Lady bug, lady bug, fly away home! This year our vineyards were invaded by Multicoloured Asian Lady Bugs, or MALB. You may know that at crush time the odd insect or two can get crushed along with the grapes. We like to think that adds a bit of complexity. Seriously though, the wine is so highly refined that it doesn’t really matter — except for lady bugs (…and perhaps stink bugs). Lady bugs contain a chemical that humans are sensitive to in parts per billion. And this chemical can throw some real off-flavours — a serious wine flaw called “lady bug taint”.
The irony is, the Multicoloured Asian Lady Bug is an import! It was brought in by well-meaning farmers to control mites. I am sure it has: it proliferated, completely supplanting the indigenous ladybug population. And as you would have it, the MALB tastes ten times worse than native ladybugs.
We needed to pick every single lady bug out of the grapes. No lady bugs in our wine !
As a result much of our crush time was spent picking through lug after lug of grapes – four tonnes in all — searching and destroying yellow, orange, and red lady bugs. We told jokes as we squished them under our rubber boots on the crush pad. “At least they don’t bite!” “They are easy to see.” “There’s one!”
A spectacular sunset graced the sky with wonderful colours, barely noticed as we concentrated on the task at hand, well into the dusk.