100-year-old vines saved from destruction

Name: Matt Wenk

100-year-old vines saved from destruction

Two Hands winemaker Matt Wenk has rescued 400 Greenock vines from demolition after the land the vines were growing on was recently approved by the Barossa Valley's Light Regional Council to begin construction for a 60-allotment housing development.

'There was strong opposition against the development plans from the local community of Greenock, but after more than two years, approval was given to relocate the vineyard to Marananga. The Barossa has some of the oldest commercial vineyards in the world, many are at least 100 years old, and to see these majestic old vines destroyed and lost forever would have been a tragedy,' Wenk said.

The soil and climate conditions at the Greenock site are similar to the new site. The Shiraz vines were planted in alluvial sandy loam soil, while the Grenache was in deep red clay/loam. They are both now in deep red clay/loam soil at the Marananga vineyard.

'The vines were removed using a large excavator in the middle of winter when the soil was damp and soft and the vines were dormant. In some cases a bucket was used and in other instances, a ripping tine attachment was used to get right under the main root ball and gradually work the vine to the surface, keeping the root system intact as best as possible,' Wenk said.

'We removed 30 vines per day. Once removed, the vines were placed on a large trailer and watered regularly, ensuring the destination holes were kept wet. Everything was delicately done. The soil in the Marananga vineyard was deep ripped, treated with humate, fertiliser and gypsum and rotary hoed and had two winters of rain on it.

'Once we replanted the vines we irrigated them heavily and removed as many air pockets as possible so the roots are in contact with the soil to obtain moisture and nutrients. The vines were pruned back very hard to direct their valuable energy into a select number of shoots. They are now being provided with monitored irrigation and will receive fertigation over the season as I deem necessary,' he said.

'There was bud activity in all vines in early September, so I am hopeful there is a very high take rate. An extra dozen vines of each variety were planted behind the winery. Next winter, if there are any vines in the main vineyard that didn't take then these extra vines will be used as replants,' Wenk said.

'All the fruit will be dropped at least for the coming vintage to allow the vines to focus on vegetative growth and development.'

Wenk said although the fruit had been grown commercially for many years, his main objective in saving the vines was for historic purposes.

'There is the 'feel good' aspect of doing something like this, but also there is the aesthetic value in having an instant old vine block. The clones are unknown to us, but because the fruit has been for winemaking purposes in the past the intention down the track is to make a small amount of wine off the block. I am sure the quality will warrant a separate bottling which will be most likely sold only through the cellar door,' he said.

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