The lead up to vintage 2013 saw perfect ripening conditions with cool nights and dry warm days. After the 2012 vintage being one of our best there were high hopes for another of that quality and 2013 did not let us down. As well as being dry, the disease levels were the lowest for many years and fruit was very clean. There was effectively no rainfall for three months from December Harvested yields were down 10-30% from what was expected and demand for McLaren Vale fruit was high, particularly for Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Grenache. All of which were looking promising in terms of colour and flavour. First pick was the Traminer on 7/2/13 quickly followed by the Chardonnay and other whites. The first Shiraz arrived from our Malpas vineyard on the 20/2/13 and was quickly followed by our Merlot and Barbera. With the early start to vintage and the large amount of fruit ripening quickly some challenges were met in the winery with fermentation space. We were full by the end of the first week and stayed that way for 6 weeks. With milder weather setting in towards the end of vintage things slowed down a little allowing for good extraction times for the later Shiraz and Cab. Grenache came off clean and was a highlight of the vintage with good varietal character. The final crush was on the 17/4/13 witch saw the end of an intense vintage that saw 2590 tons of fruit turned into some of our best wines. A vintage of long shifts and late nights.
A wet beginning to the season with an average winter rainfall of 300-350mm did not persist with little rain received after November. Temperatures in excess of 42C were recorded on five consecutive days with vineyard peak temperatures reaching even higher. Daily temperatures were 12C or more above the normal average temperature between 13-17 January. Fruit shrivel and leaf burn in some areas evidenced the effect of the heat, whilst accompanying high winds which exacerbated conditions. This was followed by a rain event that bought some relief to the heat. About 40mm fell in 24 hours, raising concerns of fruit splitting. This meant the whites were picked earlier to beat the rain with the first Chardonnay coming off on the 24th of January for sparkling base quickly followed by the rest to beat the rain and the fear of disease. This fear was alleviated as berries took up water but predominantly didn’t split leading to a delayed start to the reds being picked. The Tempranillo and Shiraz started to roll in on the 17 of February and with the cooler nights the ripening slowed and so did the work load. Cabernet was a highlight with some early picks around the beginning of March showing amazing varietal character whilst having fruit weight. The later picks of Shiraz were left out with the cooler nights allowing for full fruit ripeness to be achieved and slowing down the harvest. This meant that the last crush was on the 23rd of April with the last pick of Merlot bringing the total crush to 2577 tons. As much as it was a chaotic start to vintage the end dragged on and the wines saw plenty of time in the fermenters to develop good palate weight and structure. This shows through particularly in the alternative varieties such as Tempranillo and Sangiovese that were a highlight for me.
McLaren Vale experienced one of the earliest vintages on record in 2015 with mild weather playing an important role for the region with only a handful of hot days and 30mm of rain at the end of January. This freshened up the vines and kick-started veraison. With cool nights and a mild February the fruit ripened evenly retaining great colour and balance. The vineyards had good canopies despite the dry season witch added to earlier ripening and earlier picking . This favourable weather allowed natural acids with low PH levels to develop. The crop levels were down on average that led to greater concentration and clean varietal expression with fine tannins and excellent balance .They were powerful but restrained. This can often mean wines with good ageing ability. With vintage starting on the 23rd of January and finishing on the 8th of April this was the first vintage for a decade where the winery was finished crushing by Easter. A welcome rest for the cellar after an intense vintage .
With lower than average rainfall in the lead up to vintage and a colder than average September the vintage was always looking like a more concentrated and intense one. The weather in November and December heated up and with warm nights and above average days leading to an early start to harvest on the 27th of January. With vintage under way we received a welcome rain event between the 29th of January and the 3rd of February with 44mm of rain falling over the valley. This slowed up the vintage and was a welcome relief from the dry dust conditions. With a slightly lower tonnage than usual and a nice cool end to vintage the wines were highly aromatic with gentle acidity and moderate alcohol levels.
Started of with good winter rainfall that replenished the soil after a long dry spell through 2015 and 2016. This meant that the vines flourished leading into flowering and fruit set was good. A cool beginning to summer with only 2 days over 40'c made for good ripening and less stress on the vines. This led to higher than average yields and good quality fruit. With the slower ripening period the vintage was late to kick off with the first fruit arriving on the 23rd of Feb. This was roughly two weeks later than the average. Yields were excellent across all varietals, colour and natural acidity outstanding with generous full-flavoured fruit characters shining through. The large crops in the shiraz led to some fruit being left out to achieve a higher than usual ripeness allowing for a greater spectrum to blend from. Although a long vintage is not everyone's favourite it was definitely one of the best in the recent years .With the mix of weather we have been having in the ripening season it is proving to be a challenging one as far as predicting the crop levels and quality. We have seen above average rainfall for the later parts of last year that has slowed the progress of the vines and given us a slower ripening period. Although this may lead to some disease pressure on early ripening varieties such as Chardonnay and Tempranillo it will also allow for full fruit ripeness to be achieved before the sugar levels reach maturity. This will inevitably lead to lower alcohol levels in the finished wines and bring McLaren Vale wines back towards a cooler climate style. This style seems to be the flavour profiles preferred by the market at the moment and is reflected in the wine show results as a preferred direction. At this stage vintage is still looking to be a few weeks away with small amounts of colour appearing in the Tempranillo and the Chardonnay showing signs of softening. Sparkling base at this rate will be ready by the later parts of February followed closely by the other whites. The reds should be seen by the middle of March with some later varieties hanging out until after Easter this year. The outlook for more cool weather may push this out by another week but we will be into full swing by the end of February The long term effect of the higher than average rainfall is a huge benefit to the vineyards . It has allowed for a reduction of the build up of the salts in the soils and a healthier growing environment for the vines. This will lead to better quality wines from the McLaren Vale vineyards for years to come.
