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Beasties in the vines

Posted by on 2 Jul 2015 in News | 0 comments

Some insects in the vineyard

Summer is here. Temperature have soared to 35°C and the cicadas are in full voice. Here are a few photos of the insect life in our Syrah vineyard this week.

This cicada looks pretty calm but he can zoom around the vineyard at great speed, dive bombing vineyard workers.


Cicada in Syrah vineyard



This guy is an ephigger. Also known as a saddle back cricket I think.





Ephigger or saddleback cricket in Syrah vineyard

Below is a collection of unlucky European grape vine moths, caught in a trap. It consists of a sticky sheet of cardboard with a lure containing lobesia botrana pheromones to attract the moths. It is a good way of monitoring their population in the vineyard so as to decide whether to use an insecticide and if so, when. We use bacillus thuringiensis, an organic insecticide to control the grape vine moth.

Trap for European grape vine moth lobesia botrana

Trap for European grape vine moth lobesia botrana

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Who’s been eating our vines?

Posted by on 12 Jun 2015 in News | 0 comments



A couple of weeks ago, we were alarmed to see that several of our Syrah vines had been munched by an unidentified predator. The damage was too high up to be wild boar so we thought it might be deer, although we’ve never seen any in the vineyard.

Three days later the damage was even more extensive. But, there was a clue …. the thieves had left traces of their hair – or wool to be more precise. Our neighbour has a small flock of sheep that had escaped from their field through a hole in the fence. Sheep no longer in that field, problem solved. Except that the crop on the most severely affected vines will be minimal, even non-existent.

Sheep damage is not a common problem in the Languedoc. Although Catherine Wallace at Combebelle did lose the entire crop in one vineyard a few years back due to escapee goats from the neighbouring farm.

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Posted by on 24 Sep 2014 in News | 0 comments

The grapes are gently fermenting in our new winery, pictured below just before harvest.



The colour extraction on the Carignan is superb. The photo below was taken the day after the harvest and the juice was already a deep, vivid pink. Now it is like ink and smells of blackberries.



The Syrah is fermenting slowly in its stylish wooden tank. A daily ‘pigeage’ aka punching down by hand extracts lots of colour and flavour. It is currently half wine and half juice and already smells like our Syrah, of black cherries and white pepper.


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2014 – the year of the drought?

Posted by on 20 Jun 2014 in News | 0 comments

2014 – the year of the drought?

Jean-Dominique is worried. He is an agricultural engineer who consults to over 50 vineyards from Frontignan to Fitou and he has never seen a year like it. If 2003 was the year of the canicule ‘heatwave’, 2013 of the latest vintage in the last 25 years then 2014 is shaping up to be one of the driest the Languedoc has seen for a long time.

It is only mid June but in terms of water stress, many vineyards are experiencing conditions usually found in mid August. In extreme cases this causes the vine to stop vegetative growth, leaves yellow prematurely and so there are not sufficient functioning leaves for photosynthesis to bring the crop to full ripeness. Vines may die. Many IGP vines have drip irrigation (there are many subsidies on offer to entice viticulters to install it) but AOC vines are not allowed to irrigate unless the year is exceptionally dry. 2014 certainly qualifies and in many AOCs growers are now able to apply for the right to irrigate. But practically, it can be difficult if there is no water source nearby.

Our vineyards at Lou Cayla look extremely healthy but vegetative growth is definitely more limited that in previous years. Water stress has also caused some coulure and millerandage, two weather related conditions which result in poor fruit set.

photo photo

Bunches are much smaller than previous years so yields will be lower – perhaps natures way of limiting the crop to the level that the vine can ripen. Even so, if the drought continues then we will have to reduce yields further by green harvesting. On the plus side, weeds are much less of a problem – a definite advantage in a vineyard where intervine weeding is done by hand.

Of course it is only June and we could still get a good downpour. That would put a smile back on Jean Dominique’s face.

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Posted by on 23 May 2014 in News | 0 comments

Flowering begins in the Syrah


Photo taken 22nd May.

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