O’Reilly’s Canungra Vineyards Harvest Season
With viticulturist Kevin Murtagh
As a New Year dawns, and just like clockwork, our Vineyard sheds the fruits of its annual labour (quite literally)! O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards Property and Wine Production Manager Kevin Murtagh is anticipating the 2018 harvest will produce almost 13 tonnes of grapes including Semillon, Petit Verdot, Verdelho, Chambourcin and Shiraz. This equates to around 12,000 bottles of hand-picked wine, even following recent hail affecting 5-10% of crops.
Harvest is the most important time on any viticulturists’ calendar Kevin explains, perhaps likened to Christmas Day, patiently waiting with anticipation.
“It’s the culmination of the year’s work including the previous vintage, leaf plucking, and the wire lift, which all have dramatic impacts on the fruit quality, flavour and harvest date,” says Kevin.
It’s clear the harvest process is complex and starts well before Santa makes his annual shopping centre appearances.
Kevin explains the production lifecycle starts with pruning; in winter when the vines are dormant with the hand removal of incorrectly positioned spurs and canes to ensure optimal spacings and results.
“Once the buds burst in September and shoots are around 150mm long (or when the bunches are visible) the shoot thinning process begins with the snip of further undesirable bunches and shoots.”
“Then, when the shoots are approximately 600mm long, we go through and perform our first of three wire lifts which keeps the shoots growing in a vertical plane, called vertical shoot positioning (VSP).”
“In due course, those shoots which protrude past the trellis posts are hedged off, which results in the canes becoming harder and promotes more growth back into the bunches.”
“Finally, as the warmer weather approaches, leaves are delicately plucked from the vine to allow optimum aeration through the grape bunches and canopy. This also allows sunlight onto the buds forming, assisting with the following vintage,” says Kevin.
During the growing season, the vineyard care includes sprays of sulphur and copper to make sure mildew does not form on the canes or bunches. Regular inspections are conducted by Kevin every second day to visually check for abnormalities, potential diseases and monitor for moisture stress.
Kevin employs a natural insect control with a “no synthetic pesticide” policy, and uses Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) to control caterpillars. Herbicides are also applied for weed control plus regular petiole testing to ensure accurate nutrient balances.
Of course follow up vineyard care in the form of sulphur and copper are applied to make sure mildew does not form on the canes or that the vines are not water stressed. Plus, regular inspections are conducted by Kevin every second day to visually check for abnormalities and potential diseases.
It’s this thorough and delicate Harvest to Crush process which ensures O’Reilly’s produce premium quality fruit which in turn results in outstanding wine.
O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards members are invited to join the annual hands-on harvest, rising in the early hours of the morning with gloves and pruners, followed by a rewarding champagne creekside breakfast.
Find out more about becoming a Canungra Valley Vineyards member and join us for the harvest and other members events.