White Shade Cloth in the Vines

Happy Friday all!

With it being Summer, it is definitely a time for enjoying the sun, but as we know too much sun can lead to a dependence on aloe vera and cold packs. This is true for grapes, the sun is an imperative part of grape development, but too much can lead to issues. Grapes depend on the sun for photosynthesis to occur, but too much heat and sun can lead to sun burns, excessive sugar, and lack of acidity. This can result in unbalanced wines with high alcohol. The flip side of this applies as well…too little heat can prompt high acidity and a lack of sugar. Sugar is a necessary part of fermentation in the wine process. As you can see, there needs to be a balance, like in everything, for grape development to be successful and lead to deliciously, balanced wines.

How do you put reigns on a natural part of creation such as the sun? Viticulturists have been using the leaves for years in their vineyards to help facilitate sun distribution, but there is now a shade cloth that can be installed to help create even distribution of light. We recently installed this white shade cloth in our Adelaida Vineyard (Paso Robles) to do just that. It not only has a purpose, but looks really lovely.

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I was curious about the shade cloth, so after seeing our new tanks at our production barn (winery) I drove around our vineyard and found a tall man walking down the rows straightening the white shade cloth. It was my dad (David Parrish).

“Pretty cool, huh?” He said with a smile.

“Yeah! It looks great, dad. So, I’m assuming the shade cloth is to protect the grapes from the sun?”

“Correct….”

Thus started my dad on the innovation and science behind this white cloth.

It started 10 years ago when my dad was working with Paul Hobbs. He was seeing a need for sun protection, but something that wouldn’t completely block the sun from the grapes. My dad had been primarily working with dark shade cloth for nurseries with his company A&P. So, he began working with a company overseas, but the white shade cloth was very expensive. It wasn’t until a year ago when he found another company that he was able to invent a cloth that would have the perfect weave, exact spaced holes for easy hanging, and it was half the price of the previous cloth. It was also reusable and came on large spools for easy installation. Finally, a perfect match for what vineyards were needing!

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So, what makes this white shade cloth better than other shade cloths? There is a science to it and it related a lot to what I know from photography. The white shade cloth helps distribute the light by filtering direct sunlight, but also bouncing reflected light from the other types of sunlight through out the day. This creates more even lighting, which in turn develops more consistent fruit in the vineyard. Therefore:

The viticulturist gets better yield.

The winemaker receives better quality fruit.

The consumer drinks better wine.

A win for everyone on the trail from grape to bottle. So, it is actually a really important piece of innovation that could help the vineyard/wine industry be elevated overall…just with the basic concepts of harnessing light. “Pretty cool, huh?”

After my dad got done explaining all the information to me, I realized that we had bonded over science, which is not something that happens as he is very left brained and I am very right brained. Although, as I write this, we actually embody what wine is…science and art.

-Cecily

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