Natural protection for vineyards

Vineyards must contend with all kinds of threats to their grape crops, including variable weather patterns and predators attacking the vines.

Sometimes nature rectifies itself in interesting ways, however, as wine producers in Australia’s Margaret River found this year.

Mega blossom saves crops

The Marri gum trees (also known as Eucalyptus calophylla) in the area produced a spectacular ‘mega blossom’ in 2018. Experiencing the most blossom in living memory meant that bird pressure on the vines was very little.

This is because the Marri trees produce a specific kind of nectar, that birds absolutely love. This stops them heading for the grapes as it satiates their sweet tooth. The Marri flowering influences the region’s food supply particularly for parrots, wattle birds and silver-eyes. All of these birds love to dig into the grapes when they can’t find flowering gum trees, which is their favourite food.

This year’s flowering meant that the birds travelled deeper into the native forest areas as they followed the blossom. Creating a natural redistribution of bird populations near the vineyards means fewer birds return to attack the grapes on the vines.

Animal threats

With fewer birds damaging the crops, an increased number of cooler nights has also given the vines a longer period of growth on the vine, which results in a higher natural acid content for the 2018 Margaret River vineyard.

While birds are the main concern in this area of Western Australia, vineyards all over the world must protect themselves from various different animals. For example, Germany battles with raccoons and their taste for grapes, while South African vineyards are threatened by baboons.

Over in Northern Italy, Tuscan winemakers petitioned for a mass cull of wild boar as they were demolishing wine crops in the area. On the flipside, some vineyards use animals as natural weed fighters or as pest control.

In England, we use small sheep to keep the weeds down and in California, falcons are used to keep smaller birds away from the vines. Some vineyards choose to use netting to protect the crops, but this decreases the amount of sun reaching the grapes so isn’t always suitable.

Whichever animal or bird is responsible, it’s always going to be a concern for vineyard owners, particularly those who can’t rely on a bumper blossom crop for protection.

Wine tourism in New Zealand on the up

New Zealand has much to offer tourists. From beautiful, endless countryside to visits to the Lord of the Rings set, there’s something for everyone. Ideal Wine Company review where every wine lover should be visiting this year.

Wine lovers are also well catered for in this area, as figures show that New Zealand is becoming ever more popular as a wine tourism destination.

Ideal Wine Company new zealand wine
If you’re a wine lover, you’ll want to visit New Zealand this year!

Wine lovers flock to NZ

In fact, the recent figures from trade body NZ Winegrowers shows that wine tourism has sharply increased with a quarter of all tourists visiting a vineyard or winery while in New Zealand.

The figures state that the 24 per cent of tourists from overseas that visit vineyards has leapt from 13 per cent just four years ago.

Tourism up in general

So far in 2017, New Zealand has welcome around 3.65 million visitors to its shores. This is an increase of 10 per cent on the same time in 2016, according to figures from the NZ government.

The trade body (NZ Winegrowers) has been quick to capitalise on the increase in tourism by launching a brand-new website. The site acts as a hub for information on wineries and vineyards for tourists to visit.

Marketing director Chris Yorke says: “Wine tourism provides an exciting opportunity for us to showcase our wines in the unique locations where they are grown and produced.”

New website launched

The new website contains information on more than 450 wineries and vineyards. Visitors can filter by regions and by four kinds of experience: vineyard tours, wine tastings, dining and staying at vineyards that offer accommodation.

CEO of Tourism NZ, Stephen England-Hall, puts the popularity of wine tourism down to the wide appeal of visiting sites at any time of year across different regions. He says: “Our research has found that wine visitors spend more, stay longer, and visit more regions than the average international holidaymaker.”

Auckland offers the most wine and vineyard experiences with 90 to choose from. Even the area with the least wine attractions in the country (Gisborne), there are still 14 to discover.

Spanish Vineyards Recent Frost Damage

Following extensive coverage of the frost damage in Bordeaux and Champagne, it seems northern Spain is now counting the cost of the late wintery weather. Ideal Wine Company divulges into this.

Ideal Wine Company damaged vineyards
Severe weather has now hit Spain.

Severe frosts

Many vineyards in northern Spain have been decimated by severe springtime frosts with Bierzo, Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Galicia all reporting extensive damage to their vines. Representatives from two wineries in Spain were at the Continental Wines (importer from Hong Kong) annual tasting event and spoke about the damage their vineyards have suffered.

Bierzo’s Losada winery representative, Victor Quinson, said that the upper part of Rioja Alta was also affected. Frost damage was found at his vineyards in Bierzo, with around 40 per cent of the vines destroyed. He did say that vineyards at higher altitude were less affected, offering a small bit of good news. Happily, despite the inevitable cut in wine production this year, Quinson said that none of his prices will increase.

Other data from Bierzo’s Regulatory Board has disturbing news for the industry. Bierzo has formally been declared a disaster zone when it comes to its vineyards, with 70 to 80 per cent reporting extensive damage.

Multiple regions

These very late spring frosts have also affected vineyards in Galicia, which is found further to the west of Spain. It has been estimated that more than 70 per cent of Galicia’s vineyards have been affected by the severe weather, resulting in €72 million worth of damage.

