It is a challenging year for people who make a living tilling the soil, due to the earliest start to the growing season on record, and, in many places, continuing drought. Yet plenty of heat and sunshine also have made it the easiest year ever to do what I do — grow wine grapes.
The fungal diseases that threaten grapes are combated with chemical spray applications, and those fungi thrive in moist, cloudy weather. Mother Nature helps out, when she can, by providing the opposite. Sunshine is the best fungicide going.
It takes about six hours to treat my vineyard — up at dawn trudging the rows with a back-pack sprayer. (It’s too steep to safely use a tractor.)
Only last week did I apply my first full round of sprays, nearly three months into the year, so the dry weather has saved me a lot of labor. I use primarily organic sprays, but there is one disease and one insect pest that can only be stopped with strong chemicals.
It is definitely dry, with drought-like conditions in pockets all around us, but the vines look healthy and green.
In two more weeks, the grapes will gain enough maturity to be virtually immune to disease. Two weeks after that, they will turn from hard and green to plump and juicy. Then, an organic spray, if needed, will protect the leaves from fungus attacks in the dog days of August. Then, it’s harvest time.
I cannot call it “organic” production. Yet I know many growers who make a dozen chemical applications per year, no matter what the weather.
My “system” is what people in the wine-growing areas of Europe call “the reasoned struggle.” The grapes are exposed to the weather for as long as four months. The result is wine-free of chemicals.
BizBuzz Best Buy Red — Chateau d’Oupia Les Heretiques 2010 (Languedoc/France). Black as night, with vivid blackberry and dusty black currant bouquet and flavors, this 100 percent Carignan from 40-year-old vines suits just about anything from the grill, including veggies. $10.
Rosé: La Vieille Ferme Rosé 2010 (Ventoux, France). I recommend this popular wine principally for its non-princley price, as an intro to anyone unfamiliar with the pleasures of chilled dry pinks with summer foods and moods. It’s quite acidic, with less strawberry fruitiness and less floral aroma than some artisan models I’ve recommended here previously. But for the money, it’s great value. $6.