In the Margaret River vineyards Autumn 2013

Contributed by Bruce Pearse, Viticulturist

Out in the vineyard and tasting fruit with the viticulturists, winemakers and owners is where I love to be. With Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz reaching optimum maturity we all have bright red smiles from over consumption of samples of red grapes and chewing skins and seeds. This is my favorite time of year in the vineyard and the best time to visit the Margaret River Wine Region… the surf and beaches are first-rate and the locals and visitors are jostling for waves within the pristine Margaret River setting. In the winery we can already savour the sweet taste of success and promise of great wines from the 2013 vintage and the cellars are requesting samples to expedite bottling of the new wine!

With the arrival of autumn weather brings sunshine, mild daytime temperatures and cool nights and our Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz vines are just loving the final stages of ripening berries. The extended period of Marri flowering (our native “red-gum” tree) has provided an alternative food supply for the marauding Silver-eyes that find the ripening fruit attractive when there is little else for them to eat. These tiny olive colored birds with silver marking around the eyes look like bandits and behave accordingly, seeking out the ripest grapes and pecking away to satisfy their appetite for liquid sugar. Want to know where the ripest grapes are in the vineyard….then listen out for the Silver-eye calling to its mates. The best way of keeping the birds from damaging fruit is to net rows of vines to protect the fruit. Some vineyards regularly get besieged and you can see the nets in place as you drive around the Margaret River wine region.

Out in the vineyard this week we are perfectly in the middle of Cabernet and Shiraz harvest. Nets are being removed from vines, hand clean up to remove any damaged bunches will further improve quality, and harvesting and transport of grapes to the winery completes the operation. Some of our smaller vineyards are harvesting by hand and everyone is watching the weather to see if there will be rain. The days are getting shorter and the time is right for harvest!

The teams out in the vineyards are all looking forward to a well earned break before pruning commences in June. The hand harvesting crews in the vineyard are mixing work and pleasure, with international visitors making the most of the best seasonal surf the region has on offer; a relief to the hours spent hand harvesting.  We can even see the grapevines responding favourably to the end of vintage with autumn colours observed,  indicating a job well done and the signal of the start of dormancy throughout winter.

For me, I enjoy a change of scenery and it’s the start of the sampling rounds that take place in the winery after vintage. Within our winemaking we have many small parcels of fruit, picked at optimal ripeness and fermented into wine. These hand-made wines are kept separate in barrels for blending into finished wines (the wine that is bottled and consumed).  Tasting our way through these samples and knowing where the fruit for these parcels has come allows us great opportunity to work within the vineyards to further enhance quality. Changing inputs such as vine nutrition, pruning, canopy management and harvesting timing can all be used to further improve the finished wines in future years. It really is a cycle of constant improvement and a great opportunity for viticulturists and winemakers to work together and share ideas.

The planning for vintage 2014 is underway and the excitement of knowing that Margaret River’s wine future is amazing and in good hands drives us forward with confidence!

Contributed by Bruce Pearse, Viticulturist

About Margaret River Discovery Tours
Sean Blocksidge is the owner operator of the Margaret River Discovery Company, an avid photographer, blogger and South West WA ambassador. In 2010 he won Western Australian Guide of the Year and his tours have been rated the #1 thing to do in Australia on the Tripadvisor website for the past two years.