The 2016 grape harvest, which has recently begun, was slightly delayed due to hot weather. The last fortnight of August and the first few days of September were characterised by the high night-time temperatures and the lack of rain. Despite this, the last few days’ rain has helped the grapes to slowly finish ripening and we started to pick the Sauvignon Blanc grapes this week.
One of the unique aspects of our climate is the great temperature changes between day-time and night-time temperatures. Night-time temperatures tend to be low and help to keep acidity levels of the grape musts as well as colour and aromas.
Basically, we need to choose the right moment to harvest the grapes in order to make quality wines. This is when phenolic ripeness (pips and skins) and alcoholic ripeness (sugar content) of the grapes are perfectly balanced. Due to the heat this year, there were more accumulated sugars and as a consequence, more alcohol by volume. This means that this year, the tasting of the grapes prior to picking has been essential in order to choose the ideal moment for bringing the grapes in.
Even though it doesn’t seem this way, 2016 has been a complicated year. The most difficult part according to Marco “has been how to combine natural vineyard treatments with irrigation, whilst still keeping a check on temperatures and the phenolic cycle of the vine. At Menade, we have irrigated since the flowering of the vines due to the hot weather, just like most wineries in the Castilla y León region. “There will be higher yields than last year, despite the bad fruit set during flowering due to the great quantity of bunches.”
“This year, we have had to carry out several green prunings. We have not done any tip removal at all in order to maintain new leaves which are responsible for photosynthesis and absorption of nutrients which the plants need. Due to the high temperatures, it was necessary to leave enough canopy so the grapes did not turn to raisin. We raised the wires at least three times, precisely to achieve more shade on the bunches and to aid the effectiveness of the sprays,” says Marco.
Powdery mildew and mildew were the main diseases which had to be ‘dealt with’. Marco continues to say that “this year, we have had to spray more often than last year. It has been a complicated year. Powdery mildew was caused mainly by the high temperatures and the morning dew, as well as bad decision making about watering at the least suitable moments”.
Bodegas Menade is dedicated to sustainable farming methods based on the observation of our environment. For this reason, if we saw any evidence, we quickly sprayed against these two main diseases just before flowering. Good observation techniques, coupled with deep knowledge of the vineyard and timely preventative methods are the best allies when it comes to achieving a good harvest.