Our own staff and a group of contractors spent the cool winter months pruning the vines to set bud numbers, which is in my opinion, the most important task of the year. It is the period when we can set our crop load for the coming season, with each block having specific yield targets for the product that it is destined for.
Budburst commenced quite early for us, around late August for our early bursting varieties. The season commenced well, with budburst progressing quite quickly across all varieties and with good moisture stores in the soil due to relatively good rainfall throughout the winter months.
The growing season has been excellent weather wise. We have enjoyed very low disease pressure due to the low rainfall that we have had to date in the growing season, although the 160mm we have had in the recent weeks has been useful in easing the extremely dry conditions.
The vineyard staff have been busy installing upgraded irrigation to parts of our vineyard which will enable us to irrigate more efficiently, giving the vines what they require at the best time for irrigation- at night, when evaporation is at its least. The ability to give the vines automated irrigation shifts will also enable us to better control vegetative growth in varieties such as Shiraz, resulting in better quality fruit to hand over to the winemakers for them to do the amazing job that they do. But being a Vineyard Manager, I must say that great wines are surely made in the vineyard!!
We have also been tasked with the planting out of two new varieties into redeveloped blocks at the Old Paddock vineyard, with Merlot making way for the addition of small parcels of Tempranillo and Fiano, with a small parcel of Sagrantino planned to be planted next year. These varieties have been selected as they are well suited to hot climates and are relatively disease resistant, a major factor in the selection of these varieties for planting in the Hunter Valley. We will be expecting our first real crop from these new plantings in vintage 2016 or 2017. Something to pencil in the calendar and look forward to!
Along with the plantings of these new varieties we have “gone back to the future” and taken cuttings from our 1880 Old Hill vines for planting in 2014. We have also taken a small amount of a variety called Montils- the source vines for these cuttings were planted by Maurice O’Shea himself. Staff are currently preparing to take a well-earned break, gearing up for the beginning of our harvest which should commence in early January. Verdelho and Chardonnay are the first varieties to come into the winery, followed by the Semillon and Shiraz, which are anticipated later in January and into February with the Tyrian being the last variety ready.
Merry Christmas everybody!