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Quality cool climate wine from the Orange wine growing region in New South Wales, Australia

Viticulture blog


Stephen Doyle

Warm, dry and golden. Rain = 61 mm. Temp = 17.6 degrees C.

Sleep is a non-standard optional extra for the next two months.

All attention is turned to the now rapidly approaching vintage. Any late irrigation is eased off, and spraying of copper only occurs if the weather is unseasonably wet.

February, March and April are normally the driest months in Orange, but we occasionally get autumn break rainfall towards the end of March as the season begins to deteriorate. The stability and warmth of the months of March and April have a large bearing on the success of the vintage.

Bird control takes almost as many waking hours as are available. An isolated vineyard plump with  sweeting grapes in the hardest time of the growing year is a real temptation for starlings, currawongs, silver eyes, noisy miners, gill birds, rosellas, and all manner of squarkin' bastards..

We don't mind the resident rosellas having a feed or two, but the itinerant starlings which arrive in huge flocks of swirling devastation are unwelcome free-loaders. Gas guns; noisy motorbikes;  electronic scarers and plastic hawks are used, but even with this armoury of distractions, we lose about 5 tonnes of fruit each vintage. To put this in perspective, that's equivalent to about 6 pallets of Cabernet. (A pallet contains 64 cases of wine)

There is an urgent need to study the habits of the English starling and native noisy miner birds in Australia and to establish a means of controlling the impact of all birds between veraison and vintage. These eight weeks are critical, although we recognise that for the balance of the year, birds of all sorts have a very positive impact on the vineyard.

It could well be that the resident starlings have eaten enough light brown apple moth lavae and australian grape vine caterpillars during the year to more than account for the 5 or so tonnes of fruit they relish at vintage. We simply don't know!