Elson’s Corkscrew Vine Training System, or more commonly known as the Corkscrew Method. Consistently outstanding grapes, super premium quality, the bunches enjoying space – no bunch against bunch, with an ideal level of stippled light from a perfectly balanced canopy.
Innovation is at the core of the Roenfeldt Hill vineyard and wines. A block of ‘heritage clone’ Grenache was planted in 2002, in a very different way, a replication of a system found being used by the ancient Roman under the ash of Pompeii.
Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD, wiping out the old city and its 10,000 citizens, but preserved under the ash, andexposed since excavation of the volcanic material from the city’s outskirts in the 90’s, remains perfectly preserved vines grown in a corkscrew shape, spirally upwards on posts……proof that the Romans of that time knew a great deal about viticulture and how to grow outstanding grapes.
The Elson’s version of the system involved the planting of vines alongside a 1.8 metre recycled plastic stake, which had pre-fixed, vine-wire clips and neoprene rubber strips – to hold the young vines against the stakes, facilitating a tight, upwards spiral. The stakes and clips enabled the addition of a dripper tube, holder wire and a trellis wire to support the vines in windy conditions .
Plastic tape was used in the first and second year to keep the vine spirals tightly against the stakes. Later, the creator, Wayne Elson, developed a spring hook which slides over the stakes and can be moved up or down, gripping the stake when it is released. The hook captures the previous season cane and can be repositioned all the way to the top of the stake in following seasons.
‘Head’ pruning is undertaken in a similar fashion to that of bush vines. Wayne ensures the spurs retained at pruning are evenly spaced and never located immediately over the top of others, to ensure minimised shading out of the lower canes and bunches……the key to creating the tree shape of the mature vines, and the even ripening achieved. Note for several years, the Elsons have achieved double the average price paid for Grenache in the Barossa, and now a portion of the grapes are going into some Roenfeldt Hill branded wines, the Corkscrew Method logo showing on the labels.
Australia’s top ranked viticultural magazine, The Grapegower and Winemaker published a 3 page article in 2011 as an expose of the system. Since then, Henschke Wines of Eden Valley- Keyneton (near the Barossa Valley) have used the system for a trial block, and many other vignerons have enquired, Wayne happily providing details and answers to questions.
Now that it has been fully established, the Corkscrew block of Grenache at the Roenfeldt Hill property looks a picture and is easy to work (picking and pruning is a so easy due to the ideal working height/band). Its unlikely a system for large operations because of the initial per vine materials costs, and its not necessarily ideal for machine harvesting. The Corkscrew Method for the Elsons was always going to be a hand-picking system, and it is best suited to vineyards in premium regions where superb grape quality is the key to success, not volumes.
Click here Aust NZ Grapegrower & Winemaker June 2011 to download a copy of the Grapegrower & Winemaker article, written by respected journalist Kellie Arbuckle
Click here Corkscrew Method vine training system 4 to download a presentation with system details, used for numerous talks within industry and various clubs/associations. Wayne is happy to help other growers wanting to try the system, with his FAQs and hints on how to grow vines using it.