The rain is predicted to arrive tomorrow so the last sparkling autumn day is with us after nearly two weeks of glorious weather. If only this weather had prevailed in the last weeks of March and the first weeks of April but that’s viticulture.
I feel grateful that we have very selectively harvested some very nice Chardonnay from The Tiers, Pinot from Foggy Hill and Cabernet from the close spaced younger vines at Whalebone.
The close spaced (1.5mX1.5m), low to the ground (0.5m) small vines on rootstocks in each of our three terroirs have proven their superiority in the difficult conditions of the 2011 vintage. Each has properly ripened its fruit without serious infection of the succession of diseases that blighted the more traditional Australian style plantings.
The last of the Foggy Hill Pinot goes to barrique today. We have 65 barriques (1400 cases) of bright cerise Pinot Noir awaiting the onset of malo-lactic fermentation. The acids are a little higher (7gpl) and the alcohols a little lower (12.5%) than is normal for Foggy Hill but then what is normal? Foggy Hill Pinot has in previous vintages been at 6.5gpl acid and 13% alcohol at this stage of its development, but the vineyard has only ever produced in the very dry and warm vintage sequence of 2006 to 2010. We are now predicted to experience a sequence of cooler and wetter vintages until at least 2014 and perhaps it is only after this we will be able to say what is normal for Foggy Hill.
Certainly the natural alcohol for Foggy Hill Pinot is unlikely to exceed 13% except for the heat wave affected 2008 vintage.
The natural crop level with minimal shoot and fruit thinning has consistently been at 6 tonnes/hectare, each of the little vines (4444 vines/hectare) carrying 1.3 kilos of small tight black bunches. At 16 shoots/vine (70,000 buds/hectare) each shoot naturally carries one bunch of 80 grams weight.
These seemingly boring mathematical descriptions are in fact the very important formulae which underwrite the vine balance to produce quality in the very cool and humid Fleurieu Peninsula terroir. Not too few shoots and low crop which would promote shoot vigour at the expense of fruit productivity and quality and not too many shoots which leads to the canopy being too small and the vines overcropped with quality detriment.
Vines in natural balance with their terroir is the prerequisite of fine wine quality and is not easy to achieve. It is apparent that balance exists at Foggy Hill.