Updated: Feb 17
Bird netting is essential to a successful vineyard, but it is also expensive, hard to handle, difficult to apply, and even worse to remove. Read on for a quick overview of a time-consuming yet widely used technique to protect grapes and vines from pests, and gain an appreciation of the amount of work involved in getting wine from vine to table.
Grapevines are a convenient food source for wildlife. Grapes for food, and the vines for shelter- it is not uncommon to find bird nests tucked in the foliage when spring comes. The right balance of birds helps pollinate the vines as well as insect control, making them essential to a healthy and biodynamic vineyard.
However, birds (such as local pigeons, blackbirds, starlings, crows and magpies) picking on the fruit can damage as much as half of the available fruit by harvest time. With so much on the line, netting becomes an important tool to manage and minimise damage from birds during the growing season. There are a number of netting types to use, and much of it depends on the speed of deployment and the needs of the vineyard come harvest season.
A popular and less expensive method is to cover only the fruiting sections of the vine. Side Netting is faster and a lot less cumbersome to apply compared to other netting systems. So as long as you carefully fasten the area above and below the fruiting region, it will keep the birds away from the juicy fruit.
Another way to do it is to drape a full canopy over rows of vines. This system is called overhead netting. With such small holes, not only birds but also small insects are kept away from the year's harvest. The net also protects crops from sunburn and other environmental hazards like hail.
Netting as part of McHenry Hohnen Biodynamic Vineyard Management
Netting is widely used throughout vineyards in Western Australia, and this time-consuming process is also crucial during the growing season in the largely biodynamic vineyards at McHenry Hohnen. Located in the south of the Margaret River region, Murray McHenry has spent decades creating a sustainable ecosystem to grow the best quality grape varietals possible without fertilisers and pesticides - relying on natural methods to control pests and naturally enrich the soil. Below are some of the wines from these vineyards.
McHenry Hohnen Burnside Chardonnay
A wine of pedigree, this Chardonnay displays the benchmark notes of cashew and roasted almonds. Aromas of pink grapefruit, melon, and nectarine give way to nuances of Jasmine tea and natural ferment complexity. The palate combines power and grace with light brioche dough and lemon curd framed by a core of creamy acidity and an oyster shell-like minerality.
The wine is the product of 40-year old vines, beautifully evident in the concentration and vibrancy of the palate. Generous in both flavour and acidity, the uniqueness of this wine captures Margaret River’s personality in a bottle.
McHenry Hohnen Rolling Stone
McHenry Hohnen Rolling Stone represents the pinnacle of red wine production and is the most authentic expression of Hazel's Vineyard. Biodynamic farming, meticulous vineyard management, and the utmost attention to detail in the winery bring forth this elegant Bordeaux-style blend.
Crafted from selected parcels of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, this wine delivers harmonious notes of black currants, blueberry confectionery, fragrant violets, and savoury black olive tapenade. This red ends with a refined spice and dusty dark chocolate tannins, providing impressive length.
McHenry Hohnen Rocky Road Shiraz
Spicy, exotic and layered with beautiful tannins, McHenry Hohnen Rocky Road Shiraz is guaranteed to do wonders in every sip.
A seductive bouquet of fresh blueberries with strawberries and cream confection gives way to cherry cola and fragrant white pepper notes. You will find a soft and juicy palate abound with ripe blueberries, Satsuma plums, and red berry sweets. Whilst underlying milk chocolate, fresh vanilla pods, and sweetened spices make for a memorable marriage of flavours. A velvety structure with lingering flavours makes this wine outstanding on any occasion!
If you find your vineyard to be near woodlands or on the path of bird migrations, netting is a non-invasive method that helps keep the grapes safe throughout the growing season.