“Quantity was down, but the quality was up.”, It’s a cliche, but there is a lot of truth in it. 2008 was an early season, it was a quick season and yields were down a little on expectations. But the colour, the flavours, the quality is excellent. We were having a drink with one of the large vineyard managers (large vineyard, not large manager!) the other night and he said that one of his customers proclaimed it the best vintage for 30 years. We haven’t been growing for that long, but we also got some great feedback from our citizen winemakers.
“The must has started primary fermentation, I use the wild yeast method. The smell and colour is fantastic, I think this might be a truly great year. Everyone I tell about your service is really impressed with the price and when they drink it the quality as well. Sorry I wasn’t there to pick up the grapes in person was still at work. Got some readings for you as well. pH 3.6; Brix 30, Alcohol 15%” – AB
The early vintage was a result of one of the driest growing periods since the mid 2000’s. We’ve had warmer than usual and drier than usual weather right through Spring and Summer and that has continued through Autumn. Harvest began at the end of February and was all finished by the middle of March.
We copped a bit of sunburn during November, which meant the crop was down about 1/2 tonne per acre, our yield overall was 2.4 tonnes/acre. The warm weather saw the fruit ripen quickly and Baume’s rose steadily reaching 14.5-15 Be’ by the final picking. We are indeed fortunate to have access to irrigation. Careful and timely irrigation meant we were able keep the canopies fresh and healthy and end up with good quality fruit at the end of it. Furthermore, with 5 irrigation blocks and 4 different clones the different blocks/clones didn’t all ripen at the same time so we were able to spread the picking period out a little.
For some patches of grapes, yield was low not only in the vineyard, but the Shiraz fruit yielded less wine per kg than average, being closer to 500 mL/kg (50%) rather than the two-thirds we have come to expect from our grapes. Small berry size can be a prick sometimes! This caught some of our customers by surprise, but the consolation is that all the resulting wines are likely to be one of the more intense Shiraz wines coming out of Heathcote in recent years.
No two seasons are the same. Last year (2017), saw a wet spring and cool summer give us a late, drawn out harvest with high yields (and low baumés) starting in the middle of March and continuing well on into April (our last day of picking was Anzac day in 2017). What a contrast. But I know which I would prefer.
Every season has its challenges and strengths (who’d be a farmer, I hear you say. It rings true that the true craft (and joy) of being a winemaker is to work with the vines and the fruit to produce a wine unique to the terroir of the vineyard and the conditions of the season. I have begun reiterating this to our customers over tastings – there is a certain liberation to being a small producer. To be able to create unique products, without the demands of consistency of brand and marketing, to be collaborating with the vines rather than manufacturing wines.
No Two Seasons Are The Same – Viva la difference!