I have moved to www.zabibu.org

Please note that I have moved this BLOG to www.zabibu.org

There is a new post there on Baboons in the vineyard today.

From now on I will be posting on that site and not here. Thanks for the continued interest and hope to keep you up to date with all the wine making to come in the coming weeks.

Hope to meet again at www.zabibu.org

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Downy mildew

I mentioned bad mildew problems in 2004 (see WINE page above) and how we lost the entire crop. Well is really was bad. Look at the state the fruit was in that year.

 

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The fruit was badly affected in 2004. There was no fruit to make any wine with. Lesson learnt. It wont happen again!

We were using all the wrong treatments for it, had terrible canopy mangement so we could not get the sine through the vines and the moisture was sitting around creating humidity in the hot sunshine and the mildew really have a good time of it.

With the downy mildew it comes in after we have rain and/or mist and followed by hot sunshine. The yellow oil mark spotting is the clearest sign that Downy Mildew is there.

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The yellow oilmark spotting on the top side of the leaves- Downy Mildew

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The brown/burnt looking patches on the underside of the same leaf- Downy Mildew

We have had a bit of this appear last week as we had some heavy rain and this seemed to set it off. We were able to control it with a chemical called Coptrace or Liquicop (a soluble copper formulation) which can be used to treat downy mildew later in the season. This is an environmentally friendly product and leaves no harmful residues. In addition we use Sporekill, which is a broad spectrum fungicide and bactericide and seems to work in the control of Downy Mildew.

In 2004 we cut the vines back as much as possible and then burnt as much of the foliage as we could to try to get rid of as many of the fungal spores. We were then able to use a good spray routing to keep it in check and subsequently have made good progress with the crop size and quality in the following years.

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Canopy management

The year we lost the entire crop- 2004 was largely because our canopy management went to shot. Too much foliage, bad pruning and no thinning. Added to that we were growing very vigorous varieties susceptible to mildews such as Sauvignon Blanc.

We had bad bad mildew problems that year and were not able to control it. The good thing was that it really forced me to learn about control and treatment options. Take a look at his for bad canopy management and mildew.

Canopy management lacking

Poor canopy management the year we lost the entire (2004)

However it really helps to get it right from the beginning-Right from the word pruning. We now prune the vines twice a year and keep up a spray routine throughout the year as well. Incidentally they also prune vines twice a year in India too due to the lack of a proper winter. We did not do this before and so the mildews were able to take hold when the vines were not as carefully monitored because nothing was going on in the vineyard. The new growth was then readily innoculated with the disease and we were already starting the control program two steps behind. We also changed our pruning technique so it is much more simple and allows good sunshine to get to the buds needed for growing the next seasons fruiting canes. Infact the vineyard and canopy management is what its all about in producing a crop with the potential for a good wine. Some lessons are best learnt from mistakes.

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Filed under Pests and diseases, Vines

Green to pink to purple

Seiyia and I were in the vineyard today. Things are looking good and the Pinot Noir grapes are darkening all the time. They turn from green to pink to deep purple. We still have some that have not yet turned but most of them have now.

 

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Checking the berries sugar content today with Seiyia.

I am happy to see that the forecast is good with hot clear days and cool nights through this next week. This should markedly improve the sugar content. We had rain a week ago which meant that the sugar concentrations in the berries have been watered down slighly. The are now very tight bunches. Good thick skins and lots of pips.

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The tight clusters are just beginning to show signs of berry pinching.

 

We get some berry pinching occuring in these final weeks but without rain this should not do any damage to the harvest as the pinched fruit dries fast. More rain at this stage would not be good.

We do also have 200 vines of Chardonnay still in the vineyard and these are a few weeks behind and are only just beginning to show signs of ripening.

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Birds birds birds

Birds are nothing new to grape growers at harvest time. As soon as we get veraison (the grapes begin to change colour) the birds begin to take great interest in the vineyard. We employ four people in the vinyard solely for scaring birds away.

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Kakai is about to throw a stone at a bird.

The bird scarers are here for the two months preceeding harvest and spend their days whistling and yelling at the birds, throwing stones into the canopy to get the birds out and up and away.

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Seiyia is having a quiet word with a bird this morning. “You can have just a few!”

The verasion is not even across the vineyard but by the beginning of March we should have the sugars up to a good level and hope to be able to harvest. We have had more rain this year than normal and we have been fortunate not to have had any mildew on the grapes as we would have lost the harvest totally through splitting. It will however mean that we will not have as good sugar concentrations as we had last year. Last year at this time we were in a bad drought and were worried that we would lose the vines.

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Why Pinot Noir?

Pinot Noir is a particularly difficult grape to grow and it is surprising to some that it works for us here in Kenya. The vineyard is situated south of the Ngong Hills, on the edge of the Rift Valley.

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Looking north towards the Ngong Hills from the edge of the Rift.

 

Why does Pinot Noir work for us? We think it is because the vineyard is at 6,300 feet (1920 meters) which means that we have cold nights, sometimes as low as 8 to 12 degrees celcius although more normally 17 to 18 degrees celcius. The mornings can be cold and often misty.

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Cold and misty mornings at altitude make perfect growing conditions.

In addition the vineyard is planted on a west facing slope, and on rocky terraces running across the hill so that each line of vines gets maximum sunshine during the day and is sheltered from the strong winds that blow predominantly from the east. Afternoon temperatures are high, sometimes 35 degrees celcius. Infact our vines have sometimes suffer from sunburn particularly after a suphur treatment to control powdery mildew. We are on the equator here and so our daily sunshine hours are close to 12 hours all year around. We don’t have the long summer evenings that I have enjoyed very occasionally in Europe at in the summer months.

If we plant the same vines on the top of the hill without the slope and where there are quite strong winds from the east they dont work. It is too windy and the grapes dont ripen to satisfaction due to the lower sunshine levels because there is no slope and terracing.

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