In the spring of 2001 we planted our first vines: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Since then, we have added Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, and the Italian red variety Montepulciano.
Today we have a total of 8.0 hectares planted as follows:
In the initial years Blackenbrook was a commercial grape nursery. We propagated many different clones of each grape variety. When the time came to plant our own vineyard, we selected the best clones based on our experience, each one adding ‘colour’ or shade to a wine and increasing its complexity.
For example, our Pinot Noir is made from eight different clones, all fruit-sampled, picked, and vinified separately. After maturing for a year in barrel, Daniel searches for the best combination of flavours to achieve optimum balance and harmony.
To increase flavour concentration, we planted the vines close together. The plant density is up to 3,800 vines per hectare.
We use vertical shoot positioning (VSP) as well as spur pruning. Aiming for maximum canopy height, the fruiting wire is only 700mm above the ground. This gives us up to 1.5m of leave canopy producing energy and oxygen.
A big portion of the vineyard work is done by hand. We believe manual shoot thinning in spring and crop reduction later in the season are essential for producing top quality wines. To keep the grapes dry and free from disease, all leaves in the fruit zone are removed by hand. This also reduces the need for spraying, tractor movement and diesel use.
Daniel is in the vineyard every day. He observes the vines, and picking up on stress factors or deficiencies, continually adjusts his vineyard management.
With a focus on protecting soil structure, Daniel uses a ride-on mower to keep the vineyard tidy. Being a lot lighter than a tractor, it causes less compaction and saves on fuel. It also allows Daniel to mow closer to the vines, leaving only a narrow strip for us to manage manually.
Each spring Daniel walks the entire vineyard to apply a minimal amount of chemical to slow the growth of the grass under the vines. This reduces the competition at a time the vines need maximum energy to develop their canopy.
Later in the season, we tame the grass with a weed-eater to minimise moisture in the vineyard and potential botrytis infection of the grapes.
after harvest sheep flock into the vineyard, making a good meal of the vegetation under the vines, up the banks and under fence-lines.
We do not use glyphosate in our vineyard.
Each March at harvest, Daniel and his cellar-hand Nick keep an eye on quality. They do a final check on every bucket of hand-picked grapes, removing any bunches that do not make the grade.
This is where Daniel's philosophy of getting it right in the vineyard is proven. His close management of soil and vines throughout the year usually delivers a beautiful crop at harvest.
After pressing, some of the grape skins are fed to our goats – which they love! The balance is sent to a composting company.
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