Spring is sprung!


Tomorrow is the first day of spring (insert “Where has this year gone?” or similar comment here)! So, what better time to have a look at what is happening in the vineyard.

Pinot Noir

Over at his Charleston vineyard, Kim Anderson is currently restructuring the Pinot Noir. Although it is more expensive way to prune, he is converting it from spur-pruned to cane-pruned.

Cast your mind back to our post about pruning to understand the differences between the two.

Why would he do that?

cane versus spur pruning in the vineyard

There are a couple of good reasons to do this…

  • The shoots burst more evenly and have a predominance of fruitful buds (not so many blind or fruitless shoots).
  • It creates a more open canopy with the shoots more evenly spaced and less likelihood of fruit occurring in clumps. This is important because fruit which is close together rub against each other and spread disease.
  • If the old arms are removed each year, then there will be less pressure from scale insects and eutypa dieback (a fungal disease).

It often becomes a necessary job anyway when spur positions get damaged and then leave large gaps along the thick horizontal branches(cordon arm) – as you can see in this photo.

This vine is half converted – it is still spur-pruned on the left side of the “V” (or crown – which is much more pronounced on the vines behind).

Kim cuts the old cordon wires where he can get at them, then cuts through the cordon arms of the vine leaving a cane on each half of the crown. The right half shows a single cane left to wind onto the new wire when it comes. The old wire is often stuck in the crown which means that he must pull the wire through the twisted arms of the vine with pliers (those red things that are grabbing onto the wire!).

As you can guess cane pruning and restructuring are both very time-consuming and expensive to perform but the hope is that it will result in superior wine as a result.

Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc

Both these varieties have been cane-pruned already and are waiting for bud burst.

Bud burst refers to the period in early spring during which grapevines, which have been dormant through the winter, first begin to produce new shoots. If you would like to learn more about bud burst dormancy, check out this article – it’s a fascinating topic.

Bud burst may be a bit earlier than usual this year due to the warm days we’ve had over the past few weeks – although a lot of mornings have been below zero.


So, other than that, there is nothing really to do in the vineyard while the vines are dormant, right?


It is surprising just how much work goes into making sure the vines are in good health before vintage begins again.

Kim has been super busy spraying the broadleaved weeds to ensure the only thing left in the vineyard is nice grass. He has also begun under vine spraying and slashing. Together, this helps to reduce the risk of frost damage.

Short grass provides some heat whereas long grass reduces heat uptake from the sun and causes the frost layer to ride higher as it flows down the slope.

The next job on his to-do list is to clean the frost sprinklers which only have around 6,000 heads! He’ll then get to work on fixing any posts which have been broken by machinery during the year.

And the list goes on…


The birth of new things…

With spring symbolising themes of rebirth and renewal, what better time for us to introduce our beautifully updated website!

Watch out for an email tomorrow directing you to our fresh new look site where you can read, learn and shop all things Somerled.

In the meantime, here is a sneak peak!

I have also incorporated this blog into our new site. So, this address (www.somerledwinesseries.com) will no longer be updated. If you have bookmarked this site, please change it to www.somerled.com.au (remember if you head there now, it will still be our old site… the new one will be there tomorrow!) to keep up to date with our latest posts.


But what about the vineyard…?

vines in autumnRemember that place we got all the grapes from?

While all the action has been in the winery, it’s easy to forget that the vineyard is still there doing its thing. Once the grapes are harvested, work doesn’t automatically stop for the viticulturalist (fancy name for someone who grows vines).

A lot of work goes into ensuring the vines are ready to produce Somerled quality fruit for Vintage 2019.  Kim Anderson has kindly taken us through what he’s been up to on his property in Charleston. Let’s take a closer look…


There has been a good amount of rain over the last few weeks.

Adequate water keeps the vine functioning so that it can store the carbohydrates in the trunk and roots which it will need come Spring.


One hundred and twenty tonnes of composted organic matter with humates, lime and gypsum went under the vines last week – about 3 kg for each one and a little extra on the less vigorous spots. Kim is trying to improve the soil. That way, the vine roots are able to take up nutrients and water better.

Lime (calcium carbonate) helps to balance the pH (acidity) of the soil so that the nutrients can become more available to the roots.

Gypsum (calcium magnesium sulphate) improves soil structure by replacing sodium in the soil solution and reduces the breakdown of soil particles.

Humates are organic acids which stimulate the healthy microbes in the soil. These microbes protect the roots and assist with nutrient uptake.

Soil quality

Kim has always left the grass to grow under the vines until budburst (when the buds first form on the vine late in the year) to improve organic matter in the soil. While levels have improved a lot, he still had some unevenness in vigour in some sections.

Soil conditions can change considerably over quite short distances in the vineyard. Variations between high and low elevations are the most common. Under these circumstances, it is common to give nature a hand with mulching or composting.


Kim will prune all of the Pinot Noir to canes over the next few months. Last winter he changed half of the block from spur-pruned arms to canes.

cane versus spur pruning in the vineyardThe difference between cane and spur pruning is best explained by this diagram.

A lot of work goes into changing the pruning system from spur to cane. So why would you bother?

With cane pruning, the viticulturalist is able to control the number shoots on the vine. This is important in getting the balance between yield and competition for nutrients and water at critical growth stages spot on. This is a very expensive and time-consuming process though.

Spur pruning on the other hand is cheaper and simpler. It can also be done mechanically. The downside, though, is that more shoot thinning may be needed later on if the vines grow too vigorously (and vigour isn’t always a good thing when it comes to wine quality).

Despite the added expense and effort, the vines will grow with better balance and there won’t be so many unfruitful shoots to remove after budburst.

Disease management

New vines will be trained up in Kim’s Chardonnay block this season – just four rows for now. He is pulling out a few rows each year and replanting the old vines with new ones. As the Chardonnay block is over 20 years old, there are a few vines with Eutypa. Some can be cut back hard – past the point of disease, but it is better to replant afresh. That way he is certain that there are no diseased vines left undetected.

Eutypa is a trunk disease that causes the eventual decline and death of the vine.

Special thanks to Kim Anderson for his contribution to this post.

Reserve Chardonnay launch

Speaking of Chardonnay, Rob will be releasing his first Reserve Chardonnay this weekend! Hopefully, you have your tickets as it has SOLD OUT!

If not, stay tuned for more details on our first ever virtual tasting – order your Reserve Chardonnay when we release it by email next week and Rob will personally introduce you to this special wine.

Keep your eye out for details coming your way soon!