News from the vineyard
The 2014 wine year.
As in the previous year, the winter was unusually wet, with lots of snow on the mountains, delivering plenty of water to the deeper layers of the soil and thus creating perfect conditions for our vines to flourish throughout the year and above all to survive the long dry periods of summer without showing symptoms of drought stress.
By Helmuth Zozin, director of the Manincor wine estate
Spring was heralded with above-average temperatures at the end of February, and the first green appeared on the vines on March 20 already. April and May, on the other hand, were relatively cool, and vegetative development in the vines was back to normal by the time they blossomed. As in 2012, a good two months elapsed between the appearance of the new shoots and full blossoming at the end of May. That led us to expect harvesting to begin as normal between September 5 and 10.
Biodynamic work on the vines in spring included treatment with stinging nettle and horn manure. The blossoms themselves were sprayed with camomile tea in support of the delicate transition from growth to maturity. When the first heatwave arrived at the Pentecost weekend, with temperatures peaking at 36°C, we began to expect a hot and dry summer. The opposite was the case! July and the first half of August brought damp and rainy weather, sometimes with tropical conditions and often relatively cold. That made it difficult for the vines to terminate the growth phase; everything wanted to keep on growing.
As quality-minded vintners, our goal is to harvest fully mature grapes, an objective that runs counter to vegetative growth. With the help of biodynamics, however, we have the tools to deal with this contradiction: We can employ biodynamic preparations to tackle the duality of expansion and concentration, with horn manure and horn silica used to balance the two poles. With horn manure to encourage growth and horn silica as a stimulant for ripening, we are able to establish a state of equilibrium and compensate for unbalanced climatic conditions. To compensate for the lack of sunshine, we treated the vines to one dose of cow horn silica after the other. We dynamized the silica powder at fortnightly intervals and used it to spray the vines.
It remained a difficult year, but in spite of all the vagaries of the weather the grapes moved on to the ripening phase. These preparations are not magic potions; they do not have sudden and radical effects but work continuously and gently. At all events, our grapes gradually reached the right concentration of sugar, and – what is even more important – they developed a really good taste. And so we were able to begin with the harvest on September 9. The grapes had the right level of maturity, but we were confronted with signs of rot. The weather became more settled. There was little in the way of rain, but high levels of humidity persisted throughout the fall. The skins of the grapes turned soft and susceptible to botrytis. We were able to encourage physiological maturity by spraying cow horn silica, but we were not entirely successful in stopping the progression of the rot.
The only solution was selective harvesting, which involves an enormous amount of additional work. We doubled the number of harvesters to ensure removal of every affected berry. That involves five times more manual work than usual. And once a fortnight we made and sprayed horsetail tea and dynamized and sprayed our cow horn silica preparation. All together, that increased the manual work load by an average of 250 hours per hectare! The fact that many vintners perform their calculations using that figure for the total work load for the year shows just what that means.
At least we can now say that the effort has been worth it! It is not a vintage you get for free and it will not go down in the records as a great year. Selective harvesting led to a 20 % loss in terms of volume. In order to consolidate the quality of our “Heart” wines we have decided not to produce any “Crown” wines for 2014. Extra-gentle pressing in the cellar also reduced the grape must yield to only 62 %.
At the end of the day we shall have delicate and elegant 2014 wines in the usual Manincor style, very fruity and juicy. Above all, they will have the power and balance to convince the discerning wine-lover. I even think it will be a vintage with a surprising aging potential. We obviously would like to have a dream vintage every year, with a perfection that requires little help from the wine-maker. The fact is that it is difficult years like 2104 that demonstrate the value of really top-class sites and of our painstaking manual work.