You might say summer has almost passed us, and indeed to some extent it has. However, the last two or three months we have experienced quite weird weather - everything from wondering when global warming was coming, to “phew, it ain't half hot mum”.
Fortunately there have been very welcome showers in between, and in some ways the vineyard has never looked better, with full canopies and dark green colours, which just vary a little in shading from variety to variety.
For us vintage started on 17th February with the Chardonnay coming off over night, and now we have to wait for the Savagnin in about a week's time, and the Pinot Gris a few days after.
It would appear that the grapes are ripening about 3 weeks earlier than the year before, and this is quite a remarkable thing when we look back just a few years ago where vintage hardly ever started until about the end of March.
Remember that Eden Valley is about 3 weeks behind Barossa, and with the nice cool ripening it just takes that longer time to reach the level of sweetness required.
From a crop point of view Chardonnay is a bit of a disaster, for indeed the previous 3 years drought has reduced the fruitfulness to the degree that we have only half the bunches that we normally do, however on the plus side the flavours are quite intense.
Savagnin looks good and is indeed ripening nice and slowly, with a better than average crop - around 10 tonnes per hectare, whereas Pinot Gris has gone berserk, and indeed we look forward to not only quality but also quantity - 12 tonnes per hectare.
Zinfandel only a moderate crop again, and will be selected for the dark bunches at the time of picking by hand.
Meslier - as ever, just a small crop, but indeed much better than the previous two years.
Merlot, all clones - the whole five, are showing extremely well, and some will most likely reach the 8 to 10 tonnes per hectare level this year. Here the full canopy will play a large part in getting the ripeness needed, and we can taste that they are rapidly reaching this right now, so we would expect the end of March/early April to be the picking time.
Our Springhill Vineyard in Eden Valley is somewhat unique in that it is indeed a gravel hill, where the vines grow very, very slowly themselves while producing, in most year, an excellent full canopy, and this is where we get much of the deep flavour into each variety that gives us the edge.
As an industry I think the whole world is aware that there are some difficulties in Australia. However, as is so often the case, the fine wine trade that we are in seems to continue at its moderate pace, being less afflicted by these vagaries.
The vines are getting older and the flavours are getting more complex, and this year we will release (at least bottle), the first of the single clone Merlot, the D3V7. This clone has shown beautiful prune and ripe raspberry characters at a much lower baume (around 13.5) than the original clone planted so widely in Australia (D3V14).
So we are more than interested to see the wine after a year in bottle, for indeed we have high hopes for it as being a truly excellent example of premium Merlot.
As we go into March the days will shorten, and hopefully there will be no more 36° days. Fortunately the nights have been quite cold, and so a long ripening, and in turn this helps in developing the intensity of flavour.
I look forward to writing the end of vintage report, for indeed Joanne has now her own micro-winery. Joanne and Peter Carr, her partner, have established this micro-winery to take care of the smaller parcels of wine which so many of the other wineries don't want (under 5 tonnes). Fortunately it will also give us the opportunity to make a number of the wines from Springhill the way we always wanted to make them and weren't necessarily able to in the past.
On top of this it will also give us the chance to make highly specialized wines for our mail order system in small quantities but great in interest., the first of which is already planned and almost finished fermenting.
The Irvine family trust that life is treating you well and that you are enjoying the fruits of our labours from time to time.
22 February 2010