Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Floods and vineyards


When it's climate change and not global warming, what we face is extremes of nature not a gradual shift. This year exemplified how unpredictable the climate has become. After years of drought, vintners in California are treading water wondering what will happen to this years' crop. The Russian River Valley flooded under feet of water and more rain was on the way. Luckily the vines were dormant.

But it wasn't just in California and Nevada that rain wreaked havoc. Australia's Swan Valley and the south of France and Italy experienced periods of heavy downpours and flooding in 2016. And it's become a recurring nightmare.

Fortunately, that's one thing we are not likely to have to worry about as our vineyard is on a nicely sloping hill. All the water runs down to the sea, but we have to ensure that the topsoil doesn't go with it. That's why we have left the grass around the vines. Right or wrong, it's our current choice.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

The wines of Lombardy

Terraced vineyards in Lombardy


Moving a bit too fast to photograph the vineyards en route.
We just got back from Italy, skiing in the Alpine resort of Livigno. It's a 4-hour trip from Milan's airport. Along the way, we saw grapes being grown on the tiniest of plots, and terraced up the steep hills. They grow the grapes vertically, tied to individual sticks until the vines are strong enough to stand up on their own. That's a recommended technique for Chardonnay which keeps air passing through thereby reducing mold so, was interesting to see. We saw a sign up on the hill with "Inferno" written on it and learned later that it is one of the typical wines of the region, and the first we were able to sample.
Lake Como on a hazy winter's day
Lombardy’s most popular mountain destination is Valtellina. Bordering with Lake Como in the south and with Switzerland in the north, Valtellina extends for 200 kilometers in a varied landscape beginning at an altitude of 200m, reaching an height of 4000m at Bernina. The sun-bathed valley floor is cultivated with apples, replaced by woods and terraced vineyards as you ascend. Here the Nebbiolo grapes produce excellent red wines. The interesting history of winemaking here dates back to before Roman times when the Etruscans and Ligurians produced wines. It is thought that the Nebbiolo grape was introduced to the region by the Benedictine Monks in the early Middle Ages. .

Friday, March 24, 2017

The vines are awakening

It's just two days into Spring and the buds are getting robust. The white vines are slightly behind the red ones in development. Now's the time to keep a close eye on their development.


Red grape vine budding strongly

White grape vine just beginning

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Chardonnay vines have arrived


I know, I know, they don't look like much. Well they aren't really. I only bought five plants as an experiment. Everyone says they won't work here, but someone has said that for every thing that anyone has ever attempted for the first time. Climate change is accelerating faster than anyone thought, so maybe I am right. Maybe not.

Now why would I want chardonnay when some people preach ABC - anything but chardonnay? Because chardonnay is a grape varietal with an identity crisis. Developing a fine chardonnay in your backyard has to do with both where its grown and how it is made. I am thinking Chablis, the fine French vintage, not Gallo who tainted chablis as serious white plonk.

We have clay soil as does the Chablis region of France. Chablis is made from 100% chardonnay grapes gown in clay soil. The Chardonnay varietal is expressive as a rainbow or generic as a blank label. She can be both a rock star and a street hawker, a prima ballerina and a cheap harlot. Why does Chardonnay have this split personality? Because she takes on the characteristics of the soil, the conditions and the maker more so than any other varietal.

Can I make a great Chablis?  I won't know until I try. Anyway, it will be years before my chardonnay vines let me do that.

For now, I'm learning what I can about how to get started.

Chardonnay bare root grapevines clone D258 Duft on SO4 31 Op rootstocks @ €5 each. €33.45 w/P/P

What it may look like one day. 
Source of grapevines: Grape Expectations, 29 Carrickmount Ave, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14, Ireland 
Phone 00353 86 8878047