Life doesn’t run to suit you

"Life doesn’t run to suit you”,

as a song goes, and it is likewise true of the weather treats farmers. Working in harmony with nature involves living with its quirks and moods. We are constantly challenged to adapt our methods to the natural rhythms and extreme events.

By Helmuth Zozin, director of the Manincor Wine estate

2009 put us to the test: there were two violent hailstorms – and in spite of the tribulations we managed to save the crop. And it was worth the effort!

The sequence of events. A spring with abundant snowfall provided sufficient moisture for the new shoots to appear at the beginning of April, after which vegetation progressed steadily and quickly. The same was true of flowering, which we stimulated using stinging nettle tea and dynamized cow’s horn manure spread during the full moon phases. Up to this point everything was going according to plan.

The first violent storm. However, we soon found out how suddenly our fortunes can change, when a five-minute hail storm on the evening of 5th July dashed our expectations. First of all we applied camomile tea to aid in healing open wounds. The vines were in a state of shock and would have recover considerably by harvest time. Berries which had been hit by hail were removed and in this way the yield was consciously reduced. In some cases we had to confine ourselves to tea treatments: camomile to calm the vines, stinging nettle applied at full moon to stimulate vegetation, and horsetail during the waning moon phase to aid in closing wounds. The intention is to boost the self-healing powers of the plant in the interplay between the great life forces of ‘growth and ripeness’. Self-healing is one of the wonders of nature and what could be more satisfying for the farmer than to support and stimulate it through homeopathic methods.


A recovery phase. Towards the end of August everything was going fine again and if the weather played along, the prospects for a really good harvest seemed good. The ripening phase, the most important stage in determining the quality of the grapes, went ahead at full tilt. We stimulated this delicate transition in the formation of aromas using horsetail tea and cow’s horn silica preparation. The secret of achieving top quality lies in preventing the vine from expending its resources on growth and producing foliage, to enable it to concentrate them on ripening the grapes to maximise the build-up of aroma substances.

The second violent storm. It was all too good to be true, for on the hot summer afternoon of 22nd August at 5.55 everything changed. The hailstorm lasted only 10 minutes but several sites took a ‘direct hit’. We had to decide on a course of action quickly and started picking immediately. Pickers went through 10 hectares of hail-stricken vineyard in three days. Berries which had been split open were removed by hand and the quality of the intact grapes was more than respectable.

The harvest. Grapes in the remaining vineyards could be harvested at leisure, perfectly ripe, vineyard by vineyard. We began on 23rd August with the Pinot Noir grapes in the Mazzon site, followed by the white grapes at Terlan during the first half of September. We were able to wait until 16th October for the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to become fully ripe at Manincor. The result: a superb vintage which really only ended on 19th January 2010 with the late harvest Petit Manseng to produce our sweet wine.

To sum up. 2009 has turned out to be a great wine year at Manincor but it was extremely challenging in the vineyard. After the hailstorms 150 hours per hectare of extra work were required to remove each stricken berry by hand, but it was worth the effort. We are especially delighted at the success achieved with our homeopathic treatments. The vines recovered so well that the effects of hail were hardly noticeable at harvest time. The quality of the young wines has borne out our expectations. The white wines are characterised by multi-layered, fresh fruit with fine mineral aromas both on the nose and palate, while the red wines show enormous potential with ripe fruit aromas and plenty of firm tannins, giving them backbone while still remaining velvety and mellow. Thanks to valerian, camomile and stinging nettle!