Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Australia's Vintage 2018 Preview

Shiraz - Barossa Valley
Vintage is well underway in the Hunter Valley, NSW. Give it a few weeks and Vintage 2018 will be abuzz across the continent.

For a quick snapshot from around the country, here's a summary from some of Australia's leading winemakers detailing how Vintage 2018 is looking in their respective region.

Hunter Valley - Andrew Thomas (Thomas Wines)
A very dry start to the growing season saw many vineyards go into budburst slightly early, but the dry conditions meant the growth was relatively slow. We welcomed some (still below average) rain in October and November which gave the vineyards a “kick on” and well deserved relief. Current conditions are dry and very warm to hot, with some producers already picking their early ripening Chardonnay blocks and Sparkling base, with most producers looking at starting this week. Probably 7-10 days early across all varieties (depending on what early means these days….)
All in all, if the weather (rain) holds out for another 5-6 weeks we are set for another ripper vintage…

Margaret River - Ross Pammet (Houghton Winery)
At this point in time the prospective 2018 vintage is looking great. Average winter conditions and good amounts of rainfall into the early parts of spring have provided good water resources to set the vines up.  Reasonably cool conditions throughout spring meant a slow growth start, but flowering was largely unhampered to any extent.  Crops at this stage are looking on average yield wise.

Great Southern - Patrick Corbett (Singlefile Wines)

With good rainfall over winter and normal onset of spring the vines have had a good start to the growing season. Temperatures so far have been moderate which has allowed for very good growth and several rainfall events over December has enabled the soils to still be holding adequate moisture. Yields look to be “normal” levels after the large yields experienced in 2017. Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vines seem to be tracking at the same stages which is unusual with Cabernet normally behind Shiraz, the Chardonnay vineyard looks exception. Overall 2018 is shaping up to being a great year – vines well balanced with yield, healthy start to the season and even summer temperatures ahead.

McLaren Vale - Corrina Wright (Oliver's Taranga)
It's looking pretty good in the vale so far… A relatively wet winter and cool spring, so we are looking a little later than usual in terms of starting harvest (not as late as 2017, but later than usual!). 
Varieties like Tempranillo are starting to get some colour now, and Shiraz not too far behind. Crops look medium to low (on the back of one of the biggest cropping years in a long time in 2017), good berry size, pretty balanced vigour in the most part, no major disease pressure. We were a bit hamstrung earlier in the growth cycle as the late rains meant a lot of water in the subsoil, and the vines grew well early. But everything has slowed up in time for veraison, and looks like we are having a hot day and then cool days on cycle for a while now = pretty perfect and a slow lead up to harvest.
Overall, looking really good!!

Barossa Valley - Stuart Bourne (Soul Growers)
Vintage 2018 is shaping up delightfully, at this stage, as we are now about a month or so away from the commencement of harvest in the Barossa Valley. Winter rains were timely and follow up early spring rains gave rise to very healthy canopies. Fruit set went well, under mild to warm weather conditions and a good crop - that should throw about an average to slightly below average crop level currently expected. Although it has been very dry since then, small dribbles of supplementary irrigation have kept vines ticking along nicely. No disease pressures have been felt so far, nor has there been any prolonged extreme weather – so all things being equal and no acts of God forthcoming, I would imagine that Vintage 2018 could well be another very solid quality offering. All this from a region that boasts “consistency" and "richly flavoured" amongst the general descriptors for our beautiful Barossa Valley. 

Granite Belt - Ray Costanzo (Golden Grove Estate)
Things were looking spectacular prior to Christmas Eve when small hail with a tornado like wind damaging 50% of the vines. It was almost a repeat of Christmas Eve 2015. The downer is that much of the alternate varieties are amongst the losses.
A number of wineries on Sundowner Road were significantly impacted. Ballandean Estate are said to have lost 10% but others weren't as fortunate. 
A very dry vintage has seen the need to irrigate. Twisted Gum have dry grown vineyards and have decided to drop all fruit due to the lack of rain which is disappointing for them.
Wineries north of Ballandean seem to be really happy with where things are at, provided there are no other weather events.

Yarra Valley - Tim Shand (Punt Road Wines)
Cold and dry winter, slightly delayed budburst. With a mild start to spring, it looked like it would be a later vintage again. Rain started up then, and also some hairy frost events which didn’t do too much damage.
Rain came as significant downfalls, which left the soil full of water and humidity high. This, coupled with warm nights and mornings created perfect conditions for downy mildew. Timing of early sprays was crucial.
The weather then broke beautifully for an even and speedy flowering/fruit set with a week of uncharacteristically warm and clear days (the warmest November week in 150 years of weather data). Across the valley, fruit set was done and dusted in a week. In inclement years like 2014 and 2016, this process took up to a month. As a result, bunches set well, and there will be a healthy crop, but not of 2016 proportions. The speed of fruitset also significantly brought on the onset of vintage, which now looks like mid-February (the new normal).
January will define the year. It’s always good to go into this time of year with sufficient soil moisture levels, allowing vines to ride comfortably through the hot days. Right now, we hope for minimal rain for the next month, and temperatures in the mid 20’s. Big dumps of rain, coupled with heat spikes, will make it a difficult harvest to navigate.

Mornington Peninsula - Simon Black (Montalto Wines)
A cool and wet start to the growing season with disease pressure being relatively high and some vineyards under some Downey Mildew pressure. Bunch numbers look down slightly, but flowering was excellent with good fruit set. Bunch size looks to have compensated for the drop in bunch numbers with larger bunches being set. So, all in all, I think we can expect yields in and around the long term average. The forecast moving forward is for a slightly warmer and wetter than average summer so we’ll need to be on the alert for berry split and bunch botrytis. Veraison is just starting to kick in in the warmer areas. What will be will be!

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