Monday, February 20, 2006

The South Coast Wine Show

A total of 5 gold, 11 silver and 46 bronze medals were presented at the South Coast Wine Show dinner at Bannisters Restaurant Mollymook. This followed assessment of a strong field of 136 entries in 15 classes by the three highly experienced judges, David Morris, David Lowe and Russell Cody.

Chardonnay Class Ready for Judging
Special awards went to Coolangatta Estate 1998 Semillon (gold medal and trophies for Best Wine of Show, Best White Wine and Best Wine from Shoalhaven Coast grapes), Breakfast Creek 2004 Chambourcin (gold medal and trophies for Best Red Wine and Best Chambourcin), Berrima Estate 2005 ‘Tertini’ Riesling (gold medal and trophy for Best Wine from Southern Highland Grapes) and Crooked River 2004 Unwooded Chardonnay (silver medal and Best Wine Made in a Shoalhaven Coast Winery).
Chief judge David Morris, commented that the best white styles were Sauvignon Blanc, Verdelho & Semillon with a very good example of a young Riesling and some superb aged Semillon. He said this years Chambourcin class was the best seen at the show to date with the best reds being medium bodied Rhone styles with soft fleshy flavours.

The Judges at Work
Coolangatta Estate continued their impressive show record with gold medals for the 2001 and 2003 and 1998 Semillon, as well as 4 silver and 11 bronze medals across a wide range of classes.
Other successful Shoalhaven Coast entrants were: Cambewarra Estate (2 silver, 3 bronze), Crooked River Wines (1 silver, 7 bronze), Kladis Estate Wines (4 bronze), Bawley Vale Estate (2 bronze), Seven Mile Vineyard (1 bronze), Fern Gully Winery (1 bronze), Roselea Vineyard (1 bronze), and The Silos Estate (1 bronze).

The Public Tasting of All Wines
Medal winners from the Southern Highlands were: Berrima Estate (1 gold, 1 bronze); Centennial Vineyard (2 silver, 6 bronze); McVitty Grove (1 silver, 1 bronze); Blue Metal Vineyard (2 bronze); Bousaada Vineyard (1 bronze); Diamond Creek Estate (1 bronze) and Eling Forest Winery (1 bronze).

Presentation of Awards at Wine Dinner
Far south coast producers Breakfast Creek (1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze) and Tilba Valley Winery (1 bronze) also received awards.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The New Vineyards/An Update

Despite hail damage the previous season, a relatively dry year and some shoot damage by unknown sources but birds suspected, all three new vineyards have progressed nicely.
The Semillon has performed the best with substantial new growth. The cuttings for this block come from another local vineyard where the clone(s) is unknown. Some individual vines are far outperforming others. Whether this is clonal or environmental is anyone’s guess. Cuttings will be taken from these particular vines during dormancy and grown on next season to ascertain the answer.

The Semillon Rows
The cordon wire has been filled in most cases with lateral growth ie. potential spurs, on the first half of the new cordon acceptable. The top row has not performed as well due to severe soil compaction at one end and tree competition at the other. This could be overcome next season by digging up these vines during dormancy, completely removing a volume of compacted soil that accommodates major feeder root growth, mixing it with organic matter and replacing it. The vine can be then replanted, cut back and retrained or the better performing cuttings planted. This soil improvement system has worked for a number of the Tempranillo in the same block. The competing trees need to be cut back.
The Tempranillo has also performed well with some problems with tree competition at the lower end of the block. This will require additional soil amelioration. We know the clone of this variety (D8V12) but again there has been a few outstanding performers so the question of clonal variation versus environment will have to be answered. We will repeat the cutting exercise with these as well. One vine in particular is stunted with quite distorted leaves. This could be a viral problem and that vine will be destroyed and replaced.

