Mildew, Sunburn, and Voles Oh My!

OSU has released its 2009 guide to Pest Management for Wine Grapes – and a quick scan makes me wonder how anyone grows any grapes at all.

For would-be winery owners with visions of their own Pinot vineyard, this PDF is a sobering “must-read”. If, as many of the best winemakers declare “the wine is made in the vineyard – I just try not to mess it up”, then this manual lays out the many ways wine can fail.

Along with the common insects and diseases (Botrytis, mildew, phyloxera), deer, voles, mites, viruses, and too much or too little sun all come into play.

2009 is far from over, but so far, it has been a bit of a roller coaster for vineyard managers. Until a few weeks ago, the cool damp weather of the spring threatened mildew.  Grape growers are now facing the possibility of  damage from heat, as the grapes are exposed to what looks to be ten or more days of close to 100 degree  skies through the first week of August.

One special pest seems to get talked about each vintage. A few years ago, it was a plague of voles – gerbil-like rodents that eat bark off the vines and damage or kill them.  In the first exceptionally hot vintage of the 2000′s, wine grapes were damaged by sunburn – a problem in super hot vintages that could happen in 2009.

Most tours of wineries focus on the winemaking process itself, with the winemaker the spokesperson. Next time you’re visiting, ask to meet the vineyard manager at your favorite winery. You’ll get a whole different perspective on what it takes to make the wines you love.

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