Africus Rex update

To all:
The Africus Rex winery page has been given the seasonal update again; if you're interested. I know some have been following the experiment since the beginning. I'm still getting emails from all over the globe.
Africus Rex has undergone a major, major change in grape growing, as you will see. Even so, the chage has increased health in the vines in spite of the garbage weather we've had this summer. Autumn weather has been extraordianry for ripening conditions.
The web page has changed quite at bit to focus more on the new growing technique, and will be updated accordingly.
Check out:
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Regards Jeff Chorniak
Reply to
Jeff Chorniak
Jeff - Neat site! Are you able to leave the vines outside in the winter ? Or do you protect them in some fashion? If Cab. Franc can stand being outside all year, you must have a whole lot milder climate than we do in Minnesota (also about 45th parallel)!
Reply to
Jeff, I've been eagerly awaiting this year's update.
Can you talk about why you moved from bonsai to hydroponic growing? You mentioned improved health; were the vines weak or in danger? or is this to increase their yield? Did you lose any vines or is the reduced number just because the pumps and other equipment took up the space? How do you think the yield of these 12 hydroponic vines would compare to the 26 bonsai vines of last year?
Thank you for sharing your experiment. You've inspired me to grow my own vines in pots (two so far, but more planned).
Reply to
Erroll Ozgencil
I wait until the autumn cold shuts down the vines and they defoliate. Then I remove them from the medium, wrap them, roots and all, and store them in a refrigerator over winter.
Cab franc do survive winters in the Toronto area (and Niagara), but in this case the nutrient solution would freeze solid and I'd end up with a block of ice on my roots.
Jeff Chorniak
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Reply to
Jeff Chorniak
I moved from bonsai to hydroponic because of the greater control over root nutrition. The nutrient offers total control over pH, oxygen, and nutritional balance. pH adjustments can be made in minutes rather that days or weeks. Major and minor mineral elements can be controlled, by increasing or decreasing elements individually. The root itself has greater growing space, while using less energy to look for food, and there is zero wilting during the hot season when evapotranspiration is high.
Bonsai are wonderful looking vines, but yields are limited due to root size and nutrional uptake. If you are growing a bonsai vineyard for moderate yield and greater ornamental value, that's the way to go. If growing a vineyard with yield as the primary objective, hydroponics will deliver.
Yes, I did reduce the number of vines to 12. It wasn't because the equipement took up space. Rather, I used the extra space as a handy location to shelter pumps between the vines, etc. It just worked out that way. Even so, the increased space between vines, plus the nutrient rich solution allows for more vigorous growth, greater sun contact on individual vines (less crowding), and oportunity for fewer vines to produce higher yields.
I estimate I will eventually be harvesting greater yeilds with 12 hydroponic vines, than with 26 bonsai vines. They may not look as cute, but that's the trade off.
I'm in it for the wine.
Jeff Chorniak
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Reply to
Jeff Chorniak

Hi Jeff,
What is the final cost per pound of grapes using this method?
What is the cost per vine to set up the system?
Will the cost scale down if you planted a larger number, say 200?
Reply to
Cost per pound can't be calculated until I know I'm producing maximum yields. The vines are still young. Each year will produce a greater yield. Eventually the yield will max out proportionatley to allowable root size.
Cost per vine to set up depends on which system you want to use. There are several configurations for hydroponics. I am currently working with a static bubble system. That is a system where the roots are suspended in nutrient solution constantly bubbled with oxygen.
12 vines are being bubbled by 6 pumps ($16 each; Wal Mart), plus hoses and reservoirs (minimal costs, $3 for a pail, a buck for hoses, etc). Then there's auxiliary hardware for electrical wiring, trellising, etc. It's nickel and dime, but can add up. The greatest cost is the nutrient solution. Nutrient solutions are concentrated and diluted in water to parts per million. Maintaining pH and solution concentration requires a pH meter which varies according to what kind you buy, and an EC meter, which measure the electrical conductivity of the solution; that is, the concentration of mineral salts in the water.
Some costs are one-time, others, like nutrients, are regular.
It's the nutrient that requires change every two weeks. Aside from that, there are other more economical systems like flood and drain: Reservoirs fill and drain on a timer. The roots are kept wet, but not submurged.
I could go on, but there are countless variations on the same theme.
Can you grow 200 vines? My vineyard is designed for the small scale home winegrower who can't or doesn't want to grow grapes in soil. However, there are two vineyards I've hear of doing it large scale. One in Kenya, growing table grapes, and another in Israel. The website for the one in Israel is:
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Reply to
Jeff Chorniak
Jeff ,
Interesting stuff. Couple things.
1. I can't get your web site to come up looking "normal". Does it come up fine in your browser? I've tried Netcape 7.1 AND IE 6.0.
2. How old are those vines and how many gallons of wine did you get this year from 12 vines?
3. How do the grapes taste compared to soil grown CF. The berries look GREAT BUT they seem rather big for Cabernet Franc. Does the abundance of water dilute the flavor? I could see this being great for table grapes but have you compared the taste to soil grown CF in the area?
4. With hydoponics, can you simulate limestone/shale/other minerals/etc... in the water?
5. Are your leaves a dark green or is that just the picture that makes them look light green?
Interested in you answers.
Reply to
See if your browser isn't set to medium, for text and display size.
The vines are 4 years old. This is the first year in hydroponics. For adaptation purposes I limited the amount of clusters this year. I limited my yield to mere liters after crush. I'd thought of thinning clusters to nothing at all, but wanted to harvest some to see what submersion in water would do to the fruit.
I took a trip to niagara to compare my clusters with soil grown cab franc on mature vines and noticed little difference. I took my refractometer with me to compare Brix. Niagara had a high sugar level, but it was expected since my vines took off late this year and we've had an eternal spring. Summer was a bummer. No one got good sugar here this year, and therefore I can't reach a decent conclusion.
As for flavour. The jury is still out until this first batch is ready to bottle and age.
Regarding simulating flavors...that too is a matter to be determined. However, I have heard others suggest it can be done. Even so, the proof will be in the bottle. There are ways of customizing the nutrient solution to influence grape flavor.
In the previous post I mentioned the flood and drain system, which keeps the roots wet, and highly oxygenated, rather than constantly submerged. If submersion influences sugar, the flood and drain is the solution. Also, aeroponics is another method which keeps grape roots wet.
Next season I will be employing two methods alternately. Beginning with the static bubble to maintain turgor pressure for evapotranspiration, and then switch over to flood and drain in mid to late summer into October to maintain nutrient levels and cut back on water.
As for leave color. the real leafcolor is all over the spectrum, and I didn't bother tweeking the tint in the images.
Reply to
Jeff Chorniak

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