September 29, 2015 - 7:00 AM
PENTICTON - Okanagan Valley winemakers and growers are raising a glass to the growing conditions of 2015 as one of the earliest harvests on record comes to an end.
Pènèlope Roche is co-owner of Roche Wines along with her husband Dylan on Penticton’s Upper Bench Road. She is also an instructor at Okanagan College’s Wine Sensory Institute, where her expertise in valley wine terroirs is passed on to the newest generation of wine makers and grape growers.
Pènèlope comes from a family with five generations of winemaking in Beaune, France. She spent five years in Bordeaux teaching oenology and sensory evaluation classes and managing a small estate in Margaux.
The Roches purchased an eight-acre block of Schonburger and Zweigelt grapes last summer, so while the Roches don’t have a lot of local experience in grape growing and winemaking, they are still able to make a comparison of this summer’s growing environment to that of regions more familiar to them.
“For us, summer began in May, with virtually no gaps between pruning,” Pènèlope says. “Everything about the growing season was quick, due to the heat. We are six weeks earlier than last year, and we are picking before friends of mine in Bordeaux this year,” she says.
Her notes indicate 9.32 inches of rain in their vineyard last year compared to 6.6 inches this year.
“We had 2.3 inches less rain this year, but it fell at the right times. We didn’t irrigate any more frequently than last year - seven times, in four hour runs,” she says.
The hot, dry weather limited disease like powdery mildew, and kept insect pests like leafhoppers down, resulting in fewer sulphur sprays.
“Normally we have to spray every week to 10 days. This year we sprayed at intervals up to 15 days, and used four fewer sprays,” she says. “It was very good for us.”
Summer’s abrupt end in August brought with it cool nights, which were also taylor-made for a vintage finish to this year’s grape growing season.
“Now we have cooler nights, which is very good for the skin, which thins and ripens, making it easier to extract tannins and colour,” she says.
“I expect this year’s vintage will be better than any in the past. From the winemaker’s point of view, our latest analysis indicates our grapes are balanced, with ph, acidity and brix just about perfect,” she adds.
“Growers and winemakers have a number of related tasks. To be a good winemaker, you need to know what’s going on in the vineyard. The end result of good fruit is good wine - that’s no secret,” she says.
Pènèlope says with the early finish, Roche Wines will likely be finished extracting this year’s vintage by Christmas, giving winemakers and growers an unusual bit of time to relax at the end of the season. She says the luxury of this year’s vintage has given winemakers and growers the opportunity to select exactly the right date for harvest.
“As I watch this year’s harvest come into the cellar, I’m so impressed - there’s no rot, no mildew, no bunch rot, there’s nothing. We don’t even have to sort.”
"If I can use one word to describe this year on the grower and winemaker, it would be that we’ve been spoiled this year,” Pènèlope says.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015