Practical Winery
65 Mitchell Blvd, San Rafael, CA 94903
phone: 415-453-9700 ext 102
email: Office@practicalwinery.com
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JULY/AUGUST 2010
SMART VITICULTURE
Open your eyes...
Following are descriptions of some vineyard attributes I have found useful in vineyard assessment and the pursuit of wine quality. I will present them more or less in phenological order, first for vineyards and then for groups of adjacent vines.
At the vineyard level
Several vineyard attributes are easy to establish by sight. The most obvious is vigor, which can be assessed by leaf color, shoot length and diameter, leaf area (main and laterals), crop amount, and trunk diameter. Ride around the vineyard on top of the harvester and you will see some of these differences.
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BY
Richard Smart
W
hich of our five human senses — sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch, — are the most useful in our assessment of the vineyard attributes that affect wine quality? My answer is undoubtedly sight, for the reasons I will give below.
But why would one dwell on this seemingly obscure topic at all? Well, it seems to me that in assessing vineyard attributes we frequently overlook sight, which is actually one of the most powerful tools we have available.
My friend Jessica Cortell, a consultant from Oregon, says, “Observation is what separates good managers from the average.” Nelson Shaulis would tell me that “the vineyard manager’s shadow is the best vineyard fertilizer.”
I am often in vineyards where managers want to show me pieces of equipment that help them assess vineyard attributes, and yet to my mind, this often seems a waste of time and money, as all that may be necessary is to look at the vines for the answers they are seeking. I do agree that sometimes looking can be accompanied by measurement, but many devices, such as the pressure chamber, are much over-used and little understood when used in isolation.
1) Poor leaf health due to water and nutrient stress (pre-harvest), can compromise fruit composition and wine quality.
2) How quickly verasion develops, and how quickly it finishes, are important guides for potential wine quality.
3) This Spanish vineyard in Penedès has very good lignification before fruit coloring, good omen for quality.
The keen reader will be quick to note that our assessment of wine quality relies on three senses—sight, taste, and smell. I have no argument with this. However, my aim, is to give vignerons some clues as to how vineyards can be assessed by sight alone, to help manage for improved wine quality. Most of these assessments are simple, but I realize some are subjective, and require experienced eyes and mind. To this end, I am developing commercial services for vineyard grading in Australia, Spain, and hopefully America.