as this will only promote more hard tissue which will eventually produce more latent buds.

A light brushing with a wire brush will remove them efficiently.

3.Spraying Program

If chemical controls are required in the vineyard, it is important to select the most appropriate chemical

that will control the pest in the circumstances.

Very often there is a choice of several chemicals that can be used and deciding on the most appropriate means considering a number of factors including:

Possible resistance of the pest or disease to the chemical.

Repeated use of the same or related chemicals can result in resistance of the pest to the chemical making it ineffective.

The weather conditions play a major part in the effectiveness of a given chemical.

Sprays can burn the foliage if they are used on very hot days when temperatures are over 30 degrees Celcius.

Safety spraying equipment

Safety equipment is essential for your health when spraying vines.

Cover all body parts from chemicals and wash thoroughly when you have finished.

I use a cheap industrial boiler suit when spraying as well as safety glasses

a mask that is safe with droplet spraying

and a pair of heavy duty rubber gloves.

The life cycle of the pest is relevant to the timing of a spray application.

It is important to use sprays at the correct stage of the pest life cycle to ensure effective control.

Sprays that control the larvae of the Light Brown Apple Moth or Grapevine Moth do not control the adult insect

which is able to fly away from the vines while spraying is in progress,

The spraying program needs to be planned carefully so that disease spread is minimised at all times during the growing season.

In a cool climate such as Tasmania, there are 2 well established fungal diseases that attack the vines at this time of the season

if the conditions are suitable.

Downy Mildew usually presents the first risk as the weather warms during spring.

With temperatures greater than 10 degrees centigrade, a rainfall of 10 mm or more over a 24 hour period produces the ideal environment for the spores of this fungus to develop.

Downy Mildew reduces the photosynthetic capacity of the leaf, and severe infections can reduce the crop yield.

See the notes on how to recognise the fungus and how best to control it. Downy Mildew

The spray must be appropriate to the stage of the vine growth.

Withholding periods must be observed as grapes made into wine can contain traces of the chemical

if the correct withholding period is not observed.

There are two types of spraying approach you can adopt:

Preventative Approach

Applying sprays to cover the periods of new growth in the early part of the season together with correct ventilation

will minimise the onset of fungal diseases such as Downy Mildew and Powdery Mildew.

Spraying with a copper based product at 10- 14 day intervals will prevent the spread of Downy Mildew.

If suitable conditions for the disease occur within this period it may be necessary to reapply the spray.

As we are considering small vineyards, there is no real problem with this.

Just be alert and monitor your weather conditions and the response of your vines.

I prefer "Coppox" for the control of Downy Mildew.

It is an organic spray and can be safely mixed with sulphur based sprays for the control of Powdery Mildew as the temperatures rise.

I shall write more on Ecocarb, the organic spray I use for control of Powdery Mildew in the November lessons.

Curative Approach

An effective spray after 10mm of rain or more in a period of 24 hours with air temperatures of 10 degrees Celcius or more

will stop oil spots appearing.

Further sprays would be needed immediately following the next 10:10:24 period, as new growth is unprotected.

Post infection strategies are best confined to the period from 10cm shoots to harvest.

Recording

Keeping a record of your vineyard management is critical to a consistent approach.

Records should be simple to keep and read, and should be readily accessible .

See here for a basic record sheet template.

It is only worth collecting data on your vineyard if these records are going to be used.

Information is most used in the season in which it is collected, but it is useful to have historical information collected

over several seasons to use in planning your management program.

Types of Record Keeping that I have found useful:

History of block observations, noting infestation of pests or disease symptoms.

Spray application records noting chemical used, rates of application, date and timing of application along with weather conditions.

Growth rates of vines.( Keep dates of different stages -e.g. woolly bud; bud burst;10 cm shoots; 8 leaves separated; early flowering ; 80% cap fall; pre bunch closure; verasion; harvest.)

These records can be used to:

Monitor conditions and management of specific seasonal variations in your vineyard.

Compare one season with another so that a lifetime experience can produce wisdom.

Predict using consistent patterns within records.

You are in the best position to apply strategies that will optimise the quantity and quality of your harvest.

Visit here for templates that may help your recording.

You ultimately need to develop your own, but mine may help for starters.

Please give feedback if you think you have more to offer.

