Vintage Report 2019

Published on August 25, 2018

case moth
Going into the growing season with dams at a low level.

Again winter was very dry and we went into the growing season with dams at a low level.
Budburst was a few days later than normal, so the vines didn’t suffer damage when a late frost hit them on 17th of September.

retarded growth
exposed dam bank

Spring rainfall was well below average and the soil was too dry for the pasture to grow.

Our much reduced herd of cattle was calving but hay was difficult to obtain. We started feeding cattle pellets and hay and training the calves to both.

viens eaten by wallabies
New born calf, first steps
vines with wilting growing tips
much diminished herd of hungry cattle looking at an empty feed trough
viens eaten by wallabies
the calves grow quickly
viens eaten by wallabies
learning about pelleted feed
vines with wilting growing tips
and did well
viens eaten by wallabies
learning about hay

It was late November when we eventually had some good rain, just in time to get on top of a bushfire which had started down the road a day earlier.

wanderer caterpiiar
vines starting to grow

However, the local ecosystem was obviously deeply upset.


During shoot thinning, when there are regularly bird nests everywhere, we realised that there were no small birds. No wrens, no finches, thorn-bills, spine-bills, pardalotes, no shrike-thrushes, Willie-wagtails or robins. The birdbath, usually constantly in use, remained empty all spring and summer. Instead of the usual constant twittering, chirping and peeping there was the sound of dry Eucalyptus leaves rustling in the wind and the clicking of countless grasshoppers. It may be a coincidence that green peach aphids and other insect pests thrived this year.
There were also very few bees, no moths or butterflies, none of the beautiful orb weave spiders, and no orchids. Ringtail possums and most wallabies had disappeared, and only few kangaroos were around.

dry conditions in early summer
spring growth
green paddock in mid summer
Unlike Wallabies Kangaroos do not eat vine leaves but are grazing between the rows.

 

Training the vines was easy this year. Little mowing and no trimming was required as growth was restricted by constant lack of water.

During summer most of the native understory plants in our bush area died. With temperatures hitting 46°C and strong winds 1400 grey-headed flying foxes perished from heat stress near Bairnsdale.

wingless grasshopper
understory native plants died
wanderer butterfly
dry pasture
grasshpper damage
dam levels sinking daily
amazing that our deep-rooted vines can still grow on minimal irrigation

Two bird species did well during this year: Ibis and Rainbow Lorikeet.
Flocks of Ibis settled on the farm and ate grasshoppers by the kilogram each. No wonder they were held sacred by the ancient Egypts who knew the devastating destruction locusts and grasshoppers do. Like our fruit trees, some defoliated completely, and our vegetable garden, devoured and destroyed.

When the grapes started to ripen we heard, for the first time ever, flying foxes in the vineyard. As they usually don’t bother the grapes we took it for another sign for just how distressed they were. But: We were glad to know that some had survived – they are an important pollinator of native plants - and we noticed little damage.

vine eaten by wallabies
young apple tree defoliated completely
vine eaten by wallabies
Ibis, very welcome predator on locusts and grasshoppers
vine eaten by wallabies
grasshoppers on a vineyard post

After we put the bird nets on the second survivalist bird species showed up: Rainbow Lorikeets. They took absolutely no notice of the bird nets; simply eat grapes through the mesh. As usual bees followed to feed on the damaged berries: but fortunately it was too dry for rot and mould to follow and the grapes which had not been sunburnt stayed sound.


2 ringtail possums
Rainbow Lorikeets eating grapes and other fruit

wombat
followed by hungry bees
vine eaten by wallabies
bird nets were useless
wombat
Rainbow Lorikeet on apple tree

Again bushfires burnt thousands of hectares in Gippsland - we were very lucky indeed to get away with minor smoke pollution and no damage to the grapes.

2 ringtail possums
smoke from bushfires in Gippsland, 10-3-2019, but no smoke taint in our grapes.

Vintage began as usual with Pinot noir, our earliest variety. It was picked between 27.2 and 7.3.2019, leaving out the burnt, shrivelled and lorikeet-damaged grapes. It had large bunches this year, but the desirable small berries. Acid and sugar levels were good, colour and flavours very concentrated. Yield was less than half of what we are aiming for.

2 ringtail possums
 

Shiraz and Merlot came next with a few shrivelled berries and a few bird damaged bunches. Yield was average and quality very good.
Picking finished on 27.3.2019 with Cabernet Sauvignon of lovely flavours, great tannins and fairly good quantities.

sunburned grapes
low yields
sunburnt vines
but good quality
sunburned grapes
and an early finish to vintage 2019

 

Overall a challenging year, but considering that the  past 24 months were the driest on record for our area our vines coped very well, giving us good to excellent quality for  2019.