We are now almost picked out, with only 2 tonnes of Grenache for Rose and 2 tonnes of Henty Shiraz left out there. The weather has been very kind, warm and almost rain free (save a couple of mm today) and we should be all done by Wednesday, much earlier than usual. The reasons for this (and I’m pinching from viticulturist Kym Ludvigsen here) are a warm summer, a very dry growing season, previous season disease damage, poor flowering and consequently fruitset, and (this is my own theory) very healthy foliage promoting photosynthesis. All this means small bunches and berries, fewer of them, warm weather and vines that are raring to ripen fruit. So we’re picked out 2 weeks ahead of schedule.
I should be thrilled with this – early finish, small yeilds, no disease, good ripeness – and don’t get me wrong I am certainly that considering last year’s struggles to ripen anything, but I am slightly worried that the tannin and flavour development may not have been there when the sugar development was. In essence, should I have waited a little longer to pick, and coped with higher sugars for the sake of more flavour?
I am usually loathe to do this as I really don’t like wines with high alcohol. 14% is about as high as I think Grampians Shiraz should be, and generally my wines are low to mid 13s. This is just personal preference, and I’m aware of several exceptional wines from the region that creep up a lot higher, but that’s where I like to be, and I have chosen my blocks accordingly. The reason for my nagging doubt is that despite the warm, early season, most of the Shiraz wines don’t seem to carry a lot of fruit sweetness. I’m used to the opposite being the case, and employing techniques such as wholebunch fermentation and fermenting with ambient yeasts to try and make otherwise fruit-sweet wines more savoury, but the wines seem atypically savoury already this year. But at the same time, the structure of the shiraz is less commanding than in the past, except for those parcels that have been wholebunch fermented. True, I’ve gone pretty hard on the whole bunch this year, but I think I may have been lucky that I did – had I not there could have been some pretty boring, flaccid wines. But now, I have the situation where I have a lot of different batches that are incredibly tightly structured and ungenerous. I hope that they unwind a bit and become a little more supple with time in barrel, because if not they might take a few years to come around!
The Pinot noirs from Henty and Port Campbell look outstanding this year. Fantastic flavours, structure to burn and great acidity to back it up. I’m really pumped about the potential of these wines, and there may well be 2 single vineyard Pinots this year.
Riesling is seriously down on volume (we will only have about 40 dozen I think) but has amazing flavours and balance, and in contrast to 2011, ripe, borderline tropical flavours. I think people will love it.
The Marsanne/Roussanne/Viognier blend is still finishing ferment, but as the last of the sugar disappears the flavours have begun to crystalise and reveal themselves as yellow peach, ginger and apricot, with serious fruit weight. Alcohol should be low 13s, so I think the exuberance will be in check, but it will certainly be a more forward wine than last year’s floral, lemon and spice effort. Viva vintage variation!
The finishing line is in sight, but with one of our best Shiraz vineyards still to pick I have to keep my wits up for a couple more weeks before everything is tucked away in barrel and then I can exhale. Relax. and get back to the task of selling the stuff.