the vineyard in February
ripe grape

This is perhaps the most critical time in the vineyard. Now we have to fight for every bunch of grapes.

At the moment the grapes ripen slowly but surely in dappled shade, protected from too much heat and UV light.

Tree dragon or Jacky Lizard (Amphibolurus muricatus) Jacky Lizard, Amphibolurus muricatus

UV light and heat are much stronger in Australia than in Europe.

In one hot day we can loose all the exposed grapes to sun burn...

sun-burnt grape sun-burnt grape
swamp wallabyswamp wallaby wallaby dammage to grape vines

... in years of drought our wallabies survive on vine leaves...
( 2007)

...prehistoric monsters lurk under the vines..

...but the biggest threat are bush fires.

Not only because of the great danger, but because of their smoke, which can linger for a long time.
Smoke can cause smoky, burnt or ashy flavours in wine.

bush fire and smoke 2007:
We lost all of the Pinot noir and had to downgrade the Cabernets-Shiraz-Merlot to a cleanskin.

smoke in the vineyard 2007 smoke 2009 bushfire 2007

^ 2007

2009 >

2011 >>

bushfire 2009 bushfire 2011
smoke 2011 smoke 2011 caused by burn-off smoke 2011

But if all goes well the grapes ripen.

And so the birds arrive.

vine leaves pinot noir grape
rainbow lorikeetrainbow lorikeet

Unripe grapes taste awful, even to birds.
But when the seeds are ripe the grapes start to turn colour to indicate that now is the time to eat them and disseminate the seed.

rainbow lorikeetrainbow lorikeet
Many birds love grapes, and they love them much earlier than we do.... mourvèdre grape juvenile crimson rosellacrimson rosella
Croad langshan chicken checking out the grapescroad langshan chicken and, like us, keep a beady eye on the ripening process.... Croad langshan chicken checking out the grapescroad langshan chicken
....clearly it is time for the bird nets. bird net packs Nothing at all will keep grapes from birds
(they have evolved together) !
Not rubber snakes, nor artificial falcons, nor funny scare crows, nor sophisticated radar-controlled alarm sounds, nor gas double bangs, and certainly not shooting.
netting machine

Over the years we have watched all protection strategies fail.
Netting is still the best option for our vineyard.

putting out bird nets
vine leaves putting out bird nets

So over about two weeks we will net the whole vineyard, one row at a time.

netted vines   netted vines

And from one week to the next the vineyard becomes a very unfriendly place for wildlife.

Croad langshan chickencroad langshan chicken  
baby hare on bird net

baby hare (can not be seen as does not hear)

echidna digging a hole through the net (sigh).

echicna on bird net
ripped bird net mending bird net  
whistling kitewhistling kite

The worst enemy for birds are other birds, and as the grape eaters settle on the vineyard, the predators suddenly congregate to keep the balance.

whistling kitewhistling kite
Birds will always find their way into the net, but with only one row covered it is usually easy to chase them out again. juvenile crimson rosellajuvenile crimson rosella merlot grapes
juvenile yellow wattle birdjuvenile yellow wattle bird

Birds eating whole grape berries are less of a problem than birds who just peck, chew and damage berries. These berries will rot, attract moulds, vinegar flies and bees.
Wine made with such grapes has obvious off-flavours - vinegary, mouldy, rotten.

juvenile crimson rosellajuvenile crimson rosella

The bird nets now need constant patrolling. We have to adjust the nets blown off by the wind, keep birds out and chase out the ones which have succeeded in getting in. And nearly every year one catches a foot in the net and has to be rescued and cut out. And the net mended again.

juvenile crimson rosellajuvenile crimson rosella bird nets blown off by windbirdnet blown off by wind
netted vines

And now the time for fine-tuning is over.
If things go wrong now, they go wrong fast and completely.
If the weather suddenly turns wet and cold we have to bring the grapes out into the open by removing all the leaves which have given them shade and protection so far.

botrytis in pinot noirbotrytis cinerea in pinot noir
Cutting out mouldy grapes and feeding them to our cattle may (or may not) prevent spreading of the disease. However, the cattle love nothing better. the leaves covering grapes have been picked offleaf plucking botrytis in pinot noirbotrytis cinerea in pinot noir
ripe grapes
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to January to March