Roller defoliator ripe for the picking

With manual labour falling short, one King Valley vineyard and winery (and its neighbours) found the secret to better, faster leaf removal – and more flavourful wine.

In the heart of Victoria’s abundant King Valley, three generations of the Corsini family grow, make and bottle the preservative-free wine that has earned their 60-acre vineyard and winery La Cantina an enviable reputation.

But to produce a top drop, head winemaker Peter Corsini has to be hypervigilant about botrytis and other bunch rots – especially as he can’t add sulfites to combat it: 

“Making preservative-free wine, we need one-hundred-percent clean fruit,” Peter says.

For many years, Peter hired help to remove leaves and ensure fruit quality and disease control. But with contractor shortages and increasing wages becoming a new reality, he needed a more efficient and cost-effective solution.

With increasing summer rainfall, it was also becoming more important to remove leaves around the fruit zone, so it could dry out quicker and reduce disease pressure. But this was proving difficult to do at the right time – and across the entire vineyard.

“My son Reuben and I did some investigating into defoliators, but many machines on the market did damage to the fruit,” Peter says.

Then he came across the ERO roll-over roller defoliator.

The results roll in

“Now we can get over the whole area when it suits both the vines and our timeframe,” Peter says.

“And because it pulls the leaves off instead of grabbing flower bunches like other machines, we can go in earlier just after flowering.”

When spraying, there’s better contact on the fruit and therefore better penetration and exposure. After defoliating the eastern side of the vineyard, Peter is already impressed with the results: more consistent ripening, more even colour and better flavours compared to manual labour and other machines. And while the cost savings have been impressive, the time savings have been the biggest benefit.

“We can go through the night and get the job done when it needs to be done – not just when labour is available, which meant we might miss the window.”

Sharing the load

Peter’s neighbours have also been reaping the benefits, as he contracted out the ERO roll-over roller defoliator to cover some 600 acres amidst a season of heavy rainfall.

“That saved a lot of crops, I think. We did as much as we could to help them out, and they’ll be asking us back next year because of the benefits they’ve seen – especially since it’s too expensive for smaller vineyards to do it all by hand.”

Local touch

Of course, it’s not all about the machine. When investing in a new piece of equipment, you also want to know help is at hand if you need it.

“The AME team were fantastic,” Peter says. “We were under the pump to get up and running and they helped out a lot.”

Appreciating the local service and support, Peter has since bought a sprayer and more equipment.

“I really can’t speak highly enough of the machines and service. If you’re thinking about it, don’t hesitate!”

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