A Wellington Wine Blog (of sorts) Part 2
What Would I be Doing This Month (June) if I Hadn’t Retired
June is almost as busy as May in the vineyard. Disking (plowing) has been completed by the end of May in all but the wettest years. Mowing continues, with decreased frequency as cover crop growth slows. Mildew control (in my case, dusting with sulfur) continues until veraison (typically late July). Regular irrigation starts sometime between late April (in very dry years) and July (in very wet years), but is typically in full swing in June. The frequency and amount of irrigation is dependent on weather and the water status of vines. A “pressure bomb” can be used to measure leaf water potential (a measure of water stress), but an observant, experienced grower can be just as accurate.
Suckering and shoot thinning usually carries into early June, and leaf thinning around clusters begins later in June, after fruit set (completion of bloom). The goal is to allow good fruit exposure to morning sunlight and speckled exposure to afternoon sunlight. Both direct sunlight and good air circulation act to inhibit diseases – primarily powdery mildew and botrytis. Sunlight is also important for color and flavor development and fruit composition (shaded fruit tends to be higher in pH, usually a negative factor in wine quality). Direct sun exposure during the heat of the afternoon can cause sunburn problems, so we pull more leaves on the north and east sides of the vines.
In the winery, racking, blending and bottling continue. We would be bottling the last of the 2016 reds in May or June, and starting on the 2017 barrel aged whites.
Planning for crush is starting to increase. We can begin to make crop size projections after fruit set and the subsequent rapid phase of berry growth. This determines how many barrels we need to keep from recently bottled wines and how many we can sell to make room for new barrels. New French oak barrels have the longest lead time of any crush supply and should have been ordered earlier in the year, but we usually can still order for late October / November delivery and we can order additional American oak if needed. The bloom to harvest interval is fairly predictable, so we now have a good projection of when harvest will begin and whether it will be hectic (almost everything bloomed within a 2-3 week time frame) or never ending (prolonged bloom).
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