Updated: Jan 31
The warmer, summer months are harvest time in the southwest. Grapevine berries are getting sweeter, local winemakers are closely monitoring vineyard growth and we’re sharpening our harvest tools, ready to reap the fruits of our labour.
For Mountford Wines, it means a season of culling crops and handpicking grapes to turn them into delicious vino. It’s summertime in the winery - and we’re ready for one of the busiest and most exciting times of the year!
Here’s what’s happening in our vineyard.
Organic Vineyard Maintenance
There’s nothing quite like the view over a vineyard during spring and summer, and Mountford Winery is no exception. In fact, it’s our favourite time of the year. Colours turn golden, and dense lime-green canopies of leaves put on a vivid show as they protect the bunches of ripening grapes underneath.
It’s a stunning time to be working in the vineyard. Most importantly, it’s the time for winemakers to be busy with their tools.
Keeping the vineyard well-maintained is essential to the end flavour and experience of the wine. But there’s a fine line between pruning and over-cultivating. The latter can destroy the soil structure and restricts the vines of minerals, nutrients and water. On the flip side, leaving weed growth around the vine trunks increases the competition for these valuable resources.
We regularly slash the weeds to ensure balance and control excess growth using a scythe.
The scythe is our winemaker, Andrew Mountford’s favourite vineyard tool.
At first glance, it looks like a medieval weapon used by the Grim Reaper. For organic gardening, however, scythes are used to harvest crops, mow grass and keep on top of weeds. They are one of the most important agricultural hand tools.
Andrew first learnt how to use a scythe from his grandfather and father, more than 50 years ago. In our Mountford Wines vineyard, the one we use has a short stout blade that cuts through most weeds with impunity.
It’s meant for rough work, having none of the finesse of the longer-bladed grass-cutting type. With an additional short blade facing in the opposite direction, the tool is perfect for cutting off shoots around each stem and getting into tight areas in and between the vines.
“I use it to cut off water shoots that have grown up at the base of the vine, as well as any tall grasses and even the dreaded blackberry that the local birds sow everywhere”, explains owner and winemaker Andrew Mountford.
“Early morning is the best time to use the scythe. This is when the plant stems are turgid and stiff with the uptake of water overnight, hence all the folk songs about rising early in the morning and mowing”.
“One thing that never seems to be mentioned about the scythe is how addictive it is! Maybe it’s the sound and contemplative rhythm of scything, the steady unhurried pace, the ritual of stopping now and then to sharpen and hone the blade. Then the satisfaction of feeling the now sharpened scythe move easier through the weeds. I try to limit my scything to an hour, long enough to keep me fit but not too long to cause injury.”
For the organic farmer or gardener, it’s a great tool to use.
A brief history of the scythe
While the exact origin of the scythe is unknown, it became widely implemented in agricultural farming across Europe and England in the eighth century. It’s historically used to harvest hay and cut down or reap edible grains. Eventually, it gained popularity in vineyards too.
Upcoming Release from our Collector’s Corner
Hidden in the back of the Mountford Winery is a rack of old Puncheons and Hogshead barrels - a place we call the ‘Collector’s Corner’. We visit infrequently, maybe once a year depending on the vintage. Festooned with cobwebs it’s a space that belongs on the set of an old-fashioned horror movie.
In this corner, our newest vintage awaits.
Rising Sun is our much-anticipated fortified red wine. For the last 30 years, it has been aging and darkening with flavour and complex characteristics. Now it’s almost ready to bottle and release.
While fortified wines are usually the domain of warmer climates, it’s a delicious drop we’ve been working on at Mountford Wines in Pemberton. We made it here, despite the cooler climate, because we never wanted to sell something we haven’t genuinely produced on the estate.
Our organic wines and cider are handmade from our fruit in our winery - and we wanted to keep it this way for our fortified wine.
The journey into fortified wines production
We began making fortified wines in 1987. Customers have come to expect a fortified option in their tasting experience, so we needed a batch for the cellar door.
Our Pemberton estate can produce suitable fruit for fortified wines when it’s warmer. We saved the fruits from the hotter years specifically for this release. For fortified wines, you want higher sugar levels that will translate into higher alcohol. The wines are then fortified with more alcohol, in our case, a very good brandy, and transferred to the barrel for maturation.
Like all good things, good fortified wine takes time.
The Angel’s Share, a term often referred to in the whisky or cognac world, is also a factor of fortified production. This is when the alcohol evaporates during the aging process. The Angel’s Share is the amount that’s released into the air (or drunk by angels) and plays a pivotal role in how well the wine breathes and ages.
As the wine matures, it grows more complex and ultimately delicious.
Why Rising Sun?
The result is Rising Sun, a rich fruitcake-style fortified red wine that has been a growing blend for more than three decades. Stay tuned for tasting notes closer to the release (within a couple of months).
“The name stems from a bit of sentimentality from my youth! It was the name of a large share house I lived in while attending college in Tiverton Devon. The house had been an antique shop, and the old sign was still up when we were residing. For 400 years before that, it had been a pub called The Rising Sun” - Andrew Mountford.
See below for how the Rising Sun Pub looked originally compared to what it looks like today.
Local Art and Wine at the Vineyard Gallery
The mezzanine floor at our award-winning cellar door has a regular display of art and stunning winery views. Why not step inside for the full experience?
Currently, our winery art gallery is showcasing four local artists. These artists frequently update their works at our gallery for wine and art lovers to enjoy.
Karen Wiedemann - a realism landscape artist who takes inspiration from living in the picturesque setting of WA’s southwest
Jan Dedman - a quirky artist who uses acrylics to paint impressionist-style landscapes
Josephine Wayling – an abstract artist from Perth whose work captures the moods of a place or action using movement, colour and texture
Rose Muir - a semi-abstract artist who uses emotion and social themes to paint bold, colourful and energetic works
Greg Crowe - a Perth artist famous for his woodfired and salt-glazed pottery, producing ceramics from traditional Anagama kiln
What we’re Drinking this Week
With this hot and humid weather, we’ve been enjoying our preservative-free bubbles. This Pinot Noir Method Ancestral is our 2022 vintage and is available at our cellar door or online. It pairs perfectly with BBQ pizza, especially for those warm summer nights eating outside.
If you need more organic wine and cider inspiration, take a peek at our sustainable range.