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!


And so it begins…

Vintage 2018 that is! Even though a few wineries in the region have seen the first fruit picked and into the press this week, we still have at least a couple of weeks to wait. Rob sources the grapes for his wines (except the Shiraz) from some of the highest vineyards in the Hills… it’s for this reason that it takes a little longer for vintage to be well and truly underway for Somerled.

Early veraison in pinot noir grapes at Paul Henschke's vineyardThat said, there is still plenty happening…

At Paul Henschke’s vineyard in Summertown, where Rob will get the Pinot Noir for our Sparkling and Rosé, we’re only just seeing the first signs of veraison in some of the younger vines (see photo). At this stage it won’t be picked until the second week of March.

Things are a little more advanced in Charleston at Kim Anderson’s vineyard. Veraison is close to 100% in the Sauvignon Blanc (this will be used for the Fumé as well), the Chardonnay is at around 50% and Pinot Noir (for our dry red) is somewhere between the two… in short, lots and lots of fully coloured berries, but low in sugar and high in acid. Still a little way to go, although Kim will do the sugar level test on samples of the fruit on Monday next week.

For a recap on what veraison is, visit our post here.

Even though we’ve had some hideously hot weather of late, the nights have been nice and cool (down to 5 degrees some nights!)… this is a bonus for grape flavour and wine quality as it minimises the overall stress on the vine.

Another positive for this vineyard is that it’s looking really healthy. How do we know? Well, there are a couple of telltale sign of a healthy vineyard…

Pest free – There is no sign of Light Brown Apple Moth or scale insects

Insect pests are luckily quite uncommon in Australian vineyards but the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) caterpillar, a native, can feed on the young berries, leaving scars for bunch rot fungi to enter the fruit.

Scale insects are sap suckers which also produce a honey dew which is the favourite food of sooty moulds, damaging the fruit.

Beneficial insects – There are really high populations of beneficial insects such as the Trichogramma wasps, lacewings, ladybirds etc.

Beneficial insects are the species which prey on the pest species eg LBAM and scale, keeping the pest numbers below the damaging levels.

Disease free – The vineyard is free from powdery mildew.

Grapevine powdery mildew, caused by the fungus Erysiphe necator, is a common fungal disease which can render the vine leaves dysfunctional. It slows photosynthesis and it reduces yield and quality of grapes and the resulting wines.

The canes and leaves of the vine (collectively termed the ‘canopy’) also give us an indication of overall health. Ideally the shoots have stopped elongating by this stage. However the youngest leaves must remain green and active so that the energy is directed towards moving sugars and all the lovely flavour precursor compounds towards the fruit which form the basis for what we’ll be tasting in the finished product. The older leaves have done their work by now and it’s ok to see a few of these yellow; after all they did emerge back in September!

We need your help!

We are very close to launching a new initiative for our friends who don’t live in Adelaide or who are unable to visit us at the Cellar Bar when we run special events.

How would you like to be involved in tastings run by Rob and special guests from the comfort of your own home, surrounded by your friends and family (or on your own if you ‘re like me and don’t like sharing!) and some delicious wines?

Sounds too good to be true right? Wrong!

Our first “Virtual tasting” will be available to you very soon, but in the meantime, we’d like you to have a think about what topics you’d like to see pop up throughout the year. Would you like to see a comparative look at Shiraz across different regions? What about a vertical Chardonnay tasting?

We’d love to hear your suggestions… so please leave us a comment below.

And for any suggestion which becomes a tasting, we’ll dedicate it to you! That’s right… It will be forever known as the “John Smith Somerled Shiraz vs Penfolds Grange comparative tasting”! PS. This particular tasting may cost you a little extra…