Our vineyards: looking more than good thanks to recent snow and rain

Thank goodness for the rain! – which has been truly copious throughout the winter and early spring and is heaven sent given that 2017 was truly a year of drought; and, as per the above, the combination of frosts, rainfall and snow have so far resulted in all important water equivalent to 300 litres per square metre.

Vineyard Manager Marco Sanz is over the moon and describes the climatic cycle so far as “text book” – with each natural element kicking in precisely as it should: be it the wind, rain or snow; and though it’s far too early to predict how the 2018 harvest will pan out – for our part of the world is particularly prone to late hailstorms and frosts – the way things are going looks excellent and most promising.­­

Our vines, for example, already have sufficient water reserves to ensure satisfactory bud-break; and the winter ploughing up of the subsoil in between alternate rows of vines – though this has varied in accordance to the nature of our so many different parcels – has resulted in pleasingly spongy soils whose redistributed moisture will serve us well for the conditions that may follow.

As many of you will know, the essential make-up of Menade’s soils consists of mega pebbles on the surface and clay at a significantly lower level; so what Marco has achieved with this  is, in addition, not simply to oxygenate the subsoil but – by breaking up a proportion mid depth roots – to encourage these to grow ever deeper.

Difficult pruning decisions

Pruning was of course another major winter activity, and this was particularly complicated and even more selective this time round as Marco had to take into account and compensate for last year’s major disparities (not least before and after the frosts). “This year we’ve had to scratch our heads big time,” he says, “for though we have ever more specific criteria, we’re always thinking ahead and trying to pre-empt; so it’s not just a question of the current cycle but what might happen and where we’re going beyond that”.

Meantime though the true protagonists – our all- important vines – have still not roused from their winter break, if conditions continue their normal pattern, come roughly the third week of April it will be time to mollycoddle them with their first spring treatments.

May, where we are, can often be distinctly autumnal, with low temperatures, and this often results in the vines shutting down again; so what Marco usually does is to concoct a natural plant based mixture of valerian and wormwood that also incorporates cereals (predominantly wheat) in order to support and spur the plants’ vegetative development.

Valerian serves to maintain the vines’ internal warmth; wormwood wards off mites (a whole series of numerous small free-living and/or parasitic arachnids) whereas cereals contribute micro elements (qualities required in small but vital amounts such as zinc, iodine, manganese, copper, selenium or iron).

As ever, Menade continues its mission to maintain life in its vineyards and find specific natural solutions to life’s continuing vicissitudes.