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Dr Richard Smart on viticultural practice and myths

This show was published 25 July 2008


Dr Richard Smart is a world-leading viticulturalist and consultant on canopy management. In this second interview with Richard he explodes a few common myths on viticultural practices.

Richard likens growing grapes to human biology. When making babies the most important thing is the point of conception, but we tend to think that the point of birth is the most important. But it's the mother and father who determine how the baby will be. In the same way the ripening of the berry and the harvest are not the most important factors in determining the wine. Things that happen from the flowering to the fruit set and early stages of berry development are the most important. In determining when to harvest you need to measure sugar, acid, PH, berry rates, colour, tannins. There is no point tasting the grapes, they need to be analysed. Getting the actual harvest date right doesn't matter since there is not a huge change as the grapes ripen in the last few weeks on the vine and therefore the date of picking is not critical to the final wine.

Common myths include vine age - that old vines are better than young vines - often find the first, virgin harvest makes the best wine because the fruit is exposed. In middle age, there is more shading of the vines. As vines get older they accumulate disease and the fruit is more exposed again. Its the exposure to the sun, not the age of the vine that is the key. Another myth is low yield, high quality - according to Richard it is nonsense that fewer grapes on the vine means higher quality.

The top 5 factors that affect wine quality:
1. right variety in right situation and right climate
2. canopy management
3. control of the water
4. pruning
5. hiring a consultant!
6. low yield/crop level


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The music used for the UK Wine Show is Griffes de Jingle 1 by Marcel de la Jartèle and Silence by Etoile Noire.

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