The Marquis Vineyard Watering Programme™ focuses on nurturing strong and healthy vines with balanced canopy growth to achieve the most intense fruit flavours possible. The amazing fruit flavour achieved in the vineyard is what creates the Marquis Fruit Weight™
in the wine. Marquis Fruit Weight™ is the “velvet glove” sensation of fruit that sits on your tongue before the structure of the wine is exposed. The higher the Fruit Weight, the more intense and rich are the flavours in the finished wine.
Achieving a high Fruit Weight grade doesn’t start in the winery; it starts in the vineyards. We've always said “We ripen the vine, so that it can ripen the fruit.”
We're delighted that now every vineyard producing grapes for Mollydooker is using the Marquis Vineyard Watering Programme™.
The Marquis Vineyard Watering Programme™ is based on intensive data collection and analysis, which starts at bud burst and carries on with inspections of each vineyard throughout the entire growing season. Twice a week throughout the season, the Mollydooker vineyard team measure the growth of the vines, and report on canopy growth, sugar content and the Fruit Weight of the juice. The data is then fed into a complex set of formulas, the results of which provide the team with precise watering recommendations for the following three days.
We have very stringent conditions which growers and vineyards must meet before we even consider bringing them on as one of our hand-picked suppliers.
Generally, we begin working closely with a vineyard in spring, when the vineyard team starts their twice weekly inspections. The aim at this stage is to apply sufficient water to grow the canopy as fast as possible, and to help the vines to be productive in the following year, because the fruiting buds for the following vintage are developed during the spring of the current vintage. This is when the Viticulture team does a shoot and bud count to get an estimate on tonnages for that year.
When the canopy is sufficient, the water is turned off, and the vine starts to concentrate on developing its fruit instead of its vegetative growth. The vines are still measured twice weekly because they are sensitive little darlings, and even during ‘water off’ may for instance need to have ‘water on’ whilst flowering to ensure fruit set, and may need a safety watering on exceptionally hot days.
The vineyard inspectors are the heroes of our team. They walk the vineyards on very hot days, braving snakes, mozzies and flies. We send them out in special clothing and camel packs to protect them from the sun and dehydration. Although it is the hardest job, it is also the most coveted one, because we all know that the quality of our wines comes from the work we do in the vineyards.
Once the vines have accepted that they need to begin looking after their fruit, and give up their extravagant canopy lifestyle, the inspectors start authorising water again – in small doses at first, just to make sure the vines don’t go off the rails. Once they have shown that they can behave responsibly, they are fully re-hydrated. We then keep cycling them through the vegetative and reproductive stages so that they can create carbohydrates which ripen and lignify the canes. They then send ripe tannin signals to the grapes, which not only ripens the grapes, but the seeds inside them too.
At this point in the year the grapes are now ready for their bunch samples and the vineyard inspectors begin going through each vineyard collecting samples. Bunches are weighed so that we get an approximate idea of our potential crop, then the grapes are crushed and the juice tasted for colour and flavour. At this stage the grapes usually have a rapidly accelerating sugar level whilst the all-essential flavour level lags behind. Sugar levels depend on heat, but flavour levels depend on time, so we apply a lot of water to dilute the sugar level until the flavour level catches up. We're looking for that intensity of flavour measured by the Marquis Fruit Weight™.
When the grape juice rates at 'Awesome' (one of the terms we use in grading fruit), we pick - usually two weeks later than everyone else. A member of our vineyard team is always present when a block is being harvested, ensuring that the harvester, trucks and equipment are all clean, and that there is no water in any of the bins. The team member then goes with the grape trucks to the winery, and hands the precious loads over to the Mollydooker Receiving Winemaker.
We then apply our Harvest Watering Programme to the vineyards for the next few weeks until the leaves completely fall off. This enables the vines to store carbohydrates for the next season, and to send their roots deeper into the ground. So in autumn, after harvest, our vines stand out – they're the ones with plenty of growth.
Each vintage is then assessed for pruning recommendations that will foster high quality fruit at the vineyard's optimum cropping level.
Pruning takes place in the winter and then… bud burst begins in spring and we do it all over again!