There is no replacement for actually being in the vineyards every day, but planning new plantings or sourcing new vineyards can take a lot of footwork and time. Using GIS and certain terrain analysis models helps tremendously in this quest to better understand where to plant, what to plant, why to plant, where to buy grapes and why you bought them!!
When covering vast areas as a viticulturist (in the past 8 years I’ve covered more than 3800 hectares of vineyards within a 9500 square kilometer range, with vineyards stretching as far a 120 kilometers from each other), you can imagine that it is a very daunting task to collect all the info on all the blocks within a short period.
Using only aerial photos doesn’t quite seem to do the job, although you can see a lot, even within Google Earth, this aerial view unfortunately does not have any values, so different areas can’t be measured against each other.
Let me explain this with some visuals…
Here are the four angles of a mountain, just an aerial view. The green arrow points North.
It looks cool, but that’s about it. You can throw some contours on there and you will get a general idea of slopes and water flow, but not a lot can be seen on these.
Now, create an Aspect terrain model and suddenly things looks a little different..
See the difference? Of course you do. The Southern slopes are cooler than the Northern slopes (In the Southern Hemisphere). This can help a lot in choosing sites to plant Sauvignon blanc’s for instance, or to plant Shiraz for the spicy or fruity style. All of this is determined by terroir. Lovely word that is – visualized through GIS.
Having vineyards in and around this mountain area, and knowing the history of the production and quality, one can easily search for similar sites, not only within this area, but anywhere in South Africa. Attribute tables and vineyard data captured in geo-databases can be evaluated and matched with wines. This can serve for a platform as to where to plant what, or where to buy what – pretty cool hey?
I’ll discuss some other terrain models in other posts, but now, after a beautiful night-mountain bike session, I think it is time to drink a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon!