News from the vineyard
Winegrowers dream of the perfect year in which nature hands them everything on a plate.
But as we all know: that will always remain a dream. At all events, it has never happened to me in my 28 years as a winemaker.
By Helmuth Zozin, director of the Manincor wine estate
But 2015 certainly was a great year – a year of light and sunshine such as we only get twice a decade in our part of the world. Such years give us grapes of outstanding maturity and wines of exceptional intensity.
Working for top quality. There were challenges, too, especially the heat and lack of precipitation in summer as well as a rainy period during the harvest. With our biodynamic preparations and an enormous amount of manual work, however, we were able to overcome all obstacles. Horn manure, horn silica, nettle, camomile and horsetail tea are our biodynamic helpers, which we spray prophylsactically to maintain harmony in our vines. In spring, for example, we spray the soil with nettle tea and dynamized horn manure for healthy, balanced growth. When the vines flower, the growth cycle reaches its peak and so do the vines’ energy requirements. In this phase we use camomile tea to support the metabolism and promote fruiting. Camomile tea is also the agent of choice when the vines are under stress – perhaps as the result of a hailstorm, which can cause the vines to go into shock for days and weeks on end.
Last year we did not have a single violent storm. Our problems were the heat and lack of precipitation. In such conditions, the vines react with symptoms of stress and interrupted growth, but that can be prevented through the timely use of camomile tea. It was also important not to strip all the leaves around the grape clusters so that the berries remained in the semi-shade of the big leaves. In 2014, on the other hand, which was a wet and cold year, we removed the leaves around the grape clusters in August to improve ventilation. In 2015 that would have left the berries with sun-burnt skins. That shows how one and the same measure can be the perfect solution one year and a big mistake the next. All our vineyards have drip irrigation systems. For many years we did not need them. Used intelligently in a very dry year, however, they are an important factor for maintaining quality. In July 2015, the option of using the systems to water the vines proved invaluable and was one of the factors in producing an outstanding vintage.
As a result we were able to spare our vines excessive drought stress. We also employed horsetail tea and dynamized horn silica as an aid to maturity in the grapes. Ultimately the key to a top quality wine is always the perfect physiological maturity of the grapes. That is about fully ripe aromas, not an excessively high sugar content. A genuine terroir wine is precisely that: the mature expression in a vintage of a vineyard characterized by vitality and harmony.
To achieve this perfect maturity, every single factor must be just right and they all must interact. A light year like 2015 offers the preconditions. Grapes at optimum maturity on the day of the harvest, however, are also the product of dedicated work throughout the year. Gentle pruning, careful shoot selection, skilled canopy management, intelligent yield control, painstaking grape selection and the harmonizing use of biodynamic preparations ensure that a great year also produces outstanding grapes. In such a year, the winemaker can work with restraint and rely completely on spontaneous fermentation. In other words, we wait until the yeasts occurring naturally on the grapes trigger fermentation in every barrel. As a result, fermentation is the expression of the vineyard and the vintage and ensures that every barrel has its own authentic character.
Eminent quaffability. It is a fine line between complex and unhygienic. Absolute cleanliness in the cellar and precision working are fundamental. It is only in clean and healthy conditions that one can rely on the natural processes and do without additives. We use nothing apart from sulfur to stabilize the wines, always remaining below a total sulfur dioxide content of 100 mg/l. Usually the figure is around 50 mg/l for red wines and 70 mg/l for the whites. That is enough to give our wines the protection they need against oxidation and to guarantee wines that are eminently quaffable. Multi-layered aromas of ripe fruit and mineral notes, dense structure with an adequate mouthfeel, power and balance – the 2015 vintage is showing great potential in the young wines.