Beautiful ripe fruit, but stubbornly low Baume’s have been the feature of this crazy 2017 vintage. What a contrast to 2016! Last year we had a record early start to vintage and within 2 weeks Baume’s were over 15 and winemakers were complaining that both the Baume and pH were too high.

The 2017 vintage started on 10th of March when our ripest block of grapes hit 13 Be’. Gun-shy from last year’s experience we had lined up a large picking crew and were determined to get the fruit off in the Goldilocks zone. But then we started getting reports that the fruit was not as sweet as we had thought it would be. It’s ripe, just low Baume’. Two and a half weeks later the Baume’ is still only 13.5 or thereabouts and doesn’t look like moving. We are past the Autumn equinox now and the nights and days are getting cooler. Autumn colours are beginning to appear in the vineyard. We ourselves have made wine for our own Shiraz Republic label which is only 13% and 12.5% but tastes terrific. We have also made over 60 small batches with our RentaRow citizen winemakers over the three weekends, and again everyone is delighted with the natural tannins and rich fruit flavours coming through. The up-side of the slow season is that vines have not been as stressed and the pH has been good. Most pH results are coming in at 3.6 – 3.8, requiring little adjustment.

Luigi DiBattista, from HomeMakeIt put it well in a discussion forum of the Eltham District Winemakes Guild, “The season’s weather is playing havoc with the vintage with temperature going up and down. It has only really been stable in the region for the past two and a half weeks with warm weather raising the Baume’ to enable picking, but alas not high enough. The talk of an Indian summer. I just hope the rain the next couple of days and high humidity does not bring on bunch rot. 
The reason for the bumper crop is the high amount of rain we had Nov through to Jan, and the low baume due the slow growth because the cold Oct to Dec months… We are seeing low baume reading and have been bumping up the Baume’ with additions of Grape Juice Concentrate or Dextrose. As a guide, 1 litre of GJC at 68 Brix will increase 50 litres of juice (no skins or seeds) by 1 baume. 5kg of Dextrose will achieve the same result.”

We apologise if you have received grapes that were below the Baume you had been expecting or anticipated. Some of this is our fault for assuming a continued rapid ripening throughout the season. It is also the weather and this is true of all vineyards in the region and there is an inherent difficulty with random berry sampling across a large vineyard. What we can assure you is that our grapes are ripe, healthy and flavoursome. Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of the season but we hope you still can enjoy the fun of making wine and like us, can enjoy, taste and make a great wine in 2017. As one Heathcote winemaker has put it, maybe this is the year not of alcohol bombs but of an elegant, Rhone-style Shiraz.

In a difficult season, we have to ask ourselves why we make wine. For us and hopefully you as well, it is to work with the fruit, not against it and as such you will make a beautiful wine that tells the story of the season. The fruit is beautiful and ripe, just with a low Baume’.

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