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2019 Vintage Wrap-Up

From mid-January to end of April, the vineyards around Australia are filled with people picking at the crack of dawn and late at night. They’re taking advantage of the cooler temperatures and rushing the fruit to the wineries where it’s handled with love and care to become the wines we all enjoy so much.

Each vintage is different and every region has its own challenges. This year, due to the extreme hot weather systems experienced nation-wide, yields are generally down (except in Tasmania), however, the quality of the fruit has been described as excellent.

Our Tasting Panellists having been chatting with winemakers around the country to see how vintage 2019 is shaping up, and the consensus is that we should all get very excited!

HUNTER VALLEY

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“The doyen of the Hunter valley, Bruce Tyrrell (pictured), has claimed the 2019 vintage to be a ‘really good, solid vintage’,” reports Hunter Valley Release curator, Will Figueria.

“The region has had some very dry weather throughout 2018, and early 2019, and it’s undoubtedly been a warm vintage overall, but the Hunter was lucky to get rain at the right times in spring and summer of 2018, “says Will.

“Bruce says the yields are slightly down, but the fruit quality on the whole, is very fantastic. The whites are looking to potentially be a bit more generous overall, and reds similarly so, but are still maintaining their predominantly medium weight body and structure, which the Hunter is renowned for.”

Orange

Tasting Panellist Adam Walls caught up with the team at Swinging Bridge Wines.

“For the Orange region, winter 2018 was characterised by some record cold weather and lower than average rainfall. The season has stayed dry, but with enough surface moisture to ensure strong growth of both canopy and fruit,” Adam explains.

“The start of 2019 saw hot and dry weather patterns, but luckily, Orange escaped the extreme hot weather that plagued other viticultural regions.”

“Picking started in late February and this signalled the start of a frantic vintage as all varieties, both white and red, seemed to ripen one after the other, if not all at once,” he said. “Despite the rush to harvest, and that some varieties have shown lower yields, the quality has been outstanding!”

Yarra Valley

Panellist Trent Mannell spoke with Alan Nalder from Helens Hill who reports they experienced a dry, cold winter, that gave way to a dry mild spring.

“Late November and December rains were a God’s send,” says Alan. “Dry and periods of extreme heat in January and early February kept everyone on their toes, to ensure vines maintained healthy canopy.”

“The remainder of the vintage has been perfect ripening weather with no rain and no disease pressure. Will not go down as the best vintage, but wine quality looks above average,” he said.

“Luckily, the Yarra escaped the devastating heat waves endured by their South Australian brothers, “says Trent. “Yields were on average and they’ll be picking the last varieties (Shiraz and Cabernets) in the coming weeks. “

Coonawarra

According to Panellist Trent Mannell, the vintage in Coonawarra started in the last week of February, which is a couple of weeks later than most of South Australia and still has at least another two weeks to go.  

“The first fruit off was Chardonnay and Riesling, which from all reports, looked terrific,” Trent said.

“The reds are now well underway, and as the heatwaves were less severe than other parts of South Australia, damage to the vineyards was minimal. Most growers are reporting high quality and great varietal characters, though slightly lower yields.”

Central Victoria/Goldfields

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“Sarah Gough (pictured) from Box Grove Vineyard in the Nagambie Lakes region reports that ‘vintage has been hot, intense and all- consuming, but considering the challenging conditions, remarkably good’,” Panellist Dave Mavor advises.

“Reports of similar conditions and results have been coming in from other Central Victorian regions, such as Heathcote, Bendigo, Grampians and Pyrenees.”

Victoria High Country

“Up in the King and Alpine Valleys, hot and dry conditions have also played a role, with a lot a fruit ripening at the same time, causing compression in the wineries and some stressful times for winemakers,” explains Panellist Dave Mavor.

“However, the temperatures have cooled significantly at the tail-end of the season, with Arnie Pizzini at Chrismont even reporting some light morning frosts, and the later-ripening varieties are enjoying perfect conditions at this stage.”

