With high temperatures and an exceptional amount of sunshine, 2015 is shaping up to be an early-ripening vintage – for the time being the fruit appears to be two weeks ahead of schedule
The third week of May saw full, rapid and superbly consistent flowering throughout the vineyards, on both the red and white vines.
Twenty or so seasonal workers have been drafted in to assist Brown’s full-time teams as they get to work in the vineyards, with all operations being conducted by hand this year. We get started early in the morning, to cut down the risk of overheating for the workers and the grapes – a real danger given the high temperatures.
This work is based on a holy trinity of techniques designed to guarantee optimal harvests and preserve the health of the vines for years to come: leaf thinning, bunch selection and shoot removal.* The aim is to ensure a good flow of air around the grapes and allow them to reach peak maturity, limiting the risks of damage by excess heat or the presence of certain infections.
We cut away the last few excess leaves on 15th July, and at time of writing there are just a few more bunches of grapes to be removed. The onset of colour-change (véraison) was observed on 20th July. Stripping away the excess leaves early on was a tactical choice, in the hope of staving off any potential episodes of powdery mildew, a risk which is more acute than ever this year.
*Shoot removal (échardage) ensures a steady supply of air to the fruit-producing section of the vines, stripping away the energy-sapping intermediate shoots which proliferate during the year.