Cool Climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Bended Knee Vineyard

Earlier Happenings...

Anyone with a small vineyard needs to be multi-skilled and able to juggle a number of tasks at one time. It also has its compensations. These pages track the many events in the life of the vineyard, here are some earlier weeks...

June 3, 2008


Last week saw the dinner to celebrate the end of the 2008 vintage in the Ballarat region. This was the first time the local Vignerons had assembled for a slightly more formal dinner, in past years we have celebrated with an informal BBQ and a few quiet drinks. Last night’s dinner was at Café Best, a local café that employs and trains young people with either disabilities or a disadvantaged background. The food was great, and wisely, with a room full of Pinot producers, they put on two duck dishes; one an entrée was a served with a mushroom risotto that was absolutely mouthwatering! A great night and some interesting wines – and what a relief to have vintage finally over.

The 2008 vintage will not be remembered fondly by everyone. Some producers north of Ballarat started with a good dose of frost which knocked a huge hole in their final yield. For them, 12 months of vineyard work ahead before they have another chance at generating any income. For the rest of us, the season was going along quite nicely, with rain at just the right intervals to keep growth motoring along (that was certainly the case at Bended Knee). With the exception of a few isolated vineyards that had some problems with powdery mildew, the disease pressure this year was fairly low, consequently, the fruit and foliage were looking fantastic in early March. However, Mother Nature has a way of bringing you back to earth when all seems to be going smoothly; in mid March, southern Victoria experienced a week where maximum temperatures were well over 30°C each day. As a consequence, we had a rapid rise in sugar levels and pH, with a consequent drop in acid levels of the berries. Flavours which had been developing slowly suddenly went through a rapid transformation. Estimating the right time to pick is hard enough; these rapid changes in berry composition really threw in an unknown variable. Luckily, we had picked the Chardonnay a little earlier this year, chasing a leaner style with more citrus like characters and lower alcohols – this meant picking prior to this burst of hot weather. I’ll give you more detail about our particular vintage another time.


I have just finished sowing some oats between the vine rows. This is not a practice aimed at providing an immediate return; rather, it is about the long term sustainability of the vineyard. The oats, when slashed in late spring, will provide mulch for the vines and valuable organic matter for the soil. Whilst sowing the vineyard, I took the opportunity to rip the subsoil likely to be compacted due to traffic in the vineyard. Both measures are aimed at improving the long term health and structure of the soil (vital for healthy root growth). To complement these practices, we are exploring ways to mechanise the application of mulch, compost and pellitised manure (fertiliser). The intention is to be able to apply each of these at the most appropriate times over a larger part of the vineyard. In the past, it has all been applied manually, which is quite time consuming and therefore has led to some delay.


Returning to the food theme, this late autumn weather is just great for slow cooked casseroles and red wine. I am off to enjoy some now!