Here’s a variety of shots taken over what has been a winter that has been mostly wet, very wet! As you get all sorts of weather in between, from the sometimes sunny days which serve as the sucker punch to the days of howling wind & driving rain. The rain is welcome though as it has been in deficit of recent years so this sustained soak will hopefully work its way down deeper into our soils. This will help get our vines into a favourable space for budburst and hopefully vintage 2017 overall.
As the new year begins, the path leading to our 2015 harvest has now entered its eighth month. Each vintage starts from the commencement of pruning, as this is where the template for the harvest is (literally) laid down. Since the completion of pruning, budburst began on the 11th of September, which is later than last year but this is historically speaking still earlier than say 10 years ago. That said, it has been a case of so far, so good with the growing cycle in vineyard as we have successfully navigated the inherent frost risks of the cool climate of the Macedon Ranges, along with maintaining adequate moisture to the vines at key points throughout the below average rainfall we have/haven’t received going way back to last August. The weather itself has been fairly moderate, with only a few days reaching above 35 degrees (so far). This relatively balanced weather, along with robust vine & soil health contributed to a successful flowering period throughout the vineyard which has resulted in good yields along with healthy looking bunches. But it’s early days as harvest is at least 14 weeks away, and January & February is being predicted to particularly hot by our good friends at the Bureau of Meteorology, so as they say, it’s not over till it’s over! Meanwhile for a different perspective of Curly Flat, below are some aerial photos taken of the vineyard back at the start of December 2014, along with a photo denoting the successful flowering. Next step for us now in the vineyard is to do a population sample of the bunches which allows us to gather an approximate tonnage for harvest in a few months time. We’ll keep you update on how this vintage unfolds, but by all means come and visit us and talk to us first hand, along with a wine tasting of some Curly Flat to help celebrate the new year that lays ahead!
This week has seen the first of our picking for Vintage 2014. It has started off small, firstly a parcel of Chardonnay picked on Tuesday and then yesterday the first of our Pinot Noir. It has been a difficult year for all growers, some more than others. After months of no real rainfall to speak of, we have now had approximately 19 mm over the last 24 hours, with an uncertain forecast for the coming week – we are ready and waiting! Below are some images from the first Pinot pick.
Although 1st of September marks the start of spring (in Australia), this date is a simplification as true spring starts with the arrival of the spring equinox on the 23rd of September. This is when the plane of the Earth’s poles are the same distance from the Sun. The amount of daylight is roughly equal to its absence, heralding the true exit of winter as the daylight hours increase from there on. In the cool climate of the Macedon Ranges, classically budburst begins occurs from anywhere from late September to early-mid October, roughly following the spring equinox. But this year budburst has followed the calendar with almost bullet precision, occurring on the 3rd of September.
So this year (or vintage) is already different from any other as we have now had our earliest budburst, 10 days earlier than any other on record. The dates below relate to the past 5 vintages plus this current year:
- 2008 – 19th September (Vintage 2009)
- 2009 – 29th September (Vintage 2010)
- 2010 – 11th October (Vintage 2011)
- 2011 – 13th September (Vintage 2012)
- 2012 – 19th September (Vintage 2013)
- 2013 – 3rd September (Vintage 2014)
It is worth noting that an early budburst doesn’t necessarily mean it will be an early vintage, far from it. Our warmest winter was in 2001 (average of 10°C) but it led to our coldest growing season which culminated with the 2002 vintage. The next warmest winter was that of 2005 (average of 9.9°C) which did lead to warm growing conditions, and the resulting 2006 vintage is one of our most celebrated. This winter was the third warmest for us (average of 9.8°C) and with the above in mind, the passage of weather can be cold, hot and everything in between, all of which effects the ultimate harvest date. The best indicator of harvest date though is flowering & fruit set. If that is early, then harvest will most probably be early too and vice versa if it is late. We’ll keep you posted on that.
From there the longer term forecast (from the BOM) is for moderate to above average warmth and above average rainfall. With the weather still not committing to being in a La Nina/El Nino pattern, but rather remaining in a neutral state, this can lead to wetter than ‘normal’ conditions, but not as prolific as it would be if it were in La Nina pattern. So as always we wait and see what the year delivers and of course we look forward to hopefully putting it into bottle.
Now that the dust from Vintage 2013 has settled, we can now look back.
