12 November 2008

Muddy Water's Pinotage Escapes Frost's Worst

This is Muddy Waters vineyard at the start of their summer. Muddy Water make some cracking good Pinotage near Canterbury on New Zealand's North Island.

Viticulturist Miranda Brown says that "the 07/08 season was definitely a mixed bag. The Muddy Water vineyard is sited in a sheltered position at the base of hills. This means we are warmer than other vineyards in the valley and so usually the first to start growing. This also means that we are more vulnerable to frost as our vines are often more advanced and therefore more susceptible. The Friday before Labour weekend saw frosts up and down the whole of New Zealand and Waipara was no exception.

Our frost alarm went off at about 8pm on the Thursday night and there was still frost on the ground the following morning at around 9am. Our hill blocks and later varieties such as the Syrah, Riesling and Pinotage were largely unaffected, but the lower blocks were quite badly frost affected. At the time it was heart breaking to see all the new seasons growth damaged, but fortunately for us that was the only frost for our site that season and as it occurred relatively early in the growing season, the vines had time to recover. The rest of the summer was warm and dry up until about February. Perfect weather over flowering made for excellent fruit set and so by Christmas time it was hard to believe we had been frosted, as crop levels were near normal, in fact many blocks had more fruit than we had had in previous years."

She adds that the farm has made a commitment to go fully organic and they are "dabbling in a bit of biodynamics. Planting our cover crops according to the moon, using valerian preps to help with frost resistance and applying 501 to encourage soil activity. It is early days, but I personally have been trialing it at home in my vege garden and so far I can certainly see the benefits."

Pinotage is a great match with lamb and I wonder if that has a bearing on this piece of news; "We are also now the proud owners of six organic Wiltshire ewes. It is a small flock at the moment but we are hoping to breed and build numbers sufficient to keep down the grass and weeds in and around the vineyard, reducing our need to run the tractor."

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