Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 In Retrospect

It’s been a relatively quiet year for us.
There was no international travel but we had a few weeks away locally with one trip to Melbourne in Victoria and another to Orange via Canberra in New South Wales.
It was good to explore some wine regions (and quilt shops) in those places and en route.
Plenty of trips to Sydney as well for family and medical reasons. As far as the latter is concerned all was good.
On the sporting front we enjoyed the London Olympic Games immensely. Our satellite TV coverage was excellent and it was great to see the best, instead of just Australian performances which seem to be the focus of the free to air channels.
Rugby was another matter. Our local state team, the Waratahs, played very badly all year and the Australian Wallabies weren’t much better. The former team will have a new coach in 2013 but regrettably  the latter won’t. Australia is stuck with the incumbent New Zealander! Could be more of the same for the national team in the upcoming season and with the British and Irish Lions Tour looming this is not a good thing to contemplate.
Our national cricket team has had a patchy year in all forms (Test, One Day, T20) of the game. But they are in rebuilding mode. In 2013 we again face the poms in England in a test series which is always a good battle.
Life on the farm has not been too fraught with problems. The 2012 vintage was a disaster. Continual wet weather hampered all efforts to keep the fungus out of the grapes. We eventually threw in the towel and decided not to harvest. Things are looking better for 2013.


We had a good calf drop in spring but sadly have lost two so far. It’s been a very bad year for ticks (wet weather related) and vets in the area have been aware they are taking their toll on new born farm animals including cattle, alpacas and goats. Nothing much can be done against this apparently. The paralysis tick is also particularly fatal for dogs and cats so lots of pour on and tick collars being sold.
As you can see from our wine list, a considerable range was consumed this year. Not too many bad ones.
The highlights this year were the wines out of the Orange wine region, the Hunter Valley Semillons and Verdelhos , the Clare Valley Rieslings as well as the Victorian Pinot Noirs. We are so spoilt for choice both from a local and imported point of view. And prices are still very good. The strong Australian dollar has hampered exports so suppliers are trying to get rid of excess stocks on the local market. For the same reason, imported wine has never been so cheap.
We shall continue our evaluation into 2013. It's a tough job but someone has to do it.
So that's another year gone.
We look forward to the new one.
All the best to my readers.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas 2012

Obviously the world didn’t end on the 21st so we shall continue on with life on the beautiful south coast of New South Wales.
Our Christmas this year will be, as usual, minimalist.
We have planned a seafood lunch with a couple of really good bottles. When there are just the two of us I can access my secret stash! The only concession to a traditional Christmas lunch will be a big slice of plum pudding for me. The co driver still thinks of that as poison especially when slathered in custard.
Prawns, oysters, scallops and mussels (with some old Hunter Valley Semillon or maybe a nice sparkling Tasmanian Chardonnay/Pinot Noir .....or both) and maybe a piece of salmon from the BBQ (with a Mornington Peninsula or Yarra Valley Pinot Noir) might be on the menu. And just maybe a small glass of sticky with the pud.
We are lucky to have a really good fish shop in town called, you guessed it, “Lucky’s”. After all, Ulladulla was once a major fishing port. He has the freshest and best all year 'round. Getting into the shop on Christmas Eve can be bedlam with queues forming outside at 6am. We go late the day before.
 "Mate, it's the same stuff you will get the next day" says Lucky who makes a fortune at this time of year but can never come to grips with the mentality of the last minute rush.

We had the annual valley party last weekend at one of the neighbour’s places. It was, as always, a fun evening with good food, a little bit of wine and lots of laughter. The evening started off pretty hot and humid, typical December weather, but the southerly, known as ‘the doctor’ around here, came in after about an hour and the temperature dropped 10 degC which made for an even more pleasant evening.
The forecast for Christmas day is not that good with cloud and showers predicted, minimum 17 degC maximum 23 degC. However this is better than being below zero and up to our necks in snow like other places we know.
We were going to hit the beach early for a swim before the hordes arrive and then retire to the peace and quiet of home. We shall see.
A happy Christmas to all my readers.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Grapevine Growth

It's amazing how fast grapevines grow.
From the pictures below you can see their development from early September to early December.
This year the Pinot Noir seems to have developed much larger leaves than normal and certainly more vigorous shoot growth. This may be the result of our wet spring and plenty of residual soil moisture.
We have been green pruning fairly severely already in order to thin out the fruitless shoots. This allows more air circulation around and through the canopy to help prevent fungus.
A less dense canopy also allows better spray penetration.
In addition it also prevents shading ie. allows more sunlight onto the leaves and bunches to assist in the ripening process. This means increased sugar levels (higher resultant wine alcohol), increased colour in red grapes, increased tartaric acidity and overall better varietal flavour.

Meanwhile the Pinot Noir bunches are developing. They have reached the 31st stage according to the Eichhorn and Lorenz system ie. berries pea size, bunches hanging down. The berries will continue to 'swell' until they are touching. This is known as bunch closure. Some varieties 'close' more than others. Chardonnay for instance has very tight bunches while those of Cabernet Sauvignon are more open. Tight bunches always have problems with botrytis in wet conditions and it is always essential to get a preventative spray on before bunch closure as a follow up to the first at 80% cap fall.

              Grape berries follow a double sigmoid growth curve. The initial phase of growth results from cell division and expansion. Then the growth slows. This  is known as the lag phase. This is not a physiological growth stage, but an artificial designation between the two growth periods of the berry, the second of which is ripening. This is signalled by veraison or colour change.