Friday, February 28, 2014

Harvest update #v14 - UPDATE 28/2/2014

"Like the build-up to the tropical wet season, or the week before a Grand Final; so too there's electricity in the air a couple of weeks before harvest.
You can see and feel the static.  Everyone's on edge, twitchy or downright irritable.  These are the weeks of highest tension. 
There is no exception to this rule in any winemaking community.  It’s all the watching and waiting that heightens anxiety."  - Toby & Emmanuel Bekkers.

How much disease is around?

Fortunately the weather this week has not significantly increased the amount of botrytis but there is a real risk of crop loss if rain or heavy dews occur before your crop is safely picked. We have heard reports this week of one vineyard being rejected in Langhorne Creek due to botrytis infection, this shows that it is a threat. 

Check your vineyards now for botrytis progression in the thick and dense parts of the canopy where bunches sit in top of each other. 
Botrytis a in bunch of Sangiovese.

In general the severity is low (1 berry per bunch) with the diseased berries appearing to be drying. Infections are dropping out of the bunch when they are shaken. There are significant infections in Chardonnay and Shiraz that has fruit stacked on top of other fruit. The highest level seen has been in tight bunched varieties (i.e Grenache, Zinfandel, Dolchetto, Sangiovese, Chardonnay) 5 bunches part infected per panel (approx. 1 bunch per meter). View a video of this level of Botrytis activity: (70Mb download).
Salt burn.

Why is there some fresh burn to leaves after the rain?

Recent rainfall has caused the mobilization of sodium chloride, more simply called salt, in the soil and the vineyards pictured – right - are showing foliar signs of burn.

As soil moisture reduces during summer vines pull water from the soil. The drier the soil the harder they pull (plants create a negative pressure from the leaves to the roots - pulling harder means a higher negative pressure).

Recent rainfall re-wets the top soil and vines pull up more water from previously dry areas of soil. They take up more salt with the water. Eventually the concentration in the leaves becomes toxic and the leaves 'burn.'

This foliar burn decreases the health of the vines. Sodium and Chloride levels in the developing fruit are also likely to have increased which can have a detrimental effect on wine quality. If you are worried about this request a test of must from your winery.

In high salt situations it is essential that salt is leached from the soil to reduce excessive build-up over seasons. Typical leaching fractions may be in the range of 10 to 20%, and are best applied prior to bud-break if soil testing shows salinity levels were not reduced sufficiently by winter rainfall.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


This week I met with the Hon. Terry Stephens MLC and the Hon. John Dawkins MLC to look at future mental health programmes that could be run to help our community. This is a timely reminder that we need to look after ourselves and our friends and family through vintage.

Harvest by Ben Heide.
Grape vintage is a high of high stress which, allied with other factors like a lack of sleep, places all of our industry at risk of accidents and mental health issues including depression.

We maintain our vineyards and our machinery to limit the risks of accidents. Like a machine that is working all day and night we also need to maintain our mental health and the health of those around us.

Depression varies from person to person, but there are some common signs and symptoms. Keep in mind the pressures that yourself, your family and your friends are under, it is natural for our mental health to suffer, there is no shame or blame it that.

Look for changes in behavior. Is someone you know not themselves lately?

It's not always easy to help someone who may be experiencing depression. It can be hard to know what to say or do.

When you feel concern for a friend you think may be depressed, encourage them gently to talk about how they feel. Listen patiently: sometimes, when somebody needs to talk, they might not seek advice, but just feel like talking it through. Sometimes they may be vague about their concerns.

McLaren Vale is a beautiful region made so by our people.
Gentle open-ended questions like "So tell me about...?", open the door for an answer bigger than 'yes' or 'no'. This is often a good way to start a conversation. If conversation becomes difficult or your friend gets angry, stay calm, be firm, fair and consistent and don't lose control.

Simply spending time with a depressed friend lets them know someone cares and understands them. Encourage them to seek professional help from their family doctor or at least get online and look at information themselves.

As an industry, a community, and as individuals, we need to 'walk the walk.' Actions speak louder than words. So please look after your mates. Make a call. Go visit.

Website –

Beyond Blue Website: The national depression initiative.

Hotline - 1300 22 46 36

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Botrytis - UPDATE 19/2/2014

Early Botrytis begins in tight bunches.As bunches become tighter, sugar levels increase and the risk of berries detaching from the bunch stems increases which can lead to the release of juice within the bunch.
Heavy rain, 40 mm from Midnight Wednesday the 12th of February, has radically changed the local climate. Our region received 50-60 mm by Saturday morning (15th) when the rain cleared.
Botrytis is sensitive to rainfall and humidity. Checking vineyards this week the first signs of Botrytis were seen triggered by Light Brown Apple Moth damage in tight bunches of Sangiovese. This is expected to increase and berry splitting in other thin skinned vines is likely.


Check your vineyards now for bunch disease. General levels are low but significant mould has been seen where vines have big canopies and bunches have stayed wet for several days. Berry splitting is common in Grenache and Shiraz especially in the small immature fruit.
Grape growers do have the option of using late season fungicides and bio-control products and/or products that dry out berry damage.

Late Season Fungicides.

PMS - (Potassium metabisulphite) dries out the bunch and can help heal berry splitting. PMS rates higher than 3kg per 1000 litres are needed and the pH of the spray solution should be adjusted to between 2.9 and 3.0 using 1.5 kg 100% tartaric acid per 1000L.

Dicarboximides - Rovral, Chief, Corvette etc should be applied as an acidic spray tank mix (water pH less than 7) to be stable. 1kg/1000lts of tartaric acid, citric acid or similar, or a commercial buffer- tradenames include AGRI-BUFFER will acidify the water and lower pH.

Ecoprotector - 14 day withholding period.

Check with winery requirements before spraying, particularly in vineyards that are within 14 days of harvest.