The 2011 vintage will certainly make its mark in history as far as the Irvine Springhill vineyard is concerned, and I guess many others in the surrounding districts of Eden and Barossa Valleys.
It was indeed a most unusual and most difficult year. After such a magnificent start with the full-on winter rains, we were led into a complacency that we were in for a great, great year. However, Mother Nature had other ideas!
As the grapes started to grow we saw the first signs in the district of powdery and downy mildew, and the rains continued, and plenty of it.
Veraison at the end of January was soon followed by indications of botrytis and other nasty moulds, so the hunt was well and truly on to protect the crop even further than we had in the previous three months from flowering.
No doubt you can guess what happened. The spray materials were just unavailable, and so we moved from supplier to supplier and state to state to get whatever small supplies we could. Even so we just managed to get enough, but couldn't save the Meslier or the Zinfandel from the botrytis.
Obviously we are very thankful that we had good crops of the rest of the varieties, and in fact the Chardonnay was absolutely superb.
Even now, as the last of the Merlot is finishing ferment in tank we don't really know what the standard will be for at least another six months. By then everything will be obvious.
Once again we were fortunate enough to be able to separate each block from the other throughout the vineyard because of Joanne and Peter's micro-winery.
The baumes were somewhat lower than we would have liked, but then amongst our emails was a super congratulatory note about our 1985 Grand Merlot - the first we ever made - which had been opened in April this year, and this was a wine of 13.5% alcohol, not our usual 14.5%. Well might you say that this is an important fact, but you have to remember that it has been in the bottle 26 years and not many businesses survive waiting 26 years to sell their products.
Autumn now has started to give way to winter. The leaves went yellow extremely quickly and there are some people out pruning, enjoying the glorious sunny days, even though they are cold.
Now the interesting wait to see how the 2011 wines turn out. Currently the only two we know of are the Savagnin and the Pinot Gris, both of which are a little fresher and crisper this year because of those lower baumes.
2011, as the grape growers say, was a year when the winemakers really had to work! No doubt there will be great wines, and not so great wines, so there may well be a lot of searching going on in the next couple of years.