Spring In the Vineyards at Howard Park
- Howard Park
For Howard Park’s vineyard team, spring is the most frantic time of year. It’s when the vineyard shakes off hibernation and the last preparations occur before the vines are left to the care of the elements throughout summer and early autumn.
“For me, vintage is nothing. Spring is busy. Spring is where you really set up the season. The decisions, the timing of what you do in spring is quite important,” said Nic Taylor, Howard Park’s Leston Vineyard Operations Manager.
“It’s the start of sweeping and slashing, mulching, shoot thinning, early canopy management, wire movements, position shoots, compost spreading.”
Compost is a real point of difference at Howard Park, with the vineyard team investing time, research and specialist equipment into their ‘closed loop’ philosophy of taking from - and returning to - the soil.
Take the Allingham vineyard south of Margaret River, for example. An old blue-gum plantation was removed to make way for more vineyard rows, but the woodchips proved so useful for compost that Howard Park now does a small amount of tree farming.
The chardonnay eventually planted on that site came from rootlings lovingly tended to and propagated at the Leston vineyard – Howard Park headquarters - in Wilyabrup.
Nic Taylor said it was rare to see a winery control all its inputs and create a vineyard from scratch in the same way.
“There’s not a lot of wine companies that could say that in Western Australia,” he said.
“I like to reuse what we can and I guess that’s where the composting program has come from; to fully utilise all the waste out of the winery. To turn something that was a nuisance into a high value product is awesome.”
The compost program is all about providing organic matter, bacteria and fungi back into the soil, recycling waste and reducing the need for nasty pesticides or herbicides.
Spring is also the time where carefully selected rye grasses planted between the vineyard rows flourish, before drying off in summer. This creates a ‘thatch’ that protects the soil, removing the need for spraying, saving evaporation and introducing organic matter into the earth.
“That’s where we’re getting to at Leston, and we’re nearly there on a lot of blocks. It’s about getting herbicide use to zero.” Nic said.
All this work, known as ‘under-vine management’, is something the team work to refine and improve. The satisfaction lies in getting good results and feedback in terms of quality from the winemakers.
“There’s not only a focus on the young and new blocks but also the mature, and getting more and more out of those,” Nic said.
“I like results. I like talking about where we want to go and achieving it; the constant improvement.”
To read more about our sustainability and vineyard practices, click here.