Tom's Back Block - Archive
June 08 Edition
Many people would say we have come to the easy part of the season. The wines are in the barrel and the vines are taking a winter break. You may imagine me pruning and drinking some of the new wines while enjoying the beautiful winter sunshine (no, we haven’t had any rain yet!). If only that were the case…
Winter pruning has started in earnest and to me it’s the most important time of the season. We are setting the crop levels for the coming years, giving certain blocks that little bit of extra attention.
The two main styles of winter pruning are spur and cane pruning (click here to find out more). We prefer to use spur pruning to get just the right number of bunches on the vines. Cane pruning is mainly done with varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc where bud fruitfulness can be a problem from limited sunshine exposure during the growing season.
The bunches for next year’s vintage will be determined during this coming October – November growing period. We are able to dissect the buds and see how many bunches there are. This helps to foresee any problems and the potential yield. We can then work out how many buds to leave per vine. This determines our pruning strategy, a mixture of one, two, three and sometimes four bud spurs.
We set the yield at a level to create a balanced vine. This balance gives an optimal leaf to grape bunch ratio to ripen evenly and allow full ripeness. Too few grape bunches and the vine can be too vigorous, with a potential for disease and an inability to control the berry size of the grapes. Too much yield (too many bunches) and the grapes struggle to ripen and are susceptible to sunburn under the small leaf canopy.
In winter we introduce our organic weeding system – sheep. The sheep clean the weeds under the vines and fertilise them with their poo! The sheep are removed just prior to budburst as they find the new green shoots very tasty. So if you buy some lamb and you think that the meat is showing some citrus/melon/nutmeg characters you will know they have been eating Chardonnay vines while dark berries/chocolate/leather characters and you’ll know they have been busy munching away in the Shiraz!! Maybe it is a new marketing venture for the Ward brothers. You will not even need wine with your roast!
We have finished the first blending of parcels for the Chardonnay 08. All the parcels have been sulphured (sulphur dioxide is used at the end of fermentation to effectively sterilise the wine) except one, which is just finishing. The wine is showing great potential with more citrus with melon characters rather than melon to peach. We are already seeing great integration of the oak in the wines.
With the Chardonnay we have experimented with a number of factors. We have tried using fruit from different blocks from vines of different ages and using varying trellis set ups. During the winemaking we have varied the oak treatment and lees stirring (stirring the dead yeasts back into the wine at varying intervals). We look forward to seeing how this affects our final product.
All our other parcels are looking great with the reds coming to end of their malolactic fermentation (secondary ferment). We are seeing great depth in the colour of the wines as well as some intense varietal characters. We have had a play with different treatments of the wine to add some complexity to the wine but keeping it in the style of Swinging Bridge.
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