For the first time in many years, we started out the growing season with a full soil moisture profile thanks to prolific winter and early autumn rains. The vines went crazy in the spring with substantial vigour, big canopies and lots of fruit. From November until well after veraison, we had our work cut out. ‘
First off, we had to spray with Copper and Sulphur, then desuckering and mowing with extensive shoot thinning in December and even more extensive bunch thinning around veraison. I estimate we removed at least 40 % of the Shiraz and Cabernet in order to concentrate ripening and improve the fruit still on the vines.
We were driven out of the vineyard on more than one occasion by the rain.
After the rains subsided, the dry heat came with January and February having only two or three days where the maximum temperature was below 30 degrees. Aside from one good downpour in January, the rain was nonexistent during this period.
Ideal conditions, until the rain returned.
We picked our first grapes on 16 February (Chardonnay for Sparkling Wine) and picked all the whites and a first picking of Shiraz before some major rains came around the 20th of March. This delayed the rest of the harvest by about 3 weeks, the first picking of Shiraz was on the 15th of March and the second picking was on 10th of April. The last of the grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon from Mount Panorama Estate) were picked on 12 April. It felt like a long vintage but in reality it was less than 8 weeks from beginning to end.
A beautiful view as we crush the last of the Cab Sauv fruit.
My early thoughts about this vintage are positive…it is another good to excellent vintage. I am most excited about the Chardonnay from our home vineyard (Bella Luna) and the early picked Shiraz from the Mount Panorama Estate vineyard.
The 3 Cobbers, happy with the vintage that’s been. It wasn’t without it’s challenges, but we are all quietly confident in some high quality wines from 2017.
Good friend of Renzaglia wines and prominent ecologist Johannes Bauer, recounts his time spent on our Bella Luna Vineyard picking Chardonnay fruit over the weekend from the unique lens of a passionate conservationist.
A juvenile bearded dragon in the Renzaglia vineyards posing between chardonnay grapes during the harvest Sunday the 5th of March. One suspects the attractions for this beautiful and harmless reptile in the vineyard habitat consists of insect life (for example the big fat hawk moth caterpillars) as well as the grapes with their high content of sugar and the good cover provided by the vine foliage in a vineyard that is minimally sprayed.
One can be sure that the ‘damage’ caused by eating grapes by that territorial and not very abundant species is minor and more than offset by the good it does in devouring insects eating grapes or grape leaves. This species is also big enough especially when adult (up to and more than 600mm) to scare-off even large grape-eating birds, which manage to get under the net. Like the sacrifice of part of the crop to a god, a small ‘sacrifice’ to wildlife is acceptable to most farmers and but a small tribute to a rich and beautiful environment.
Bearded dragons are not very common in our area any longer in cleared out and overgrazed landscapes, especially if dead and down timber is also removed for firewood, are not the only precious wildlife one finds. Even on my property with its plentiful cover and insect food they are special and we suspect that fox predation plays a large role in their scarcity. Apart from the 10 species of Parrots in the area, of which at least four like grapes (Crimson Rosella, King Parrot, Sulphur crested Cockatoo) which make netting a major factor for a good harvest (and a good night’s sleep), we can also see, as we did this afternoon, beautiful, endangered Diamond Firetails whose documented presence in the Renzaglia vineyard, make it an important conservation site.
A vineyard can be an important place for wildlife conservation, especially if its surrounded by a good number of pasture trees and in proximity of extensive forest areas such as the “Wisemans Creek Remnant. Watching the insects, birds, spiders, kangaroos and reptiles in the Renzaglia vineyard it is clear that this small area settled in a cleared yet tree rich and recovering landscape is a quite distinct little vineyard-ecosystem which, throughout the years, provides shelter, a certain stability/protection and a variety of foods to quite a range of species. One of the major determinants for the survival of wildlife & biodiversity in a rural landscape which is dominated by agricultural crops, is the remaining suitability of the crop and the presence of adjoining areas to wildlife (source areas). We know well that in traditional agricultural landscapes, where small areas, diverse crops and great variability through ownership (e.g. a lazy (absent) farmer next to a very busy one) leads to the diversity necessary for an often astonishing number of species to be able to survive in even modern agricultural landscapes. This is of course particularly the case if farmers minimise the application of herbicides and abstain e.g. from using insecticides against this year’s abundant yellow winged grasshoppers, great food for birds and attracting ibises which eat many other things also.
As we approach the 2017 vintage, we come to a time when decisions must be made regarding the types of wines we want to make. Do we try something new or refine tried and tested processes?
The old man in me wants to keep everything the same. After all what’s wrong with tradition and stability, that is “you know what you’re going to get from Renzaglia Wines year after year”?
So, Sandy, the boys and I have been talking about the idea of introducing an early drinking, preservative free wine to the portfolio. Well, I should say Sam, my oldest, is the main culprit. Preservative free, organic, chemical free, orange, pet nat are names for “new” styles of wine that are today becoming more and more sought after. It’s a bit mind boggling to an older wine guy like me…. why would you want to compromise the longevity of a wine for some kind of “ideology”? Or, maybe there is some substance to these new wine trends and at least one is worth pursuing?
In fact, there is no such thing as a “preservative free” wine. All wines contain preserving agents including tannins, alcohol, acidity, carbon dioxide and, yes you guessed it, sulphites. When winemakers call a wine preservative free, they mean no preservatives have been added, sulphur dioxide or SO2 being the most common. SO2 has been around for centuries and seems to take the blame for most people’s bad reactions to wine; including nausea, headaches and rashes.
Conscious consumerism, as something that has come about in the last decade presents it’s pros and cons. In a very similar manner to the “Gluten Free Movement”, there are people with legitimate allergies to certain additives in wine. But are the rest of the crowd just going along for the ride? In fact, most experts think the phenols in wine (like tannins and flavour compounds) are to blame for people’s negative reactions to wines (red wines being more phenolic).
Organic wine making is widely embraced around the world, I think it is important that people feel the products they are consuming are not born from industrial agriculture and the organic brand provides this piece of mind for many. Organic wines very often contain added preservatives like SO2, fair enough right? Who in the wine community doesn’t want to crack open a wine they made 20 years ago and be awe struck that it is still drinking well.
We, at Renzaglia Wines, have made many changes to our grape growing and winemaking practices to minimise unnecessary chemicals and revitalise the soils.
As we move forward in our vineyard management practices, one top priority is holistic management of the land, as we build an ecosystem that supports all types of life (spiders, beetles, kangaroos, etc.) we hope the resilience of our sites will too develop and in turn nullify the need to use chemicals. Whilst we do not brand ourselves as organic, our philosophy and resolve to produce high quality wine in a holistic and sustainable manner is at the core of what we do.