Compared to the last couple of years, the fruit this year on the Mornington Peninsula was excellent.  In my own little vineyard we had no disease to speak of, just great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Things got frantic towards the end as we had to deal with nine consecutive days of temperatures above 30 degrees centigrade.

Following is the story of the vendange through the lens of my refractometer.  This instrument measures basic sugar levels in grape juice in terms of brix.  To begin with you calibrate it using plain water.  Water should always produce a reading of 0 brix:

Water giving a 0 brix reading

Water giving a 0 brix reading

The first time I tested the grapes was on the 23rd February 2013.  Things at that stage were nowhere near ready.  We like to pick when levels get between 22 and 24 brix:

Chardonnay on 23rd February 2013

Chardonnay on 23rd February 2013

The Chardonnay was sitting at just under 20 brix.

Pinot Noir on 23rd February 2013

Pinot Noir on 23rd February 2013

And the Pinot Noir was in a very similar place.

Over the next week the weather was warm, but in the middle of the week we had a lot of rain.  We had been irrigating, but the vines were under some stress.  With the rain they re-hydrated themselves, and consequently we didn’t expect the sugar levels to have progressed that much – and this turned out to be the case:

Chardonnay on 2nd March 2013

Chardonnay on 2nd March 2013

The Chardonnay had just nudged above the 20 brix point – still no good to pick.

Pinot Noir on 2nd March 2013

Pinot Noir on 2nd March 2013

The Pinot Noir was a little better, but still not ready.

Then the hot weather came upon with a vengeance.  Dry, 30 degrees plus for many days.  It was the long Labour Day weekend.  I took the Friday off and went over to Yabby Lake for a spot of lunch.  There I bumped into the Vineyard Manager – he had fifty people out in the vineyard getting everything off the vines as fast as he could – it was all ready.  And that seemed to be the case across the Peninsula – everybody around the Moorooduc plain was ready (the Red Hill/Main Ridge guys are always two weeks behind).

At home I did another test:

Chardonnay on 8th March 2013

Chardonnay on 8th March 2013

Now this is in the zone – between 22 and 24 brix.

Pinot Noir on 8th March 2013

Pinot Noir on 8th March 2013

And the story is the same for the Pinot Noir.

Sugar levels are only one part of the story – the grape also has to be ripe.  We had to balance that against the fact that the hot weather was set to continue for several more days and we had no more water for irrigation.  If the vines get too stressed, they can just shut down and you end up with raisins.  Also there is sugar in the grape skin which is not fully reflected in the refractometer readings.  So we made the decision and picked that weekend.

The wine has now fermented to dryness and is in barrel.  I think it’s going to be a great year.

Advertisements