Barossa/Clare Valley/Adelaide Hills

Hot, dry conditions have plagued grape growers and winemakers throughout South Australia this year, with yields impacted significantly.

“With a very dry winter and spring, frost events, a hail storm, and hot, dry conditions in January and February, 2019 will be the lowest-yielding Barossa harvest of the past decade, according to Nick Robins of the Barossa Grape & Wine Association,” says Panellist Dave Mavor.

“Craig Thompson from Stone Bridge Wines in Clare is excited by the colour and concentration of the red wines now safely tucked away in the winery, but is rueing the lack of tonnage. He commented on the resilience of Riesling in the region though, which seems to have survived the weather onslaught remarkably well.”

“Even with the relatively cooler temperatures in the Adelaide Hills, the lack of rainfall has had an effect on yields, but vintage is still progressing there and the grapes not yet picked are ripening nicely in the cooler Autumn weather,” Dave advises.

Margaret River and Great Southern

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Just in from Kate Morgan (pictured), winemaker at Byron & Harold, Margaret River and Great Southern.

“It has been a late and cool one over here in the West – very different to the rest of the country,” says Kate.

“We started picking about two weeks later than usual and so far, this has resulted in some lovely whites which have had time to develop delicate flavours while retaining natural acidity. Margaret River Chardonnay is the stand out so far and looking great as it is fermenting away in oak.”

“A bit of mid-vintage rain has refreshed the reds, so the vines are looking healthy as the fruit hangs out there allowing for a long, slow ripening period. Shiraz has started to trickle in from the Great Southern and is looking promising, and with a nice few weeks weather ahead (fingers crossed!) the reds across the state should ripen beautifully,” she said. 

Great Southern Wine Region 

Just in from Rob Diletti, Castle Rock Estate winegrower, Great Southern.

“The 2019 vintage has been one of the most challenging I have experienced; however, we are harvesting some high-quality fruit. With good vineyard management setting it up, we have been able to manage most weather conditions and this year came out pretty well unscathed,” says Rob.

“Apart from some well-timed rain during late winter it was a very dry 12 months, although not excessively hot. Last year’s rain was enough to provide an adequate supply of irrigation water, and these factors combined to ensure budburst was not too early.” 

“With the New Year the dry conditions set in and the vineyard was watered regularly to keep the vines healthy, ensuring some leaf protection of the fruit from the sun,” Rob said. “In early March we had some rain, followed by a week and a half of fine weather in which we harvested the Pinot Noir and a third of our Riesling. We also picked most of our contract white varieties.”

“Mid-March we had 71mm of rain in three hours. Much of the water ran off but, after a prior rain event, left the remaining whites in a precarious situation. The next morning was fine, allowing the harvest of the remaining Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc; the resulting juice was exceptional. “It then rained and drizzled for the next two days, so I was really pleased we jumped when we did. It is sunny now, so we’re confident that the quality of the remaining reds will be high,” he said.

“Despite the dry growing conditions, wet harvest, and low yields, I believe we have some excellent quality fruit in to the winery, albeit around 40 per cent lower in quantity than average. The Pinot Noir is outstanding and the Riesling will be on a par with the previous few superior vintages.”

TASMANIA

Just in from the team at Brown Brothers.

“Things are off to a rapid and exciting start with sparkling Chardonnay and Pinot Noir showing early flavour development along with good acid levels.”

“Harvesting of Pinot Noir has commenced in earlier-ripening subregions, with the fruit showing strong colour and flavour concentration. The real highlight to date is the fruit purity and condition, along with consistency of ripening. There is a nice spectrum of ripeness allowing a relatively orderly harvest schedule.”

“The lack of rainfall has resulted in very low disease pressure which is also helping in this regard. Yields to date to be have been consistently favourable, with some areas like Tamar Valley, showing above-average yields. When coupled with the very high quality seen to date, the 2019 vintage is shaping to be an outstanding one in Tasmania.”

For more wine news, check out our dedicated 'Wine News' section. 

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