28 Jun Vineyard Report
The 2018/2019 growing season challenged our industry once again, as with the previous two vintages, and pushed us quite out of our comfort zone. Farming in the “Cape of Storms”, we were always used to very wet and long winters, with occasional showers during the growing season. This climatic pattern has changed drastically since the early 2000s and it is changing the way we farm.
Being a dryland farm, we have to look to the future and farm in the present to preserve our sustainability. Regenerative and sustainable farming is not just another buzzword or marketing strategy, but the only way to survive and thrive. Looking towards heaven seems to be our first reaction in difficult times, forgetting where we stand whilst looking up – the soil. The industrial revolution has spawned synthetic fertilizers that brought a disconnect between man and soil that we only now start to see the effect of, nearly two generations on. As caretakers of this land, we must start to feed the land instead of fertilizing it. Where does one start?
We have taken on a zero-waste policy with regards to any compostable organics. We have started to see the trees and shrubs on the farm as part of the holistic cycle, much like the biodynamic way of thinking. Composting is now a big part of our operation and viticulture, and although we only really started three years ago, we have seen some major results in the vineyards, the soil and the wines.
Last winter we put down all the compost that was ready. We got about 2/3 of the way on one section of the farm when we ran out of compost on a Merlot vineyard. The result during the season was astonishing. It was even visible from space! Have a look:
This is an NDVI – a measurement index for plant health and vegetative growth. The parts in the white circle received composting during the winter and the rest didn’t. The section of the vineyard that received composting handled the drought so well, even producing a slightly larger crop with better berries, better juice and better wine. A testament to the progressive approach we have taken on and which we’ll expand in the coming years.
We have also been very busy eradicating leaf roll virus where possible, and it is with great delight that we have a large portion of the farm 100% leaf roll virus free. This is an ongoing fight, and we have natural predators that help us in the battle. We regularly release specific lady birds and wasps that predate on the mealybug (they spread leaf roll virus) to help us contain the virus. Although this virus is harmless to humans, it threatens the sustainability and longevity of a vineyard and impacts negatively on the quality.
To summarise the 2019 vintage, we had a good harvest. Our hard work paid off and our vineyards had a breeze during the season and produced stunning wines. We will continue to build our soil health during winter with more compost and cover crops, and will interplant new, virus-free Merlot and Cabernet Franc vines in the virus-free vineyards, to keep the vineyards in the ground for another 100 years.