Our thanks to Colin Bell from AHA Viticulture for kindly sharing the following observations on the Margaret River wine grape growing season at 7 January 2014.
How is Vintage 2015 looking in the Margaret River region?
The season started early with some varieties reaching pre-flowering phenological milestones at record calendar dates. A mild windy November followed, putting the brakes on the development of many blocks across the region. As a result the flowering period took several weeks to complete and subsequently there is some bunch variability in most canopies. Extended flowering periods are often associated with berry shatter and hen and chicken and this can be seen widely in the region. The extended duration from berry set to pea-sized berries also left the young crops vulnerable to pests, such as looper, weevil, mealy bug and light brown apple moth. Despite these ever present challenges the result is reasonably loose bunches in reds and the high levels of hen and chicken in chardonnay, which are likely to result in exceptional quality wines.
How would you describe the lead up to this vintage?
The second half of December saw a return to some ideal ripening weather and this has continued into the start of January. Some early veraison has been seen in around the region and the “Growing Degree Day” index was “783” on the 6 January 2015, lying in-between 2008 and 2013 measurements.
Has there been anything unusual/interesting about this season to date?
The mild windy conditions that prolonged the flowering period have caused poor set in many blocks and this is likely to reduce average bunch weights. We are predicting that many crops will be lighter in volume than long term averages.
Any predictions for harvest?
The variability in phenology will make fruit maturity sampling difficult and care will need to be taken to ensure samples represent an accurate measurement of the block. If warm to hot conditions persist harvest will be in line with the last five vintages.
What should pests and diseases should growers be looking out for as the harvest nears?
As vintage approaches care needs to be taken that the agro-chemicals used are in accordance with either the AWRI Dog Book or your winery’s specifications. As we approach veraison blocks should be carefully monitored for any presence of powdery mildew and mealy bug populations. Post veraison crop risks will be more associated with silver eye damage, bunch rots and secondary infections of sooty mould that is associated with mealy bugs.
What is keeping AHA Viticulture busy at the moment?
At this time of year AHA Viticulture is busy in our management vineyards finishing canopy management passes and getting ready to apply bird nets to high pressure areas. We are also on the road giving viticultural consultancy to other vineyards as we all approach the most critical time of the year.
For any assistance please contact me anytime on phone 0408 479 473 or email email@example.com.
Best of luck for a successful harvest.