Chris Cooper and Rob Saunders, vine specialists in the Hutchinsons Horticultural team, discuss the season to date in vineyards.

Most viticulturalists have a smile on their face and the words they are presently uttering are, “wow, what a year”. Crops were badly frost affected in 2017 (however June/July were good for flower initiation), this was followed by a wet autumn, a cold and snowy late winter and early spring which depressed soil temperatures delaying bud burst, and then it all happened.

The late season we predicted became earlier and earlier resulting in picking one of the earliest crops on record, the quality and quantity of grapes has been magnificent. A collective sigh of relief can be heard from the vignerons (and pickers) with now more than 80% of the crop picked.

The wine makers are busy doing their magic with grapes; their only grumble being that the malic acid is lower than ideal and perhaps the sugars might have gone up slightly if growers were prepared to wait a bit longer (storm season resulted in a few heated debates), but in general there has been a fantastic crop.

With crops being so heavy the amount of nutrient used by the vines will need to be replenished. Some of this can be done in the spring using fertiliser applications either artificial or organic, however while there is still decent leaf photosynthesis occurring presently sending starch back to the roots there is the opportunity to carry out some early autumn foliar feeding with a general foliar feed (NPK + trace elements). This can be added to a copper wood ripening spray but needs to be applied before the frosts (and/or the pruners) get into action.

An inaugural technical conference organised by the Viticultural Working Group on behalf of WineGB, is due to take place at Denbies Wine Estate on 22 November 2018. It has a great line up of speakers, one of which will be Rob Saunders talking on ‘Spotted Wing Drosophila – An industry perspective of current findings and future implications’. We look forward to seeing you there.

A reminder that all unopened containers of Exirel (cyantranilipole) need to be returned to the supplying company by the end of November 2018; opened containers need to be used by the end of October 2018 according to the conditions of its EAMU.