Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's a busy time of year!

Time off from daily grind of 7am-3pm tastings for the Wine Companion, last night (Monday) with a wonderful dinner hosted by Jacques Thienpont and wife Fiona Morrison MW featuring the wines of Vieux Chateau Certan and the legendary Le Pin from ‘06, $3000 a bottle, and one was corked! Jacques Reymond (normally closed Monday night) opened specially for the dinner, the dishes showing – yet again – why this is Australia’s best French-based (with a strong fusion accent) restaurant. Off to an assignation with one of the three specialist dentist attending to various teeth this afternoon, then direct to Tullamarine on the way to Adelaide, thence tomorrow to the Riverland for an in-depth (forgive the pun) look at alternative varieties. An unplanned but fortuitous insight into the trials and tribulations of the rain-sodden Riverland will also be interesting. Return Thursday night to resume tasting Friday, then a one-day dash to Sydney as keynote speaker at Warren Mason’s Sydney International Winemaker’s Gala Lunch, returning tastings Sunday, then non-stop for the next 9 days.

Monday, February 21, 2011

What impact will the weather have on this years harvest?

As each day passes, firsthand observers on the ground in the Riverland and Riverina provide evermore dramatic reports on the rampant spread of mildew and botrytis. One of the big company purchasers, that went into this season looking to buy more chardonnay, had seven harvesters picking 24 hours in one day, and taking 12,000 tonnes of chardonnay off the vines. The trucks waiting to receive the grapes were crammed into a 30-acre space. That was 24 hours before the most recent heavy rains hit. It’s such a dynamic situation that no one can predict how many tonnes will come out of Australian’s engine room this year, and I’m certainly not going to try. But it could be a frighteningly small number.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Tale of Three Yarra Vintages

2009: The vintage was largely over at this point, pinot noir judged unpickable by most producers (including their estate-grown fruit). Merlot, shiraz and cabernet were very problematical. The only bright point was chardonnay.

2010: Picking chardonnay began on Coldstream Hills’ home vineyard this day last year. It was the start of (another) early vintage, but one that was full of promise, and has delivered on that promise.

2011: Chardonnay sampled yesterday on our large home block was at 8 baume. Veraison is only complete in pinot noir and chardonnay, well behind for other varieties. A week ago, it was thought March 7 to March 10 would be a likely start for pinot and chardonnay, with a table wine (not sparkling) destination. Well, the current weather and the outlook for the next eight days doesn’t suggest any earlier start.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Noah’s Ark and Mount Ararat in the Yarra Valley

No one I have spoken to can remember so much rainfall in the growing season. Month after month the rain, as everyone knows, has continued, with regular periods of heavy rain. In the 24-hour period last Friday to Saturday 110mm were collected in the rain gauge at our (Suzanne and my) house. It is situated high on the Warramate Hills, with only forest (no roads or houses) further up the hill. But even here we have had water damage (of relatively minor extent). The Coldstream Hills winery and adjoining estate vineyards have not been affected, and in all our vineyards, constant vigilance and regular copper/sulphur sprays have prevented the outbreak of downy or powdery mildew, and botrytis. So far.

At this stage vintage will take place three weeks later than any vintage since 2002, and given a more reasonable weather pattern between now and early May, things are looking really good.

Others have been more affected. Franco D’Anna at Hoddles Creek Estate sent me the pictures of his vineyard and winery (pictured above), also on a hillside in the Upper Yarra Valley after 121mm on the weekend. Happily, the water did not rise further in the winery, so there is no damage, but a lot of cleaning up to do.