When chatting with visitors at the cellar door about things we do here at Arlewood, many of them are surprised at how much science goes into growing a bunch of grapes.
Viticulture can be as complex or as simple as you choose it to be. But behind the science, the fundamentals of farming remain.
I am frequently amazed at how nature takes care of itself. We try (and do) lots of monitoring in the vineyard: soil analysis, petioles, bud counts, soil moisture readings, bunch counts, bunch weights, berry size, leaf cover…… But each year the vintage delivers what it wants to, despite our best endeavours to intervene.
Some varieties respond better than others. My observation is that the varieties that seem happy in their environment respond to our inputs (natural vine balance?) and those that fight you at the beginning fight you all the way.
So at Arlewood we’ve given up the fight, and I’m only growing the varieties that seem to be happy in their place. There is a certain flow around the property as a result, the vineyard dictates the type of wines I can make, and I’m happy to take nature’s advice on that one.
As part of a more natural approach to managing the vineyard I introduced sheep onto the property 4 years ago. This too turned into another lesson from nature.
Listening to some experts I tried high stocking rates on small blocks for short periods with high rotations. Good for the land, but lots of work, and unsettled sheep. Now I’ve reverted to lower stocking rates and extended periods in larger blocks. The feed is growing nicely and much less work.
NB - A lesson on lambing also, the first Wiltshire lambs drop early July here in Forest Grove, no matter how early I put the rams in.
You can’t rush nature.