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Another reminder that wine is still (and always will be) about agriculture at its core. No escaping it.
Interesting to read another example where reducing yields does not necessarily result in improved quality. Still one of the great misunderstood assumptions of viticulture.
Rich - I'm wondering if you could elaborate a bit on your view of SB preferring sandy/gravelly soils, versus Merlot doing better on soils with more silt content. Do you think it's a water/vigor issue, or do you see other effects? Not doubting your statements, just wondering if you could elaborate a bit. Evan - thanks for highlighting this work. The site has been a great help to those of us who get calls from people wanting to start vineyards in NY. I would never suggest that somebody make their final decisions based solely on this information, but it's a good place for folks to start.
Derek is one of those relatively rare people who is well-versed in both winemaking and viticulture. I always learn something from when I run into him when I stop by their vineyard. He has a very practical take on what happens in the vineyard (and I assume the winery), that the things that they do should have some kind of real, tangible purpose - like his preference for mechanical harvesting. It's not just that it's easier from a labor standpoint - for him, it has important winemaking implications. Great choice of somebody to profile, Evan!
March 15 is a fine day for a birthday - the best if you ask me! Congratulations Lenn, and to all of the NYCR team.
That would be Woodbridge Sauvignon Blanc, not Woodridge. The 1.5L, of course...
Charles - if my meager understanding of postharvest physiology and a little research are right, what's happening is that fruits like tomatoes, bananas, apples and peaches respond to ethylene (a plant hormone) more readily than grapes after they are harvested. Ethylene triggers many of the processes that are involved in fruit ripening. So the difference basically comes down to the fact that grapes do not continue to ripen like many other fruits because they do not respond to ethylene in the same way. Grapes still produce ethylene after they are picked (I believe), but they just don't react to it. Fruits and vegetables like grapes are called 'non-climacteric', while those like apples, bananas and such are called 'climacteric'. Here's one of the references I looked at: Hope that makes some sense.
Lenn/Evan/Jason - you guys are almost asking for a thesis on canopy management, but here goes a very shortened answer: Yes, the lyre system can be more expensive for at least a couple of reasons: 1) it uses more wire and metal supports, and therefore costs more to establish, and 2) it can cost more to prune and harvest than a VSP system because you have more shoots, canes, etc., and I don't know of anybody who can harvest a lyre trellis in the Finger Lakes mechanically. The lyre system is a divided canopy system, which is designed for vineyard sites with higher vigor. It allows for more buds to be retained per vine and allow the shoots from those buds to be spread out over a larger "surface area". It all comes back to research by Dr. Nelson Shaulis at Cornell many years ago, who developed the Geneva Double Curtain trellis (originally for Concord vineyards) to increase the amount of exposed leaf area per unit of fruit on the vine (the always elusive concept of "vine balance"). This work has been expanded upon by a whole host of viticulturists around the world to develop other training systems, including the lyre. But study after study has shown that, in the right situation, divided canopy systems can improve productivity without sacrificing fruit quality - even improving it in some circumstances.
Sorry about the last post everyone. Here's most of what I wrote in my weekly update to the industry today: With the return of some warmer, drier weather this week, some questions have arisen regarding how the vines will function, and any resulting impacts on fruit parameters, over these next several days. There are basically two questions, in various forms, that I’ve heard. Question #1: After a week of very cold temperatures, will the leaves that were not damaged (and are still green) still be able to photosynthesize and produce sugars when it warms up? I asked Alan Lakso this question this morning. He told me that he went out to measure photosynthesis rates on green leaves last week and found that they were still active. He was going to try to get out and check again today or tomorrow to see where rates might be at this point, and I will try to let you know what he finds out. This makes sense physiologically – as long as there is green chlorophyll to intercept sunlight and there is adequate water and nutrient availability, photosynthesis can occur. However, even if the leaves are still active, I would not count on significant accumulations of sugar in the berries at this point. We have a couple more days forecast in the 60s, but with clouds and chances of rain before we drop back to the 50s again by the end of the week. It seems likely that the more significant factor in changes in Brix at this point would be dehydration, more than photosynthesis. How does this impact flavor development in later varieties? I think that’s a more complex question, but knowing that the synthesis of flavor and aroma compounds is dependent on photosynthesis, I would guess that the amount of new compounds created will be pretty small, and that more significant changes would result, again, from dehydration. Given all of that, if the fruit remains clean and flavors continue to be