4. In The Cellar

The last vintage has undergone a winter of content at stable temperatures of between 8- 10 degrees Celsius.

I am fortunate to have a fermenting room that is perfect for wine maturation.

A low degree of temperature fluctuation is more important than an absolute temperature.

Wine does need a period of cool temperatures to achieve cold stabalisation.

I achieve low temperatures by leaving my fermenting chamber door open when I want to lower temperatures

and close it when I want the brick insulatation to maintain induced temperatures.

I shall explain in greater detail in the May and June lessons.

Fining

In the month of October, the wine has been racked twice and wood chips have been added to simulate oak where necessary.

I have taste tested the wine at each stage and noted the maturation qualities. The wine is still not entirely clear.

We must decide whether to fine the wine to reduce cloudiness by using a fining agent or rack the wine a third and fourth time

to remove suspended particles. Racking comes at a cost of reduced volume , but does not compromise the wine quality.

Fining is a process that chemically bonds the remaining sediment and clarifies the wine.

It comes at some cost to flavour for the refined wine connoisseur.

For red wine production in the home, the most reliable fining agent is egg white.

CAUTION: This comes with a cost, naturally, as anyone who is sensitive to egg products will be unable to drink this wine.

If you wish to be honest about your production methods you need to declare this on the label,

as some people are highly sensitive to egg.

The use of egg will come with a cost of tannin that will reduce the life of the wine significantly

unless sulphur is used as a preservative- something I have avoided.

I use no added sulphur after a 50ppm sodium metabisulphite sterilisation at the crush of the grapes to kill any vineyard yeasts.

If you wish to have a fermentation induced by the natural yeasts on the skins ofthe grapes,

you will need to withold the introduction of sodium metabisulphate until after the fermentation.

You can either inhibit the fermentation to leave some residual sugar in the wine, or add it after the fermentation has completed.

Be careful if you are proceeding to encourage a malolactic fermentation, as malolactic bacteria is extremely sensitive to this chemical.

It may be better to add the 50ppm prior to bottling.

In any case you cannot get away with not using it in small quantities depending on the pH of the finished wine.

Egg fining is used to reduce tannins as well as cloudiness in red wine.

Carefully sepearte one fresh egg white with no trace of yellow. Beat the white gently.

One egg white is enough for 60 litres of wine.

Pour the egg white into a 60 litre carboy ( or proportionate if necessary) and stir in gently with a sterilised rod.

Try not to introduce too much air into the wine.

The wine should fall clear within 10 days. If it hasn't , it is most probable that the wine will not clear further.

Rack off the lees and bottle the wine.

Fining reduces tannins and can reduce the subtle highlights of a wine. Most of the wines I have made have not been fined

and I would caution new winemakers to try without fining before committing to a fining stage.

The clarity of commercial wines is a statement of their porocess and not not necessarily of their quality.

Try making wine without fining before you go there.

5. Racking

Without fining, I am into the final racking of the new season wine.

At most you will sacrifce 2-3 bottles at the expense of having clear wine. This is not a great cost in quality.

racking schedule

Aging in bulk usually results in a smoother wine than aging in the bottle.

I would therefore strongly recommend not bottling red wine before December of the year in which it is made ( 8 months in the vat).<

A Cabernet Sauvignon should be longer and a Shiraz should be left at least a year.

If you need the fermenting vessels for further production, then you can bottle the wine

just prior to sterilising them prior to the next vintage.

6. Bottle Cleaning

This process usually occupies my early mornings for at least a month. You need to get the bottles scrupulously clean and seal them after cleaning and rinsing with a hand pushed cork. ( I save last year's corks for this purpose).

Lately I have been saving bottles with Selvin screw caps. These seem to wrk well and I have had no noticeable deterioration in the quality of the wine.

I use a chlorine based product - Pink Stain remover. This comes pre packaged by my local wine supplies dealer and I haven't really enquired as to whether I can get it cheaper in bulk. I use a 500gm pack each year to clean about 25 dozen bottles.

I have a large sink in my garage that takes a sealed crate for 18 bottles.

I mix up the pink stain remover -4 teaspoons with 9 litres of hot water and fill the bottles using a funnel.

Once the bottles are full I fill the crate with hot water & pink stain remover.

This softens the old labels and after 1 hour immersion, they are ready to process.

