In March I had a vineyard sown with a variety of different plant species (see posts: Flower Power or The Mosel Raupe). Today, I was working in this vineyard and felt the need to capture a few stills with the iphone. I can’t imagine mowing or rolling everything flat! Especially once you see how abundant the plant and animal life is… I thank my two year old son, Ben, for helping with the commentary.
The introduction of the Raupe to steep-slope viticulture has transformed the way people grow riesling at the Mosel Valley.
With the introduction of the rauper, the steepest of vineyards can now be accessed by machinery. Last year I decided to replant two vineyards at a south-orientated site called Steffensberg. Here are some images and footage of the young riesling vines. I would like to thank the owner of the footage who proudly posted it on his own website;)
The new rows were orientated with string to guide the driver whilst planting the new vines. At 30s you’ll hear “oh, shit” in German – I feared at that point we didn’t have enough vines for the two sites (thankfully, everything worked out).
At 2mins you’ll see the vineyard 3 months after planting. The vines seemed to feel right at home. We focused on root establishment in the first year. In 2011 we’ll continue to focus on soil health as well as growing a straight and healthy cane (which will become the trunk next year).
I’ve spent some quality time in the vineyards recently. After hours of pruning the shears carve their way down the row whilst you subconsciously design two years worth of growth.
Most conscious thoughts are random at best! I call them 10 viners (i.e. they occupy you for ten vines). Once and a while I’ll find myself challenged for a few rows or so. Occasionally I’ll smell, hear or see something which is distinctly foreign to me. A normal reaction no doubt, for an Australian pruning away in a Mosel vineyard. Recent thought pruning has inspired a little research. What is the Mosel Valley? What is a Mosel Riesling? I did what any tourist does, ask the locals. Throughout the year I’ll post some of their answers. To get the tractor rolling, Johannes Selbach of Weingut Selbach-Oster wrote:
The Mosel is……a beautiful winter wonderland this year (2010/2011).
Mosel Riesling is……. an utterly delicious testimony to almost 2000 years and countless generations’ efforts of singling out the best sites, the best suited grape and ( still ongoing ) best viticultural practices for one of the most beautiful places on earth to make fine wine.
And I didn’t translate a thing! Respect. The words, ‘countless generations’ efforts,’ capture the essence of this place. These people aren’t going to work each morning just to feed the family and sponsor their next Ryan Air holiday. Each time a Moselaner enters the vineyard, he or she is protecting, maintaining and providing a culture which cannot be imitated.
In the ‘vineyard surfing’ story, I made reference to my first ice wine harvest. At the Mosel, the Riesling grapes used for this style of wine remain outside for two or three months after typical harvesting dates. Generally speaking, most growers will have harvested their fruit during the months of September and October. Some of us seek an undeniable change in aroma complexity and will leave some fruit on the vines until mid November. The Eiswein producers take a financial gamble and leave the grapes outside until the valley experiences -8° C. If at all, this will happen in December or January. A typical Eiswein harvest at the Mosel will involve car lights (to guide you down your row), gloves, beanies, Riesling Gluehwein, a hydrometer (to measure the soluble solids – sugar content), a communal post-harvest breakfast and most importantly, good humour.
Essentially, the water inside the berry freezes which allows us to press out juice with an extremely high sugar content. The end result is a wine with an unbelievable balance between sugar and acidity. An experience not to be missed. If you should be in the region during December or January and feel the urge to get involved, perhaps we can steer you in the right direction. If you are interested in buying some Eiswein, be sure to get your orders in early as I’ve noticed these wines seem to have designated homes before they finish fermenting.
I’d like to introduce you to, James and Thea. They’ve been living with one another for 47 years now. Both of them are the real deal -100% Riesling (i.e. not grafted to an american rootstock). We’re going to track their every growth from now until this time next year. There won’t be too much to report during the coming months whilst they sleep their way through winter. This afternoon however, they received a much-needed trim. You’ll notice James has gone the short back and sides (click on image) compared to Thea who opted for a little more length. Each of their neigbours within a row will receive the same treatments, leaving us with alternating rows of “Kron-schnitt,” and cane-pruning respectively. Thea will receive some styling before Spring in the form of the traditional Mosel heart-shape. James on the other hand will receive more attention post-budbreak as his new shoots will need timely support to ensure they don’t snap under their own weight. Sleep tight you two….
There’s something extremely satisfying about removing a year’s worth of growth from a grapevine. Pruning is aggressive work. If you leave buds in the wrong places or fail to prune them away altogether, you get a big, green surprise in summer – too many canes and hence too many leaves. This leads to little airflow within the canopy which provides the perfect environment for one of our major enemies (especially when farming organically) throughout the growing season – Fungus. Additionally, the more buds you leave on the vine in winter will naturally increase the amount of fruit the vine has to ripen in summer. This leaf to fruit ratio is very important in a cool region like the Mosel.
Being the only Australian making wine in these parts, there is plenty of playful banter between myself and my colleagues. “Oh no, what’s the Aussie doing to that vineyard?” Well, the lads are in for a laugh in 2011 when they find multiple pruning methods within a vineyard…..ten rows of cordon (rarely seen here), ten of cane pruning and some traditonal heart-shaped vines mixed in with “Kron-schnitt.” I’m not out to make a mockery of the viticultural practices here but rather adopt all practices and determine which method works best. It will also be interesting to see the parameters obtained during vintage next year. Enough chat, lets get snipping!!