Never have more winemakers in Australia sat around doing nothing than right now – vintage is running behind.
It’s up to a month late in some areas including in parts of the Barossa.
A far cry from all of those early, compressed vintages of days gone by.
The wild, wet, windy spring – fueled by La Nina – was to blame, when viticulturists were called on to perform miracles.
Sometimes knee deep in mud.
The good news is that much of southern Australia has enjoyed fine, sunny ripening conditions for much of this year.
Yes it’s late (although the Hunter started picking two weeks ago), but everyone we spoke to says the same thing – it’s going to be worth the wait.
Simon Tolley says it’s been a tough slog in the Adelaide Hills – and yes vintage is late.
“It’s going well,” he says, “but apart from the 2011 season (where it was most challenging around ripening time), it’s probably been one of the most challenging seasons I have had in 22 years.
“This season, the spring period was the most challenging.
“While we were trying to protect vines from disease, we’ve had wind, rain, hail and tractor boggings making efficiencies very challenging – let alone the cost of labour and materials.
“At one point, it looked like the vine’s shoots had been through a washing machine.
“The good news is that we’ve come out of it ok, yields will probably be at average or below.
“But I’ll take that given the challenges.”
Sarah Crowe from Yarra Yering says, “Our viticultural brothers and sisters deserve a medal for continuing to get up each day and fight the good fight.
“It’s been the toughest growing season we can remember at Yarra Yering and off the back of two tough years.
“Inputs are up and crops are down but we remain positive because we will have delicious wine to drink at the end of it all.
“Instead of the hug Winsor campaign, we should all hug a Viti!”
Winemaker Duncan Kennedy from Kay Brothers in McLaren Vale says things are chugging along at a steady pace.
“Just as they have for the last 133 years,” he says.
“It will be a very late year.
“In 2002 Block 6 was harvested on 27 March, the latest on record.
“Last year it was 25 March, this year is tracking later than last year, could be a new record?
“Speaking of records November was wet, damn wet. We had 110 mm, the wettest since 1964.
“Even the Amery creek was running.”
Raquel Jones from Weathercraft Wine in Beechworth says they are happily into veraison now.
“A relief to see colour across the vineyard,” she says.
“With harvest delayed this vintage, there’s been lots of time to catch up on tasks put on hold during the previous wet weather – the winery has never looked so clean!
“Yields are slightly down on last year, but we’re excited for what looks to be an amazing quality vintage.”
It’s also late at Best’s Great Western. “We are about four weeks later than last year, which is due to poor spring rains and very little heat,” Nicole Thomson says.
“We then were hit with a lot of summer rain which required 24 hours a day of spraying, and then more spraying.
“I think Ben was swearing too hard at the heavens, and they decided to open up even more.
“Luckily we have had some really warm days over the last month to start the ripening process.
“Warm days, cool nights – the best conditions. Veraison only really started beginning of February.”
“All that aside it looks like a very good crop with lots of fruit, which after last year’s low yield, we are grateful.
“There’s a lot of hen and chicken, but luckily the harvesters leave the smaller berries on the vines and only pick the ripe ones.”
Fingers crossed for all the growers out there. We all need a good year regardless.
Daniel Redman from Redman in Coonawarra says, “Red grapes started veraison this week.
“Weather feels like autumn – warm days, cool nights.
“We will probably start picking Shiraz at the start of April.”
Things are running behind in Clare, too.
“Everything is rock hard,” says Stephanie Toole from Mount Horrocks.
“There are no signs of veraison and we are welcoming this current weather.
“Happily the vineyards are looking great, healthy and happy so everything should push on.
“Yields look slightly down on last year but we haven’t done our estimates yet as no veraison.”
Xanadu winemaker Glenn Goodall says everything is going well in Margaret River.
“Vintage should kick off in the next couple of weeks in Margs, and will definitely be in full swing by March,” he says.
“Margaret River experienced a relatively cool/wet spring with extended flowering for Chardonnay in particular.
“However, things warmed up in December and we have pretty much had perfect growing conditions ever since, with fine warm weather and no heat extremes to speak of.
“We’re probably a week or two later than usual after the slow start to the season, but things are looking great in the vineyards.
“Bird nets have been going out frantically all over the region for the last few weeks, as there doesn’t seem to be a lot of Marri blossom around this year.
“V23 is shaping up very well; and on a different note, it’s nice to have a big contingent of international/interstate workers back in the region, which always contributes to a great pre-vintage vibe around town.
“The photo is our Lagan Estate Chardonnay Vineyard… just another couple of weeks to go before we start pulling the pin on some Gingin grenades.”