Botrytis

Vineyard update

Our current work in the vineyard resembles a fight with a big octopus (and if you think this sounds like an exaggeration I grant you that). All these long fragile shoots (as in, the octopus legs) have to be fed into an enclosure made of wire, so as to create a ‘wall of leaves’.  A wall that will eventually be home to the grapes (blossom happening at the moment).

spot the two orange heads

spot the two orange heads

I have never tested the fragility of actual octopus legs, but the stuff or shoots we are ‘fighting’ with is pretty fragile, so, yes, there is a fair amount of swearing, if another one bites the dust.  And if we don’t break them, the tractor will: you can probably picture it quite easily how the tractor will rip off any shoots that refuse to go into the wired enclosure and instead try to crawl along the ground.  The ‘wall of leaves’ we create helps the wind breeze through, thus stopping the spreading of the dreaded fungus, and makes the spraying more effective. With any scepticism towards the spraying, bio or conventional, it seems even more important that whatever concoction is applied, it hits its targets, ie the leaves, and doesn’t just ‘enrich’ the air.

The parrots were with me for this task last weekend and seemingly split the tasks between them: Erbse was ‘in charge’ of the ground or the vine stems, whereas Marzipan preferred the leaves. While they might seem like vineyard-pros by now, they have not yet confirmed their participation in the Loerzweiler wine-festival (July 5-8, 2013).

erbse weinberg heften

Harvest. Botrytis. And…

…a highly financial day in the life of a Mini-Wine-Producer/Blogger:

Financials? The suspense! I know!  Did we invest in pumps, filters, a press even? No. I just followed Jimmy Wales’ request and gave a tiny amount to Wikipedia. Why? My appreciation for their no-ads rule is growing, as the battle of my ad filters against pop ups intensifies, never mind those freaky ads that remind  you of a google search you did yesterday (that’s soo yesterday).

But I can’t help but think that my “yes, I’ll sponsor”-click had more to do with wine and botrytis. But the basics first: Botrytis, a fungus, can turn the grapes into something very desirable (Noble Rot) or that has to be discarded (Grey Rot). But how do you illustrate the two? My “yes, I’ll sponsor”-click was made, I think, in honour of a fairly good illustration of the latter in its German entry, headed “Grauschimmelfaeule” (“Grey Rot”). Two things I love about this page:  It has a picture of a grey rot affected tomato plant that will put you off tomatoes for a long time: it looks like someone did a meticulous job of knitting a jumper round a tomato plant made out of some very bizarre grey wool. But it also lists the latin names: Botrytis cinerea or Botryotinia fuckeliana. Nothing to add to this.

That Botrytis “f…”s with the grapes is something Frank, Boris, Pascale, Hans, Astrid, etc will remember from our own Green Feather harvest, since we we spent a good deal of our time cutting out the rotten bits from each grape (see min 0.44 in the video). So, the idea that Botrytis can, on the one hand, create “Noble Rot” (“Edelfaeule”, “edelsuess”, in German), something that gives sweet desert wines such a special note that the price sky-rockets, but also create the bad rot, the “Grey Rot”, is hard to get one’s head round. This page is a good read on the subject.

Botrytis on tomato plant Grey Rot Noble Rot Wikipedia

image by Rasbak from Wikipedia shared under GNU Free Documentation License

During our own harvest we got to know each BUNCH of grapes, putting it into the ‘sweet’ bucket, or the ‘not so sweet’-one. That felt like a lot of attention given to each grape. So, how crazy is it to give that kind of attention to each individual BERRY? The effort involved in doing a “Beerenauslese” (“berry selection”) or a “Trockenbeerenauslese” (“dry berry selection”) appears in an entirely new light, after our harvest!  If we were JUST doing an “Auslese”, ie a selection, ie separating the sweeter grapes from the not so ripe ones, then the idea of doing that whole process for individual berries is just staggering: Imagine the long line of vines in front of you and you are standing there with two buckets, one for the berries with exactly the right type of Botrytis (or dried up), the other for the rest. That’s obviously what explains the price, – and what a bummer if after all that effort the fermentation then does not go well….

If you have heard of the French sweet wine “Sauternes” (I giggled my way through this 2011 harvest report) being made with Botrytis, but not yet of the German variety, here are some vintner sites that offer Beerenauslese: these were mentioned in a magazine’s recent tasting: coming from south Germany, Rheinhessen and Austria; I myself remember tasting a very nice Beerenauslese at Wittmann, one of the top White Wine vineyards in Germany (and a bio-dynamic one, too).

But before I consider shelling out for a Beerenauslese, as for financial commitments today, I thought I’d stick to sponsoring (Green Feather’s very own) Nick’s “Movember”-efforts of growing a moustache in support of prostate cancer awareness.  And create my very own wishlist for 2013, which includes taking part in a harvest for a Beerenauslese.