21 January 2019 |
Is it going to be a good vintage?
As winemakers, we often get asked by people about how the vintage is looking, and whether we’re expecting it to be a great vintage, a good vintage, or something lesser than we’d like.
Luckily for us in the Coonawarra, seldom do we have lesser vintages. It’s more common that we expect either a good or a great vintage as in general, we’re blessed with great conditions to grow grapes.
But how do we know?
Well, there are a whole lot of tell-tale signs leading up to the vintage that give us a good idea of how the vintage will look well before we harvest the grapes and make the wine. So, to give you some insight into what we look for, we thought we’d share just a few of the things:
Just the right amount of rain
Firstly, the condition of the vines is key and this relates to a whole bunch of environmental factors and vineyard management practices. Ideally, we’re looking for a relatively cool, consistent spring with some nice rains to keep the moisture levels up in the soil and ensure that as the vines start to grow all the foliage needed to produce the grapes that they’re not too stressed for water during this time.
Capturing the sunlight
It’s imperative that the vines grow enough leaves during the growing season as it is these leaves that capture the sunlight and convert it into energy for the vines to produce the fruit. If there are not enough leaves, the vine will struggle to produce the energy needed to produce the grapes, and the ones it does produce can get sunburnt. And if there are too many leaves, the quality of the grapes can be affected due to over-shading of the fruit, and it’s a waste of water.
Another sign we can look at is the amount of fruit that the vine is producing in the early stages of the growing season, and as the grapes begin to ripen, we look at the uniformity of the crop to make sure the bunches are all progressing nicely, and that the fruit sets properly into nicely shaped grapes.
Temperature and Sugar
And of course, as the grapes start to ripen and any early growing season concerns have been overcome, we can look at how the sugar is accumulating in the grapes as they ripen. Ideally what we need is sufficient rain early and then we don’t want too much rain during ripening as it dilutes the sugars, flavours etc. of the grapes. The other key factor is the temperature during the growing season as if the weather is too hot, the vines can shut down, they waste water and the leaves get burnt and thus can’t efficiently produce energy for the vine. If the weather is too cold, then the reduction in acidity/ sugar accumulation in the grapes take longer and in some cases, the grapes may never reach optimal ripeness.
So, in a nutshell, these are just an idea of what we can look for in our vineyard and the grapes prior to harvest which shows us what the crop loads will be like, and of course how the quality will look. Luckily for us, we’re nestled nicely in one of Australia’s best winegrowing regions, and it shows in our wines!