Every season, across the wine-making regions of the world, the question of when to harvest can be a veritable mine-field for viticulturists and Wine Makers. Harvesting based on phenolic ripeness at the expense of taste is criticised as it often results in high alcohol, flabby and jammy wines. Harvesting based on taste is criticised because though it results in wines with more acceptable alcohol levels, they are more often than not ‘green’ wines with bitter, green tannins. Producing less than palatable, inconsistent wines for either reason may often motivate the Wine Maker to try to ‘improve’ his or her wines through unfortunate technological interventions that the customer would never expect.
As you might have gathered from this conundrum, phenolic ripeness and taste will not necessarily neatly coincide within the skins of your grapes – especially in a vineyard that it is not ecologically balanced.
This is why at harvest time at Avondale; we really experience the essence of the BioLOGIC® approach. We harvest our grapes on taste rather than based on chemical analysis, and we succeed in harvesting grapes that are lower in sugar but at true phenolic ripeness. What makes this possible is our concentrated effort to provide our vines with balanced full spectrum nutrition. Our vines do not receive an over-abundance of quick release chemical fertilisers that results in green, luscious vineyards. Excessively vigorous vines support the tannin structures in the grapes for longer. You wait longer for the phenolic ripeness of the grapes; and when it comes, the sugars are ‘over-ripe’ resulting in higher alcohol in the wine, and more importantly, ’over ripe’ flavours.
The beauty of the BioLOGIC® approach is that we can consistently harvest at phenolic ripeness with a lower sugar level and true grape-driven flavours. This results in the ultimate, full grape flavour that is still vibrant and fresh. Throughout the growing seasons we allow our vines to decide on the nutrition they need by not providing any chemical fertilisers, and relying on the community of life in our healthy, balanced soils. Through its root system, the vine excretes a certain basic sugar known as an exodite that attracts a certain community of micro-organisms. In return for feeding on the exodite, the micro-organisms provide the vine in turn with essential nutrition. For example, when the vine is budding and it is in need of nitrogen and phosphate, the exodite it exudes attracts the community of micro-life that brings those nutrients to the vine. During verasion, the vine needs potassium and so it will excrete an exodite that appeals to a different regime of micro-life that will bring it potassium. This is, of course a simplified telling of a much more complex biological process that always involves a balance of nutrition involving many nutrients. However, it indicates how the nutrition of the vine is determined by the plant, not the farmer.
The farmer’s role is to foster and take care of the diverse community of life that serves the vine optimally and effortlessly through a network of healthy, balanced relationships. It is this lively and dynamic vineyard eco-system that can produce the grapes with extraordinary flavours which result in wines with true grape-driven flavours and characters that are imbued with a vibrancy of place.