Vineyard Manager Matthew Strugnell reflects on 2017 growing season

2017 Harvest could be defined as a season of two halves: pre and post fruit set.

An early bud burst makes the viticulturist nervous.  The widely reported Spring frosts were indeed severe, and in some parts of the country, too severe for any of the usual frost protection methods.  At Ridgeview we were able to reduce any damage to the bare minimum using bougies.

May and June were both warm and sunny which led to very early flowering. We normally say that flowering occurs at some point during Wimbledon; this year we were in full flower in time for the French Open final.  Mid way through flowering, I calculated that we could well be harvesting on September 25th, a full 5 days earlier than we had ever picked before and only the second September harvest we have done.

The weather remained superb until the berries were petit pois size.  Late July, although the temperatures were still reasonable, we had well above average rainfall.  This continued throughout August, so berry growth was very rapid.  This had the potential to cause early botrytis, so canopy management and well timed sprays were crucial.

Veraison was early and fairly quick,  so my early prediction of Sept 25th held true.  The ripening period continued to be wet, so we selectively removed some fruit in the heaviest cropping areas.  We kept leaf removal to a minimum to give some aeration to the bunches, but to maximise photosynthesis.

Some bunch weights were very impressive.  Chardonnay was particularly good; high level of cropping (13,000kg / ha), well ripened and free of disease.  Pinot noir, the yields were lower but really flavoursome. Meunièr had some really huge ripe bunches, but fewer in number.

All in all a challenging year, but we got very good yields of ripe, lovely clean flavoursome fruit, and as a Vineyard Manager I couldn’t ask for much more than that!

Matthew Strugnell

Vineyard Manager