Healthy vines make great wines
Ever heard the saying “healthy vines make great wines?” Well, as you can imagine it is absolutely true.
Yes, its winter and it has been raining pretty much non stop for what feels like forever. It seems as though nothing could possibly survive the cold at the moment, much less flourish, but vineyards are hardy plants, and taken care of correctly, they will provide you with the gift of wine for years to come. They really are the gift that keeps on giving!
There are a number of different vineyard practices that one can implement that will help vines stay healthy, these will vary depending on the type of varietal, external conditions such as the climate in an area and of course personal preference.
Something you may not know is that vines really don’t want to be helped too much. If vineyards, for example, receive too much water, especially during times of harvest, this can negatively affect the berries, and in turn, affect the wine. Too much rainfall as the berries are in their final stages of ripening will cause the grapes to swell and dilute the sugars and juice. Not a good thing when you are looking for fruit concentration! A vine also does not need to be nourished with fertilizers and other added soil nutrients, this can boost leaf growth and actually take energy the vine would otherwise use to grow super amazing concentrated berries and use it to grow loads of leaves instead!
With this being said, there certainly are things that vineyards do need to stay happy and healthy. Let’s take a look at our vineyards at Hillcrest and the practices our winemaker, Arno Smith implements.
As Hillcrest is in the Northern suburbs in Durbanville, we would generally consider the overall area to be warm, but, as our farm is situated near the cool Atlantic Ocean, we would actually say we are a cool climate estate. Even though the rainfall is less than an area like the Southern Suburbs. For this reason, we use drip irrigation to make sure our vines receive enough water during the warmer summer months to produce enough juice to make our wines.
Drip irrigation works by dropping a single drop of water right over the base of the vine, ensuring the water goes exactly where it needs to without waste, and without providing the vine with too much water.
We also prune our vines during the winter months. This is a vitally important practice that all wine farms will make use of. Pruning occurs during the winter months when the vine is in its winter dormancy and not producing fruit. Pruning ensures a vine will produce new healthy shoots and also encourages the plant to grow berries where you want them to grow. Helping the bunches of grapes grow in accessible places helps with the harvest, but more importantly helps with good sun exposure and prevents disease and possible rot.
Pruning can also influence the size of the berries, as you are encouraging the vine to grow new shoots and focus its energy on fruit production. Pretty important stuff!
After winter, when we start moving into spring, a vine will start budburst. Just as it sounds, fresh bright green little buds will start forming and from them the tendrils. Eventually, little bunches of grapes will start growing and start their ripening during the spring and summer months. Once verasion has occurred, (the change of colour that happens when grapes ripen) and the sugar and acid components are deemed to be at the desired level, we begin the harvest.
What a cycle we get to witness from summer to winter every year! One can see why it is so important to maintain a healthy vineyard and what a balanced environment a vine needs to produce great quality fruit.
We think our vines are just about as happy as they could be. After all, the proof is in the pudding, and the wines we have produced are certainly ranked as some of the best.