Bring on the sunshine….
Good winter rains leading into vintage allowed for good vigour and the dry spring allowed for good set and a lack of disease in the McLaren Vale vineyards. A small hailstorm did hit during October but most of the vines weren’t damaged as they were not flowering. Budburst occurred during September and the following dry December and January led to a great start to the crush of Chardonnay on the 1st of February. The reds followed soon after with our Malpas Shiraz and Rivers lane being picked quite early. Crop levels were quite good. With a warm January and a mild February crops ripened evenly and had good balanced natural acidity and good fruit ripeness. As the vintage progressed the later varieties came in evenly allowing for plenty of time on skins and good extraction leading to good concentration particularly in the later shiraz and Grenache. A standout was the Monti that comes off last and had a perfect ripening period with very little rain and cool nights. Vintage finished on the 11th of April and was a standout for concentration of flavour and fruit expression.
A lack of late winter rainfall and a dry windy end to the growing season led to some challenges for the 2019 vintage. A wind and hail event in late November affected the set of the fruit in some blocks that led to less tons but a greater concentration of fruit on the vine. A need for consistent irrigation and water management was essential to maintain the crop levels leading into vintage 2019. With the start of vintage on the 6 of February the whites came of with below average tonnages on most blocks but showing good fruit concentration and great balance. The reds followed soon after with a burst of hot weather pushing daytime temps into the 40s and the beaume of the reds up faster than usual. This led to a fast and furious start to ferment and an interesting mix of fruit across the weighbridge with Cabernet and Grenache being picked earlier than usual. The milder nights due to the maritime location and the higher than usual acidities meant the end of vintage slowed down and gave us some breathing space. Once the fruit ripeness caught up to the beaume we saw some amazing concentration and depth to the fruit flavours. With a lower tonnage and some amazing later parcels we were able to leave wines on skins for longer and slow down the end of vintage to the 10th of April. Although we were down on tons for the vintage the extra time led to some amazing parcels of fruit such as the Nebbiolo and some of our new plantings of Grenache and Montepulciano.
With a slower than usual start to vintage and below average rainfall through the earlier part of the ripening season vintage is finally under way. A lower than average set and low soil moisture has seen some challenges with the vineyards that we are seeing in volumes of fruit. We saw our first crush on the 6/2 with the early pick Sharktooth Chardonnay coming in at 10 beaume . This was pressed off and has now finished ferment . It was blended with some older material and is already being bottled next week. The other whites then flowed in with bright acid and clean fruit. The nights were cold and the days were mild allowing for good flavour retention and even ripening. Crops were slightly down on tons but the quality was up. The weather was kind with a threatening front and potential downpour turning into a refreshing shower and a slight wind change. The reds were in need of a drink by this stage and the vines lapped up every drop. The first reds arrived at the winery on the 19/2. The Tempranillo was the first off with the balance of bright clean acidity with lower sugars and good fruit ripeness for the Bellissimo style. Soon after came the Rivers lane block that goes to the Teramoto. This block naturally ripens earlier with good fruit intensity and amazing concentration. We saw unusually low pH and bright natural acids in the first picks this year that will lead to wines with great longevity and balance. The one row Barbera was a standout with good fruit ripeness at a low pH . We then worked our way through our Malpas vineyard and picked a number r of blocks including some early Cabernet that showed amazing varietal character and a hint of greenness that will be great for blending. During this week we have moved into the Shark block picking a few parcels of the riper Shirazes and starting to take some Grenache from Blewit Springs and the ranges. Beaume have been slightly higher than usual with fruit concentration and flavour looking above average. With a nice warm beginning to this week we saw our other alternative varieties come on with Sangiovase being picked today and Neb Monti and Lagrein early next week. At this rate we will pick through the last of the Grenache by the middle of the following week and the Monti will in soon after. Although crop levels are slightly down, through good water management and strong canopy cover through the ripening period we have escaped the lower crop levels that other regions are experiencing. I think this will be a vintage that is remembered for having its challenges but the wines will shine through with great concentration and good fruit balance.
The early stages of ripening were quite stressful for winemakers in 2021 - November 2020 was the driest since 1990 and it was a definite hard end to spring. November also proved to have the equal highest average daily maximum temperature for the growing season (27.5°C tied with January), this is a rare occurrence. One of the warmest days for the season was on November 27th which was 38.8°C. There was mild weather through December. There were only two days above 35°C. January was slightly hotter but still below average. The temperatures in February were ideal with no days above 35°C and temperatures staying around the high 20s and low 30s each day. Veraison in red grapes and softening in whites was later than typical early February, and ripening was steady .This led to the whites being picked with good acidity and ripe fruit characters. The first crush was the 1st of February with Traminer and Chardonnay for sparkling base. Other white varieties followed soon after with a standout being the Fiano on the 17th of February showing amazing varietal flavours. Tempranillo was also picked on the 17th of February with bright cherry fruit characters for the Bellissimo range. Shiraz followed soon after from the Rivers Lane block and even some early Cabernet on the 19th from the Malpas block. During the early part of March, the vintage really took off with warm days, cool nights and an abundance of fruit, giving perfect ripening conditions and pushing the wineries capacity to its limits. Towards the end of March the rest of the alternatives came in with Sangiovese and Nebbiolo looking amazing. Grenache came on strong from Blewitt Springs in the beginning of April, showing good concentration of flavour along with balanced acid. The vintage finished up on the 16th of April with later picked Shiraz for the Vintage Port at 18.5 Beaume. The reported crush of wine grapes from McLaren Vale was 36,659 tonnes in 2021, up by 28% compared with the 2020 reported crush of 28,751 tonnes. Serafino’s final crush was 3092 ton and will be one of the best vintages of the last decade for quality.