Canopy – The vine’s engine room

As we are heading into the summer, our vines now have a full canopy of shoots and leaves and the grape bunches have started to develop. The canopy is stunning at this time of year, looking full and lush and waving around in the breeze, and all this greenery is serving a greater purpose. Photosynthesis. The vines are turning all the sunshine goodness into energy for fruit production and food stores for the year ahead.  Keeping this massive engine room happy and healthy is the number one priority at this time of year and ensures we have great quality grapes to pick come harvest time.


Life in the canopy

The canopy is a huge ecosystem and supports many species of creepy crawlies as well as micro-organisms like yeasts and fungus. Some are very friendly, others not so much. Light Brown Apple Moth is one of the biggest vineyard insect pests and is one we don’t tolerate eating our tasty grapes.

Micro-organisms in the form of wild yeast are a part of a healthy canopy and when they hitch a ride to the winery on the grapes at harvest, they make for some deliciously complex wines.  In fact, our natural yeast population in the vineyard is so healthy that we are able to naturally ferment the entire Helen’s Hill range of wines and have done for 10 years with excellent results.

The down side to micro-organisms in the canopy is fungus. Sound disgusting because it is. Powdery Mildew, Downy Mildew and Botrytis are the reality of farming grapes in a cool region. Wet, slightly mild and overcast is the calling card for these micro-organisms and the Yarra Valley has plenty of days like that.  Ensuring plenty of air flow through the canopy is the best way to combat these diseases.

Canopy management 

What is canopy management?

Canopy management initially involves manual labour to train the vines spring and summer growth and, next to the job of pruning, is a major job that continues from bud burst to harvest. Once the shoots have been trained to the top of the posts ( by a process of ” lifting wires”)  the tractor moves in and tidies it all up. Canopy management can also involve a process of removing shoots – again a labour intensive job as these shoots are manually selected and removed by ” snapping” off to open out areas of heavy leaf growth and decrease fruit load. Finally,a process known as leaf plucking, can also be employed where leaves only are removed to expose bunches and open up the fruiting zone to more air and sunshine – this can be done by hand 🙁 but more often is now done by machine.

Why do we manage the canopy?

Canopy management is vital to ensure optimum ripening and disease free conditions for the grapes.  It also helps regulate crop levels for both current season and the next seasons vintages.The benefits are huge: adequate air flow around the bunches, good spray penetration to the leaves, bunch exposure to sunshine to establish fruit flavours, new season bud exposure to sunlight to initiate next years bunches,  ease of machinery access to the vines throughout the growing season – all giving you optimum disease control and perfectly developed and evenly ripened fruit come vintage.

We have finally finished the heavy work of lifting the wires over the entire property and now the tractor is in giving the vines their first “haircut ” of the season.I love this time of the year as the vineyard is a picture of perfection with its rows and rows of beautifully manicured vines and, for the most part, the manual labour is finally over for another year!

Come see for your self and enjoy a glass on our balcony in appreciation of all our hard work.

Cheers from the vineyard