With our online edition (in the form of a wine-newspaper) “The WinePress”, we would like to provide insights into our working schedule and to illustrate the wine year by our working steps and operational processes.
During opening a bottle of wine, our thoughts often roam wonderful vineyards, the sight of beautiful wooden barrels and, particularly, a very specific relaxation and calmness.
However, to achieve these relaxation and calmness, a lot of laborious work needs to be done until wine is going to be filled up into bottles. It is laborious work and also a lot of manual work. There are a lot of steps in the vineyard, as well as in the wine cellar, that need to be done to achieve an exquisite drop of wine. Overstated, maybe, for a few people this fact can be “recognised by the taste”. However, most of the people remain hidden from the insights into the annual process of a winegrower or from the insights into the origination process of wine.
With the edition of our online magazine “The WinePress”, in 2019 we offer relevant insights into our working year. The wine year, visualised by the four seasons of viniculture, illustrated and brought to life by our “wine sheep”:
Edition 1/2019, The vineyard in winter
Edition 2/2019, The vineyard in spring, online now
Edition 3/2019, The vineyard in summer, online as of June 2019
Edition 4/2019, The vineyard in autumn, online as of September 2019
Mowing and mulching by sheep . . .
. . . from milk sheep to “WINEsheep”
Marcello and many other sheep are busy mowing and mulching our steep slopes. Basically, in the steepest of our vineyards, the grass between the rows of vines and under the vines is going to be mowed by hand with the scythe, under enormous physical effort. This year sheep of the breed “Krainer Steinschaf” are supporting mowing and mulching for the first time. Therefore, mowing and mulching are done in the most natural way. Since we cultivate all our vineyards organically, there are numerous tender grasses and only the best herbs for the sheep available.
The sheep of the breed “Krainer Steinschaf”, which is an old farm animal breed, are traditional dairy (milk) sheep.
The official race description reads: The “Krainer Steinschaf “ is one of the oldest remaining Austrian sheep breeds, originally based in the Julian Alps in the border triangle of Carinthia, Slovenia and Friuli.”
The small- to medium-framed animals are slender, with a straight nose profile, with short, horizontal, non-hanging ears. The colours are black-brown, white, rarely greying or spotted. The animals are mostly hornless. Forehead, belly and tail are with wool, face and legs are without wool.
The sheep of the breed “Krainer Steinschafe” are resistant and frugal with a good life performance. The hard claws and the coarse mixed-wool with crests on the back causing that precipitation drains well, make them weather-resistant, uncomplicated sheep, which are ideally qualified for grazing.
Through centuries of use as dairy sheep, these animals are very trusting. The herd cohesion is very strong.
The vineyard in spring
New vines are planted. If replanting is required, old, dead vines will be replaced in existing vineyards. Or, new vineyards are going to be laid out, if needed.
Mowing and mulching, vine care
The vineyards are mowed and mulched for the first time in the new wine year.
During mulching, the grass is cut off and remains in the vineyard to cover the ground. This ecological method serves to protect the soil and to supply the soil with nutrients. The soil in the vineyard is exposed to many external influences such as wind, dryness, etc. Therefore, it is useful to build up a protective layer, the so-called “mulch”. This principle is copied from nature. In the nature, there is practically no naked earth: usually, leaves, broken branches, plants or a humus layer, naturally cover the soil. Correctly mulched, the soil remains damp, the wind cannot dry out the soil and water does not evaporate easily. In turn, rain is absorbed by the earth and does not wash it away. The protective layer also prevents weed growth. Useful natural supporters, such as worms, bacteria and microorganisms, break up the soil under the mulch layer and decompose the organic layer of the grass clippings. By this way, nutrients are added to the soil and the humus layer grows.
Below the vines, the grass is removed mechanically. In the steepest of our vineyards, the grass between the rows of vines and below the vines is mowed by hand and by using a scythe. This is performed under enormous physical effort.
All young vines are hand-weeded (plucked out of grass).
The entire vine care is carried out only on a covered sward, except for young vines.
Cultivation of the vines – plucking the shoots
The most important step regarding quality assurance in spring is plucking the shoots of the vines. All not required, young shoots, shoots that grow from the vines stems and underserved, stunted shoots are removed from the vine by hand. This ensures that only an optimal amount and distribution of young shoots remain on the vine. After pruning in winter, this is the second most important step in quality assurance. In addition to pruning it is a further regulation of the harvest yield – the harvest yield has the greatest impact on the quality of the grapes and therefore, consequently, on the quality of the wine.
After plucking the shoots, the shoots are going to be threaded into the wire framework.
At the end of April, the sprouting of the vines starts. The buds burst, the green shoot tips become visible. During bud break, the vines are extremely sensitive. In spring, late frost can cause serious damages on the young shoots.
Plant health support
The best plant protection is nature itself. In other words, working in harmony with nature. By creating an optimal habitat for beneficial insects, a natural defence against vermin is built up and the resistance of the vines increases.
To support the flowering of the vines, we usually start plant protection in May. In our winery, only organic-biological plant protection is used. This means that we do not use any synthetically produced fungicides, we do not use any insecticides or herbicides. In addition, we protect our vines mechanically and physically by the use of hail nets.
At the end of May the flowering of the vines starts, this signifies the season change to summer. At this time, the blossoms spread their delightful scent in the vineyards.
The wine cellar in spring
Also during spring, the wooden barrels must be kept full up to the bung hole.