A cool summer produced wines for drinking relatively young
Although early indications were that Australian red wine makers had made a better fist of it, this season never really allowed the bulk of the wineries in the south-eastern corner of the country to overcome its difficulties, which were numerous and varied. Winter was cold and wet and continued not only throughout the growing season, but in the south-eastern areas the poor weather never really let up throughout ripening. The Barossa was hampered by early hail and storm damage in October and December and most South Australian and Victorian regions experienced difficulty in achieving full ripeness in their reds. The Hunter Valley and Margaret River enjoyed drier and warmer conditions.
In a year of few highlights, some firm Margaret River and Great Southern cabernet blends from Western Australia did present some excellent quality, while the Hunter Valley had another good year for its spicy, leathery shiraz directly after the exceptional 1986 vintage. Despite the difficulties the region encountered, the Barossa produced some memorable if more elegant shiraz than usual, while some promising merlot came from the Yarra Valley and Coonawarra.
While the Margaret River cabernets from Moss Wood and Cape Mentelle again led the way, some surprisingly fine-grained Barossa shiraz came from Peter Lehmanns Stonewell label and Eldertons Command Shiraz brand. First-rate Hunter shiraz with typically complex and intense flavours and surprising fineness was made by Tulloch and Brokenwood, while Botobolar and Huntington Estate in Mudgee made memorable and robust cabernets. Most of the top Penfolds reds were meaner and leaner than their usual standard, but the Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon was at the forefront of a small number of top Coonawarra reds which also included Petalumas blend and Katnook Estates merlot.