Rocio Orbea de Arriba, a representative and sales manager for Valdesil in Galicia, said: “In April it was really hot and the vines started to grow. We had the buds and then we lost four hectares [in the frost] out of our 20 hectares in the area.”

Additional weather troubles

Adding to the weather-related disasters for the winery, hail storms have also further damaged their vineyards. She added: “This year it’s really tough. We will have to wait and see, maybe some of the vines can survive.”

Rioja Alvarez and Rioja Alta were particularly affected in the “worst region hit by frost in the past 20 years.”

As an example of the extreme temperatures experienced in the area, in Ribera Del Duero the mercury dipped to -5°C on 27 April 2017 for at least five hours. This spell of ultra-cold weather destroyed vines and crops across the area.

Severe frost scuppers French crops

An almost unprecedented run of plunging temperatures and frosts have hit vineyards across central and northern France. In the worst run of weather in many growers’ memories, vineyards in Bordeaux, Champagne and Burgundy have reported extensively damaged crops. Ideal Wine Company reviews.

Temperatures took a hit across all three main wine making regions in France in the last week of April. Reports from across the board show extremes of cold ranging from -7C, hitting vines hard and causing untold damage.

Weather earlier this year was much milder, encouraging early growth of fresh vines. This means the vines had taken hold and were well developed by the time the late sharp spring frosts hit, and it may not be over yet. Growers are concerned for their income and fear that another cold snap will bite before the summer arrives.

Ideal Wine Company damaged vineyards
This year’s crops have been severely damaged.

Preventative measures by wine growers

Winemakers have been using heaters, candles and even the heat from helicopter down draughts to desperately try and save their crops. But it looks like the wine harvest from France in 2017 will be one of the smallest in three decades thanks to the poor timing of the coldest weather.

Experts are reporting that the frost damage is definitely already worse than the extensive problems caused by cold weather in 2016, when the total amount of wine produced in France fell by 10 per cent. Last year the wine region of Champagne suffered the most with a 20 per cent drop in wine output and it looks to be facing a larger loss in 2017.

More crops destroyed than last year

Last year the wine region of Champagne suffered the most with a 20 per cent drop in wine output and it looks to be facing a larger loss in 2017. However, this year in Champagne, around 25 per cent of vines have been completely destroyed already, compared with 14 per cent at this time last year. And that is a conservative estimate according to experts, meaning the damage could be even more extensive.

In Bordeaux it seems there’s even worse news, with estimates coming in of several thousand hectares of destroyed vineyards thanks to the frosts. Some have been damaged between 50 and 100 per cent. Patrick Vasseur from FNSEA, the largest farm union in France, said: “Today we are likely seeing the most important freeze since 1991. And there are more frosts forecast.”

The Cognac vineyard has been similarly damaged and some vineyards were simply completely wiped out in Bugey, near Lyon. In general, low lying vineyards have been the worst affected, as cold air settles low down and therefore they’re more open to frost damage.

It’s not possible to gauge the exact range of damage as it’s unclear until shoots blacken and die. Growers are continuing to take precautions as they wait to see whether the worst is over.

Demand for Australian Fine Wine Rises in the Past Year

New export figures have shown the Ideal Wine Company that demand for Australian fine wine has increased in the past year.

The growth of the Australian fine wine industry

Australia has spent the last 200 years making wine. Its efforts are starting to pay off, as the land down has started to develop a reputation for making excellent wine in the past few decades. Now it produces vintages that rival those made by established powers in the fine wine trade such as France, Spain and Italy.

There are regions in the south of Australia that have the temperate climate and ideal soil types needed to produce first class vino. This has allowed areas such as Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and New South Wales to become famous for their ability to produce quality grapes such as Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir.

The AGWA Wine Export Approval Report March 2015

New export figures published in a report by the Australian Grape and Wine Authority (AGWA) show that demand for Australian fine wine has continued to surge. AGWA’S Wine Export Approval Report March 2015 shows that the land down under registered a 3.6% rise in volume and a 3.9% in the value of its wine exports between March 2014 and March 2015.

AGWA CEO Andreas Clarke was quoted by Drinks Business explaining the role fine wine played in this surge. Clarke explained that “some of the strongest growth is seen in the premium price segments.” The CEO went on to explain that “while the above A$7.50 price segment accounts for just 5% of total export volume, the value share is considerably higher at 27%.”

Demand for Australian fine wine has risen in Asia

Clarke also pointed out that a fair share of this growth can be attributed to the rising popularity of Australian fine wines in Asian markets such as China. The world’s largest continent accounted for more than half of exports of Australian wines priced above A$7.50 in the year to March 2015; a rise of 13% from the year before.

Andrew Caillard MW, who established Langton’s (Australia’s fine wine classification system) agreed with Clarke. He was quoted by another Drinks Business article saying that “Australia is really making its best wine now. We’re seeing iconic vintages year after year and Asia, especially China, is leading the demand for top-end wine.”

Find out why everybody loves Australian fine wine

Therefore demand for Australian fine wine is rising across the world, especially in Asia, because people are coming to realise what a fantastic product it really is. Find out why it’s rising in popularity by sampling a selection of Australian fine wines from the Ideal Wine Company.