The Tempranillo Rows
The Pinot Noir growth has been even (MV6 clone) but considerably less vigorous than the other two. This is a typical characteristic of the variety.
Whether there has been enough growth for spuring can only be assessed at the end of the season. It could be that they will need to be cut back to 2 buds and retrained.
It is said that Pinot Noir needs deep, friable, mineral rich, moist soil. Thick clay sub soils and lean sandy top soils do not deliver the best results. We have the latter here.
Good quality fruit is produced in cool humid regions (Burgundy, Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, New Zealand), not in hotter climates where color and phenolic components are inadequate. We have the latter here.
So it is evident we will have trouble theoretically producing a decent (complex, multi layered) wine from our Pinot. It might just be a source of grapes for an acceptable summer Rose’.
However we are trying other cultural techniques to improve quality.
We are planting the vines close together (1mx3m) or 3333/ha. In France they can be planted at a density of 10,000/ha or 1mx1m. This higher density planting reduces vigor and limits the vine’s fruit production. Some say that yield should be around 750g per vine, or in our case 2.5 tonnes/ha. to achieve good quality.

The Pinot Noir Block
Clonal selection is important. There are around 30 clones of Pinot Noir available in Australia. Vines need to be fruitful but produce even sized bunches with small berries. Shoots should not be too vigorous. MV6 seems to fit this bill but its performance is very site specific and we have yet to full ascertain what this clone will do in our environment.
Canopy management is also important. Vertical Shoot Positioning (VSP) and avoidance of leaf shading is essential prevent acid imbalance, herbal flavor development and poor phenolic composition.
So it is an interesting experiment to grow this variety on this site in this climate.
You don’t have to be crazy to be a viticulturalist but it helps.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


Birds are a continual problem for the grape grower. They eat or partially eat the ripening fruit as well as feed on new shoots. Not only does this reduce the current and next year’s yield but can also lead to major disease outbreaks eg. Botrytis
The major culprits in our area are the satin or bowerbird, the pied currawong and most members of the parrot family (sulphur-crested cockatoo, galah, lorikeet, rosella, king parrot). These are all native species.

Bunch Damage
Luckily we have, as yet, no problems with the silver eye, Indian myna or starling.
The area surrounding the vineyards is heavily wooded with native forest so there are plenty of places for the birds to roost.

Shoot Damage
There are any number of ways to try to prevent bird attack. These include audio and visual deterrents of all sorts, both mechanical and electronic, netting, chemical pesticides and of course shooting. All have advantages and disadvantages.
We have used netting here for many years. It is not 100% effective as birds can sit on the net and peck at the berries through the mesh.

Netted Vines
They also have the happy knack of finding every hole or opening in the netting and getting through, particularly the satin bird. I would estimate that crop losses with netting properly installed run at around 10-15%.
This year we have installed a Hawk Bird Scarer. It is a plastic replica of a Goshawk which, in our case, is mounted on a tall pole at the end of the Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard.

Mounted Hawk Bird Scarer
The theory is that birds of all types have an in-built fear of this particular predator. Because the Goshawk hovers before striking its prey the static nature of the replica is no disadvantage. In even a slight breeze the replica wings and tail move in a very realistic way. It is recommended to change the replicas position every two weeks or so.
The Goshawk also attacks birds that are flying, roosting and eating on the ground and apparently potential prey are aware of this. It will be interesting to see how affective this measure is.

The Hawk Bird Scarer
We also have a second one which will be strung high above the new vineyards between two or three tall trees on strong fishing line. This will allow more realistic movement as well as the ability to easily move its position over the vineyards.
In the meantime growth in the new vineyards continue at pace. Recent rain has produced a considerable flush. Even the Pinot Noir is looking good.
The summer holidays are finally over and school is back in. The town has emptied out most of the tourists. The only stragglers are the university students with their classes beginning in March and the DINK’s who obviously want a quieter child free holiday. It’s a pleasure to go into town now. No traffic jams, plenty of parking and room to move in the supermarket.
The South Coast Wine Show judging was held at the end of January in Milton. There were 137 entries from the Southern Highlands, Shoalhaven Coast and South Coast regions. Medals and awards will be presented at a dinner on the 10th February. The public tasting was well attended with almost 100 people turning up.