Which came first?


Wine / Thursday, December 21st, 2023

So much for this long hot summer we were expecting!

(although, now I’ve said that, I’m sure it will be just around the corner)

The forecast maximum for today is 17 degrees! And it’s not expected to get above 25 for the next 7 days.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I’m not a massive fan of the heat, but it’s really starting to make things difficult in the vineyard.

With only a couple of days left until the big man arrives, I’m sure you’ll forgive me if I keep this one brief. Like you, I have presents to wrap! (…and buy…)

 

Growth stage

Most

Chardonnay at Macclesfield is at pea-size (E-L 31)

Least

Sauvignon Blanc at Lenswood is at peppercorn size (E-L 29).

 

Thanks to the weather, things have been slowed down a bit.

That little red line that was speeding ahead of previous seasons has put on the brakes.

Chardonnay is now one week behind 2018, 2019 and 2020 and is at the same stage as in 2021. It was streaks ahead of last years super sluggish season, but it now only 2.5 weeks ahead. Sauvignon Blanc however is at the same stage as 2019 and one week behind 2020. It is now 3.5 weeks ahead of last season.

 

Hen and chicken

No, I haven’t changed the topic completely. Believe it or not, I’m still talking about grapes.

If the weather is bad during flowering, as it has been this season, it can effect fertilisation and fruit set.

This can result in bunches with small and large grapes, a condition known as Millerandage which is often called “Hen and Chicken”. The big berries have been fertilised and have pips and sugar but the little berries are sour and seedless.

Here’s a photo of what it looks like…

As the berries have developed over the last couple of weeks, it’s becoming more and more obvious that the cooler than average temperatures has caused poor fruit set. Earlier setting varieties (e.g. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris) as well as later varieties (e.g., Shiraz) have significant levels of hen and chicken. This is likely to impact on the quantity of grapes that can be picked and turned into wine this vintage. No great news considering how low yields were last vintage as well.

 

Want to know more about Hen and Chicken and how seed development impacts final yield?

I’m so glad you asked!

Seed development is a key driver of berry size.

Where there is no fertilisation, only a seed trace remains (the unfertilised ovule) and berries have minimal development. Many of these traces will shatter but will otherwise make no contribution to sugar/flavour/colour development. You can see examples of these in the bottom row of the image above.

Single seeded berries (middle row in the image) will develop producing small berries which will ripen, although generally earlier than the main crop with minimal positive contribution to flavour/colour attributes of the final juice.

Berries with two seeds are unaffected in their ripening development but with lower numbers. That means total yields will be reduced.

 

Let’s hope thing warm up soon!

 

Merry Christmas!

Before I go, let me take this opportunity to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas.

Thanks so much for reading and for your on-going support of our little family business. 

I look forward to seeing you back here in in person at the Cellar Bar soon in the New Year!

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