good, and leaves are still green, it probably won’t hurt anything to leave the fruit hanging out there if you want to do that. Question #2: In vineyards that have lost most of their leaves, does it make any sense to let fruit continue to hang in the hopes of losing some more acid before picking it? We have been seeing higher than normal TA numbers in the samples that we have been taking, and this is also being seen by winemakers and growers in their samples as well. The hope is that, even if sugars don’t accumulate further, the acidity might still come down. While we don’t have solid research for this question, here’s the general consensus view from myself and a few faculty I discussed this with. Even though leaves are gone, berries will continue to respire on the vine. Malic acid, one of several organic acids in grapes, is consumed during respiration in plants, so letting the fruit continue to hang may reduce the amount of malic acid in the berries, probably by a small amount. However, remember that tartaric acid is the primary organic acid in grapes at harvest, and it is not consumed to any significant extent in any physiological process. So as grapes are left to hang and begin to dehydrate, the concentration of acid can actually increase, which would counteract the whole objective of leaving the fruit to hang in the first place. So in summary, if you have lost a lot of leaves from freeze damage or disease, there probably isn’t a good reason to continue to leave the fruit hanging. If most of the canopy is still fairly green and healthy, there is still the chance for small increases in sugar content, and possibly flavor and aroma compounds, so letting fruit continue to hang is an option, assuming it remains free of rot.
Evan - this has indeed been a really difficult year for disease management, particularly downy mildew. Growers have had to use more spray materials this year than normal, unfortunately, but as you note in the video if they don't do it, they don't have any kind of crop at all. There are a number of materials that growers use to protect against downy mildew infections. The best ones are used closer to bloom time when the clusters and new berries are very vulnerable to infection. By about 4-6 weeks after bloom, the berries are resistant to new infections but the leaves remain vulnerable all season long - thus the need to continue spraying the canopies later in the season. There really is only one type of material that is effective at killing existing infections - that's the phosphite material that David mentioned. It's a great material (sold under several different trade names), but overuse can cause the fungus to become resistant over time. This has happened to some other materials here in NY, so we try to encourage growers to not rely on those materials alone. Other than that, everything else works to prevent infections. There are some vineyards in NY and elsewhere who try to keep their practices as close to organic as possible, but don't officially certify themselves because of years like this. It's important to be able to have the flexibility to use stronger, non-organic materials when heavier disease pressure makes it necessary to do so. Organic growers, meanwhile, have a difficult decision to make in those years - use a non-certified material, save your crop but lose your certification, or hope that the organic materials will be sufficient. Given the high pressure that we have had for much of this season, most of the vineyards I have visited this year are still in pretty good shape, thanks to a lot of hard work on the part of the growers this year. Let's hope this first week of September is a harbinger of the next couple of months. Hans Walter-Peterson Finger Lakes Grape Program
While the 2009 season has thrown us what has felt like less than summer-like conditions so far in the Finger Lakes, there is still ample time for things to turn around and make it a good (great?) year for quality. What we need is for the rain to stop for a while, and Mother Nature to turn up the heat a little bit. If you look at the rainfall and growing degree data from Geneva in 2007, we see two things that made that year an excellent one for grape growing: 1) Dry - We had below average rainfall every month from May to September. This did a couple of things: a) Kept diseases from getting and strong foothold early in the season, causing fewer problems later on, and b) helped to produce smaller berries, which is probably part of the reason that it was such a good year for reds. 2) Warm September and October - Up until then, our GDD accumulation was just above average. During this critical ripening time, we had significantly warmer temps than normal, lots of sunshine, and a shower now and then - just enough it seemed so the vines didn't get stressed. So far in 2009, April and May weren't too bad for us. June has been the bugger so far, with less heat and more rain than average (surprise!). More rainfall usually means more shoot growth, especially when combined with hotter temperatures, so that makes canopy management much more challenging, and critical, both for disease control purposes and fruit development. Given the choice, I'd would opt for cool and dry conditions right now over warm and wet. But then that's the rub...we don't get a choice. If the pattern can change starting in the next month or so, it can still turn out to be another very good year for the Finger Lakes. As a viticulture professor of mine told me once, "Anybody can grow grapes in California. You really have to know what you're doing in places like New York." Hans Walter-Peterson Finger Lakes Grape Program