Friday, June 26, 2009

Aster Yellows - Be prepared !!

Aster Yellows has been identified in on a number of farms between Lutzville and Klawer as well as in the Waboomsrivier area. These farms are currently under quarantine, current legislation requires a 5km radius.

Grapevine Yellows disease is caused by a wide variety of phytoplasmas. The
Yellows disease detected in the Western Cape is caused by Aster Yellows phytoplasma. Yellows diseases caused by this specific phytoplasma can also be found in Europe, Israel, North America, Chile and Tunisia. A phytoplasma is a small primitive bacterium without a cell wall that is systemic in the phloem of the plant. All organs can be infected namely the roots, trunks, shoots, buds, flowers and berries but phytoplasmas cannot be found in seed. Grapevine Yellows disease affects a wide variety of cultivars. Chardonnay is very sensitive but it can also be found on Chenin blanc, Colombar, Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet franc,
Shiraz, Merlot, Sauvignon blanc,
Ruby Cabernet, Pinot noir, Pinot gris and Riesling. Rootstocks do not show symptoms but can act as carriers. Yellows disease was detected in the following table grape cultivars in Greece and Israel: Waltham Cross, Italia, Queen of the Vineyard, Muscat d’Alexandrie and Alphonse Lavallee. Aster Yellows phytoplasma has a wide range of host plants (about 200) like weeds, cover crops, vegetables and flowers.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Great vines = Great wines

Ballerina swirl

Mischa magicians: Andy Barns, Rachel Carrigan and Gareth Barns

‘I’m aiming for a whole which is bigger than the sum of its parts’

Dancer-inspired blends will have pundits calling for an encore.

Mischa the brand works on so many levels, you’d swear a highly-paid spin doctor had work-shopped it. But no, it’s the serendipitous result of a series of dreams. Nestled on the slopes of Wellington’s Voorgroenberg, the farm was bought by Andy Barns’s granddad John, a photographer for the Cape Times, after the Second World War because he was tired of taking orders and liked the view of Table Mountain.

The name Mischa comes from the dancing partner of his wife Yvonne, a ballerina with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. There’s wonderful material for an historical romance here: SA dancer performs Swan Lake at the Bolshoi as the diamonds from murdered Tsarina Alexandra’s tiara are sold by Lenin to Ernest Oppenheimer to fund the war against the White Russians … Just one sip of Barns’s white blend of sauvignon blanc, nouvelle and viognier called The Dancer and you can hear the theme tune for Doctor Zhivago and smell the Russian Caravan tea bubbling in the samovar.

Barns’s fiancée Rachel Carrigan hails, like Jimi Hendrix, from Seattle, so no wonder the Mischa wines are rated by Robert Parker, America’s überpalate. They export a container twice a year to the US, although Barns hopes the one this winter will still happen, given the financial calamity.

Parker is the ultimate pundit for American purchases: rated under 90 (out of 100) points, a wine is unsellable. Over 90 and its unaffordable. Which makes Andy’s two Eventide offerings (90 points for shiraz, 92 for cabernet sauvignon) complete steals at R85.

Completely self-taught, Barns refuses to subscribe to wine snobbery, noting only that his flagship red blend, called Cerno (Latin for “to sift, to separate” hence discern), is made from several cultivars. “If I tell you there is some merlot, you’ll pick up those flavours, but I’m aiming for a whole which is bigger than the sum of its parts.” I cernoed some cabernet franc, myself.

There are two brands: Eventide and Mischa, the first consisting of more obvious statements and the second, wines to think about and R25 a bottle more expensive. After all, there is more labour involved. “I start with all my barrels and choose the best one. I then blend in other barrels and accept the result only if there is an improvement. I can repeat this up to 10 times, so in a sense Mischa is 10 times better.”

He’s only been making wine for 10 years. Before that, it was selling vines and today the vine nursery managed by brother Gareth is the third largest in the Southern Hemisphere. To a large extent, that is the secret of their success. Vines grow like an audience of Jimi Hendrix afros: dense jungles of leaves with grapes snoozing peacefully in the shade — something you need to do when the thermometer reads 55°C, as it has done.

The result is a Bacchanalian interpretation of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps with Mischa soaring like Nijinsky out of the primitive jungle of Voorgroenberg. It’s all exotic elegance and the tensile power of an uncoiling, stainless-steel spring, from an appellation which could, without the inspired touch of a gifted amateur, produce nothing better than half-baked, unfortified Port-style dikvoet dops.

  • Read Pendock Uncorked at

  • Tuesday, June 9, 2009

    Putting our money where our mouth is....

    We spend a lot of time telling people what they should be doing with their vineyards. Here are some reviews of our own wines...... Not just all talk!!

    Derek Smedley MW

    Derek Smedley MW,is one of the most experienced members of the wine trade as a consultant to merchants and producers and as a director of the Wine Challenge. Derek is also popular for his Wine Guide.

    Here are his ratings of some of our wines after tasting at LWTF 2009:

    Eventide Viognier 2008

    91 Points

    There is a lovely perfume on the nose with white peach giving fragrance whilst apricot is there giving more weight. The fruit feels ripe fleshing out the mid palate but there is an attractive lime freshness that enhances the perfumed fruit character.

    Shiraz 2007

    90 Points

    The black fruits are very much in evidence on the nose but behind them are some fresh red, raspberry and cherry spiced up by black pepper. The fruit feels ripe and this sweeter character comes through gives some richness to the finish.

    Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

    89 Points

    The nose is a bit tight at first but as it opens up the powerful blackcurrant character comes out. Rich sloe lends weight to the mid palate but towards the back is fresher fruit, bilberry and cherry and they give a lighter feel to the finish.

    Monday, June 1, 2009

    Hydration, water = life

    After counting and bundling we to hydrate our plant material thoroughly, as losses can occur very quickly through the drying out.

    In every phase of the production we limit the exposure of material to drying out, quick turn around time. As standard a we hydrate our plant material for 24hrs and if deemed necessary we leave the material in for up to 48hrs. How do we know if material needs to be hydrated for a longer period.....? Easy, asses the bundle by determining it weight. E.g. to light = hydrate for longer or we squeeze the tips of the cuttings and asses the amount of sap that comes out.

    Remember our objective is to get as many grafted vines to grow as possible, by keeping the reserves at a max we are giving the plant its best chance possible to make a 1st grade vine. Otherwise we end up with expensive compost.

    Until next time, stay hydrated!