Monday, 08 April 2024 14:25

Vintage 2024: On the High Wire

Written by  Staff Reporters

Greystone's High Wire project is set to expand across 25% of the North Canterbury vineyard, allowing sheep to graze those blocks year round.

Viticulturist Mike Saunders says 1.5 hectares of vines are already under the innovative trellising system – which has a Y bracket at 1.8 metres high, extending 350mm from the post.

This year another 12ha will be converted.

The trellising has been tested and refined over three years of trials, so that the vines grow beyond the range of the sheep, unless there’s enough vigour for them to trail low enough.

In that case the sheep nibble the ends, managing trimming, weeding, mowing and bud rubbing as they graze, leaving shoot thinning “and a wee tuck” for the human vineyard crews.

This season Greystone did less shoot thinning and leaf plucking on the trial blocks than expected, but the fruit had great exposure, and ripened “really nicely and evenly”, Mike says.

The trial began with the desire to reduce tractor passes and diesel usage, and over the trial phase Greystone, which is certified Net Carbon Zero, achieved a 50% reduction in its vineyard emissions.

The project has also targeted enhanced soil health through cover crops, biodiversity, increased organic matter, and facilitating nutrient exchange with the vines, while mitigating soil compaction, Mike says.

“The ability to incorporate the natural grazing habits of sheep in the vineyard all year round, along with the enhanced biodiversity fostered by multi-species pastures, has created an environment that enriches our vines in profound ways. It’s shown us that grazing behaviours can contribute to a more efficient nutrient cycling process and is helping nourish the vines and cultivating the growth of strong, resilient vines and root systems.”

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