Vineyard Management Tips
Every growing season has its viticultural challenges, especially in a cool climate. Whether it’s spring frost, excessive rain, drought or Covid-19 there’s always something vineyard managers need to react to. Vineyard efficiency can greatly suffer when vineyard managers are rigid in their approach to grape growing, following textbooks or repeating what they did in previous years. Be prepared, and use your experience to judge what needs to be done and when.
Keep accurate records:
Regularly record phenological stages, weather patterns, mechanical and manual tasks and costs. Collecting data enables you to measure what you’re seeing in the vineyard and be confident in your decision making.
There’s no substitute for hands on experience:
Whether you manage a small block of vines or hundreds of acres, it always pays to get your hands on the vines, showing and explaining to workers how and why you want tasks completed. Its also a good opportunity to benchmark daily output and give your workers targets.
Understand the finances:
In growing grapes for super-premium wines like English Sparkling Wine it’s easy to overlook the vineyard finances and many growers don’t fully know their cost per tonne. Some owners fail to share the vineyard finances with their vineyard manager and this can have expensive consequences. Work with your owner to establish a budget for the products they want to produce and report regularly on budget status. You may not always beat the budget but having a handle on the finances means you can economise where needed preventing expensive surprises.
Be in the know:
Take time to get to know your vineyard, equipment and people. There’re no short cuts here you just have to put the footwork in, however taking the time to speak with workers, contractors and local farmers can give you a head start. Machinery and equipment doesn’t need to be new, but generally its only as good as it’s operator, therefore take time to understand how the equipment works and assess whether its right for your site. Make sure all vineyard machinery is always cleaned and well maintained to limit downtime from breakdowns.
Be a good communicator:
As in any business the key to managing a successful team is communication. Workers, contractors and bosses will respond positively in you sharing the knowledge of what is happening in the vineyard and why. Not everyone will always be in agreement and its good to acknowledge and encourage different ideas. Explaining your decision-making helps deliver a cohesive message that gets the job done.
Have a good support network:
It’s important to build relationships with your workers, contractors and suppliers as they are the people that will help you most when you really need it. Also take the time to get to know other vineyard managers, you never know when you can help each other out by sharing knowledge or resources.
Don’t stop learning:
Viticulture is an ever-evolving science, and as vineyard technology advances, so does the thirst for knowledge and desire to improve. Whether its quality, yields, new varieties, training practices or sustainability take time to do your research to see how your vineyard(s) could benefit from research in other wine regions.
Vineyard management tips