Vintage 2019 Report
With the last ferment, our Old Vine Grenache finished and in the press two days before Easter it's always a good feeling to have another vintage under the belt and done and dusted.
Dusted being the word this year, one of the driest in my Dad John’s memory (and he’s been growing grapes in the Barossa for 70 odd years) it was a challenging one to say the least.
The dry winter of last year always has the old boys of the region talking a word which we try not to mention or think about too much, little soil or atmospheric moisture leads to cold nights and you guessed it that word is….
One of the coldest nights we’ve seen back in late September took its toll on the Valley, temperatures dropping below minus 3 degrees Celsius and with some areas vine growth well advanced it wasn’t a good recipe for the new shoots.
Some areas were 70-90% wiped out with vine shoots turning from a healthy green in the morning to a crispy black by later in the day.
Our vineyards around the winery were amazingly left untouched however some of our A grade vineyards in the Northern Barossa were hit pretty hard, losing 40-60% of the tiny new shoots and wooly buds.
While other blocks of ours were protected by the 10 metre high frost fans my parents started installing in the mid-1990s.
Thank goodness for that investment!
Moving through summer we had some extremely strong winds for extended periods of time which took out some vine shoots and small green berries through rubbing.
The biggest challenge of the summer proved to be the effects of the dry winter (300mm, that’s 60% of an average annual rainfall) and some extreme January hot weather. The mercury on the hottest day even hitting a scorching 46 degrees!
It took some very well thought out irrigation management and timing to keep everything in a good place for the post veraison (colouring of the berries) ripening period.
With the berries now changing colour in late January we were crossing our fingers for some milder weather, especially given the dry as a bone summer we were experiencing.
Luckily a milder February gave the berries a chance to ripen at a nice controlled rate and the flavours started to develop beautifully.
The first variety to harvest was our much love white variety, Vermentino, the Italian variety which is no stranger to a hot and dry summer. While the crop was low we haven’t seen it so well balanced and flavours so even across the vineyard. Harvested on the 26th of February it had a lovely combination of crisp natural acidity and flavours of citrus and pear. Looking great and to be bottled in Early May 2019. Keep an eye out for this one!
From there it was closely followed by the Shiraz which ripened up fast after a hot 3-4 days. As expected the crop was light! Dad did warn me the crop would be extremely low, my estimates were 30% down and thought he must be exaggerating.
You guessed it! He was right and the yields came in well below 50% across most blocks. Shows what effect rain has on yields and I’ll eat my words and remember to take the experienced estimates of Dad on board next time!
What the Shiraz lacked for in yield it made up for in colour and intensity. Tiny berries means a high ratio of skin to pulp and that really made for some of the inkiest black wines we’ve ever seen come through our winery doors.
Backed up with some big ripe tannins and intense flavours it is certainly looking like a BIG bodied Barossa vintage that will benefit from some ageing in good oak barrels for 12-18 months. Building structure and mid palate weight to the bold up front fruit power of the wines.
The Old Vine blocks also looking great in the early stages, barrel ferments for the Forgotten Hero 1951 and Zen Master 1912 Shiraz Vineyards (Pictured above).
The later ripening varieties were ready a couple weeks after the Shiraz and it looks like there could be some standouts in the mix here.
The Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Mataro, Montepulciano and Durif ripened and a nice slow and even rate. These wines show excellent balance of flavour, acidity, tannin ripeness and length.
My bias aside to the variety Montepulciano it is looking like a standout alongside John and Barb’s old vine Grenache. While we haven’t bottled a vintage of the old vine Grenache since 2012 this vintage along with the 2018 both are looking ripe, juicy and packing a big flavour punch.
My final word on the 2019 vintage: Dry, hot and dusty with a heap of grape growing challenges yet with a silver lining of intense colour, flavour and outstanding parcels of fruit. Stay tuned for these upon release.
Author: Andrew Kalleske
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From its origins as a grape bred for disease resistance to its rise to prominence in California and Australia, Durif has carved a path of distinction.
From California to Rutherglen and beyond now to the Barossa, its velvety texture, dark fruit flavors, and hints of pepper leave a lasting impression on those fortunate enough to experience it.