Any heavy sediment in the bottle ( believe me, it does happen when you allow the syphon to go too low in the cask when bottling)

can be removed with a spiral bottle brush.

I then remove the old labels using a soft wire pot cleaner and a light abrasive sponge.

Most labels are easy to remove, however you occasionally come across a glue that pills when exposed to water and is very difficult to remove.

After years of wine making I now know which labels to look out for, and I try to avoid these.

The Avery labels are easy to attach and although not water fast, they make easy printing on a home computer for making your wine look highly respectable in presentation.

You may be tempted to buy new bottles ( about $1+ each). I have found that this explodes the cost of home wine making, and with cheap wine on the market for between $6- 10 you sometimes wonder why you go to the trouble.

I do, no doubt. My wine is organic and produced with loving care.

Having worked in the industry for a number of years, I understand that you pay for what you get.

A $7 bottle of red wine might taste Ok, however it will be loaded with sulphites and be low in tannins, limiting its cellar life.

Finally rinsing the bottles, drying them thoroughly and sealing them against the entry of further contamination

is essential prior to bottling.

My system is a hose stand drying rack constrcuted from split Tas railway sleeepers.

I made a hose stand and added gal 5cm nails at angles to allow the bottles to drain naturally.

When dry I cork them lightly with last year's corks inverted and store them in labelled boxes in my cellar ready for bottling.

 

7. Testing Wine

Before you bottle your wine you need to take a few final tests to ensure its chemical composition will allow it to keep

and age in the bottle successfully.

pH is the measure of Hydrogren ions present in the wine. This needs to be within the range 3.3- 3.6 for wine to keep successfully.

At the lower end of the range you will notice high acidity to taste.

In a white wine this is not too bad, but I prefer my reds to have a pH of 3.4-3.5 prior to bottling.

Acidity makes the wine taste crisp to the palate. Too much and it is tart- too little and it is bland and uninteresting.

I like a wine that reflects the fruit first, then the acidity and then a long finish which allows all the flavours of the vintage to leave an imprint in the wine. Oaking helps to carry thihese flavours in a wine.

TA = Titratable acidity. It is a measure of all the acids in the wine. Year 8 chemistry at school will probably bring you memories of titrations.

I run titrations on my wine after primary fermentation and prior to bottling.

Once in the bottle there is nothing you can do to improve the balance,

so I recommend that prior to bottling you know what the acid content of your wine is.

My April notes will carry details of how to do a titration but you may refer here for a summary.

Malolactic fermentation will convert the Malic acid in wine to Lactic acid, resulting in a lower TA.

CAUTION: If you have added malolactic bacteria after primary fermentation,

you need to be confident that it has run its course.

Malolactic bacteria has a nasty habit of reactivating after bottling if your temperature control during the process was not quite right.

Malolactic bacteria is most active between 20-28 degrees celsius.

It is difficult to maintain these temperatures in the Autumn in a cool climate environment

resulting in an incomplete malolactic fermentaion prior to wintrer when temperatures are definitely too low to maintain its work.

IT WILL REACTIVATE as Spring temperatures rise.

I open my cellar door during warm spring days to allow the wine to warm thus allowing the bacteria to complete its work on the wine.

This video explains the decarboxilation process of Malolactic Fermentation.(MLF)


 

A test can be undertaken to determine the level of malolactic acid in your wine.

It involves purchasing a kit which enables you to measure the amount of malic acid still present in your wine.

If you have induced malolactic fermentation this year or previously, chances are that the bacteria will have become dormant in the cold weather.

Once the Spring comes, and temperatures start to rise in your cellar, the bacteria will start to work again.

If you bottle your wine before all the malic acid has been converted to lactic acid,

you may experience a continuation of the secondary fermentation in the bottle leading to popped corks,

broken bottles and one hell of a mess. Avoid these hassles and make sure you acquire a kit from your local winemaking supplies.

 

 

You can download a demonstration from Accuvin as to how to take this test with their kit here. Kits are available from Winequip Australia.

Next Month: November

In The Cellar:

Bottling- equipment and methods of bottling your wine in a small vineyard operation.

In the Vineyard:

Fruit thinning

Shoot positioning

Spraying Program

Flowering and its implications

Monitoring for Insect Pests & Diseases

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