Tag: Viticulture

Yarra Valley 2019

With the 2019 harvest underway, I spent the morning in the winery at Helen & Joey in the Yarra Valley.  Here are a few vineyard photographs and observations.

Photo above: East-west planted pinot noir, looking to the west.

Grafted merlot vines planted on north-south facing rows, and nearing harvest.
Phylloxera continues its march through the Yarra Valley.  Replanting in a neighbouring vineyard in the distance on the left, together with seemingly declining vigour in the vineyard in the distance on the right.

No viticultural comment, but a nice view from the office. Mount Dandenong is the peak in the distance.

McLaren Vale visit

I visited McLaren Vale briefly with my fellow MW students in November, with stops at Coriole and Noon.  Some vineyard pictures and brief comments follow.

(Above) Shiraz vines at Coriole, against a backdrop of dry fields.  Some (possible) wind damage on shoot tips on right hand side.

Fruit set on 1919 shiraz vines at Coriole.
Heavy mulching for soil moisture retention on Coriole 1919 shiraz vines.
Gobelet trained mourvèdre vines at Noon, and dry soils.
Gobelet trained graciano vines at Noon competing with grass and a row of eucalyptus trees, and requiring irrigation lines.
Dry grown, gobelet trained grenache at Noon.
Some particularly healthy looking grenache vines at Noon, the outside row showing more vigour.

Vine density

I’ve been having a close look recently at vine density.  From the simple and incorrect dogma that denser plantings are better (in fact, this holds it would seem only in some circumstances), it is fascinating to read the various studies.  

At its simplest, for any given area of land, vine density refers to how many vines are planted in that area.  However, the actual position is more complex than this and requires consideration of the size of the “intra row” space between vines within a row and the “inter row” spacing of vines between rows.  Variation of density is important because it influences other vine growth variables (vine growth itself is a function of soil, rootstock, scion, trellis, shoot density and vine density) such as shoot density and shading.  The reasons for variation in vine density are various, including cultural, historical factors and legal requirements in some places, and it can impact quality, yields and costs.  


In Australia, vine densities vary but historically have been lower than the “old world” for various reasons.  But generalisations are just that, and for the contrary, this is a photo I took a few years ago of very close planted vineyards outside of Geelong at Bannockburn.  It’s funny how even though only a few years ago, I have so many more questions looking at a simple picture than I ever did standing in the vineyard at the time.

Organics that are inorganic

An interesting anomaly of organic viticulture is its treatment of copper.  Gladstones in Wine, Terroir and Climate Change (2011, Wakefield Press) summarises it well at p89:

‘Organic’ viticulture, as it has been formally defined, authorises only traditional forms of disease, pest and weed control, using products deemed to be natural and eschewing all that have been artificially synthesized.  The contradiction lies in the fact that chemically the chief sprays and dusts allowed (copper compounds and sulphur, for fungal disease control) are inorganic, whereas the prohibited synthetic compounds are all or principally organic, i.e. carbon-containing.  Nor is distinction possible on the ground of toxicity.  For instance toxic build-up of copper in the soil has long been reckoned a problem in Bordeaux, while sulphur applications can be toxic to useful microfauna and can hasten soil acidification.

It seems to me the definition of organic requires a bit of tidying up.  While I am not a copper or toxicity expert, from what I’ve read it’s not such a good thing in quantity.  A French winemaker quoted in this article from UK wine magazine Decanter has a similar idea.  The article reports that the winemaker is dropping a French organic certification to reduce copper build-up in his soil, and considers that some synthetics instead give a better overall environmental outcome.  A sensible debate appears underway.