This harvest was the most contracted, in terms of the time taken between our first and last pick, since full production began in 2004. By full production we mean when each of our 7 blocks each began producing wine grapes simultaneously, which usually takes up to 4 years from initial planting. This years narrow picking window was not unique to our vineyard, but for the majority of viticultural Australia. Nonetheless, our crop was kept in balance with the seasons particular ebb and flow which ultimately delivered fruit to the winery at an optimal balance between sugar (alcohol potential) and natural acidity. Now that all wine is settled in barrel (or tank) for maturation, we are now getting a glimpse of what is ahead in terms of potential. Whilst the road that lays ahead of these wines remains long, early indications are promising. The last element missing from the wine now, is time, and for the only thing for that is to wait! But as our custodial role in the winery continues, albeit at a calmer pace compared to harvest, the same cannot be said for the vineyard. Although the vines are now dormant, we enter one of our busiest times in the vineyard with pruning. Marking the beginning of Vintage 2014, correct, balanced, pruning sets the vine up for the best possible start come bud burst in September, and also well into the growing season. Balanced vine equals balanced wine! Pruning started this year on May the 29th. We’ll post more on pruning and its importance in the coming weeks.
But to wrap up this Vintage just passed, we would like give special mention to the vintage crew of 2013. Come to our cellar door and we’ll invariably talk about what a great team we have, who work day in, day out, to especially high standards, which we feel, reflects in the wine. Come to think of it might be fair to say we equally bottle passion as we do wine (if there’s a difference!) But each vintage, to varying degrees, we need a few helping hands and this year we had one of the most diverse, yet wonderfully integrated vintage crews since being in the business. We mentioned diverse, as the crew came from all over the world, Phillip described it as being akin to the United Nations. With one major difference though, everyone got along! Thanks for being part of our excellent team, whether it was in the vineyard or winery, or both. An outstanding vintage is only made possible by an outstanding team. Well done, Bravo, 勇敢な & braver!
“The United Nations” were comprised as follows:
- Louis (France)
- Pam (USA)
- Florence (France)
- Blair (AUS)
- Serge (Switzerland)
- Ilaria (Italy)
- Nicola (France)
- Sarah (Japan)
- Daniel (Italy)
Since our last post, the first blushes of veraison have now begun to cast its hue upon select areas of our vineyard. Currently, and for the last several weeks, our vineyard team have been fruit thinning. The warm dry conditions over November-December were favourable for flowering and so led to a high rate of pollination, giving our canopy a healthy crop. We are now reducing that yield to not only increase quality, but to also balance the fruit load to the canopy so as to give optimal opportunity to ripen by (around) April. Fruit thinning before veraison serves the vines resources better as they don’t then waste energy ripening fruit that is going to be dropped anyway.
Our team have done a great job of keeping ahead of the building wave of varietal colour and therefore helps the vines by lowering vine stress and increasing potential leaf retention for next 8 weeks plus of ripening.
The canopy itself bears mentioning as its greenery bears a stark contrast to the parched landscape that not only surrounds us, but also runs its drying fingers throughout our vineyard’s inter rows. Check out this video to see what we’re on about.
Looking at that footage, we have to stretch to recall the record breaking rainfall back in 2011 and the accompanying good winter rains of 2012, but if we needed a reminder, it is here now in the evidence of the canopy. But this alone still would not have been enough, it goes much deeper than that. Great soil health continues to increase due to the now 7 year absence of herbicides, effectively timed fertigation, successive years of balanced pruning, an alert team and responsive management have all weaved together to manifest into the canopy we see today. Nothing good comes easy!
But the challenge to keep this canopy has only just begun. Looking at the 3 month rainfall (Feb-Apr) outlook from the Bureau of Meteorology, there is a 75% chance of exceeding 50 to 100 mm for that period (in our area). Our long term average rainfall figures for the same period is 144 mm, but with current drying trend, that figure seems unlikely. On the other hand cooler days and nights are also predicted, and if this is true, it will take some evaporative pressure off the vineyard. But maintaining the health of the canopy is one thing, the next is protecting the fruit! Due to the extremely dry conditions, bird pressure has started early this year, so our bird radar system is now in effect as well as the usual myriad of avian counter measures.
In the meantime we are beyond motivated to do all we can to bring in one of, if not the best vintage to date… but as always only time will tell and there’s still plenty of that until harvest. So while the dry spell looks set to continue, there’s (at least) two things to remember about weather; you never know what will happen & careful what you wish for!