Archive for the 'Merlot' Category

Vintage Musings

Thursday, July 6th, 2006

Thus far the vintage is…well…what it is. I appreciate and try to follow the approach communicated to me once that it is useless to complain about the heat, the rain, the whatever of a particular year. Whatever it is is what makes 2005 2005, or the 2000s so memorable (for better or for worse). That is not to say that one cannot comment on the possible quality of a vintage, but even that at this early stage is difficult. The heavy rain in March in April is reminiscent of 2005, and could likely lead to another big crop (we are seeing similar trends thus far to last year). And although it would be great to get the cool weather in August in Sept as we did in ‘05, part of me is interested in something different, so we can compare similar beginnings with different finishes. That’s one thing I love about growing grapes for wine, year to year variation.

Walking the vineyards yesterday really had me fired up about vine spacing, crop load, and vigor, but I won’t get into that here. Everything is looking great, but there is much work to be done. Namely, the Merlot clusters need to be thinned, not necessarily because the vines can’t handle the yield, but there are too many clusters on top of one another which we know can lead to more pyrazine (veggie character) in the wine due to the cooler temperatures and less light penetration on the bunched up berries. Has anyone had any success in preventing this issue? Our quadralaterally trained Merlot suffers from this less namely due to better verticalization of shoots, lower vigor, and better spacing between fruiting cane positions.

Fruit Set

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

As shoots continue to vaunt skyward we turn our thoughts to the subject of fruit set. Certain varieties for whatever reason are prone to poor fruit set. Merlot is a good example and because you can see poor berry set (coulure) and “hens and chicks” (millerandage). In 2004 we had significant fruit set problems in all our Merlot blocks. In fact, we harvested all the clusters with “shot” berries separately. We fermented 7 tons of this stuff and although we never thought it would make the final blend, it did. The resulting wine had a very low pH, 3.37, but was wonderfully fruity if simple. I digress. In 2005 our set was much improved. What happened? My initial suspicion is that the late rain of 2005 improved set, but in NorCal there is rarely a water deficit problem as early as bloom. 2004 was marked by an early budbreak, warm weather, but with subsequent cooler weather during bloom.

Mark Greenspan offers a few possibilities in this piece for Wine Business.com. Molybdenum deficiency is an iteresting possibilty, but since we have had bad then good set without adding any Mo, it is doubtful that is our issue. All this begs the question, is poor set bad? Well, I suppose that depends on your goals and how much it impacts your yield. If you believe lower yields improve you quality (which is debatable depending on what level you are reducing your yields to and from), then why worry about set? But certainly you want to be sure you have product to sell as well. Finally, having a significant proportion of clusters with shot berries will impact your wine and it may not be economical to harvest separately as we have done. All in all, it seems it would be best to have even fruit set, controlling your yields with other mechanims.