Challenging harvest heat and rain in eastern half of continent, while plain sailing in Western Australia. Inconsistent quality but some fine examples across the appellations – going on four stars.
Invigorating spring rains, warm summer days, evenly-ripened fruit – all was poised for a perfect vintage. But just as growers began harvesting later-ripening red varietals in eastern Australia, a brutal, 15-day heatwave caused mayhem. Its epicentre was the key South Australia appellations around Adelaide (Clare, Barossa, McLaren Vale etc) but the heat extended into Victoria and NSW.
Sugar levels rocketed, grapes shrivelled. Growers scrambled to pick outstanding red parcels (particularly Cabernet Sauvignon) but fermentation tanks were full and the last of the fruit remained on the vine or came in just too concentrated. Harvest ended abruptly, a month earlier than forecast.
Coastal Victoria remained cooler, while to the north of NSW Hunter Valley and Mudgee vineyards were deluged ahead of picking: grapes swelled and split, rot took hold and yields dropped up to 85% in places. Western Australia had it easy by comparison: low yields but a benign vintage and good results were achieved relatively easily.
Picked pre heatwave, South Australia Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are beautifully fruity, even glossily opulent if not especially muscular.
McLaren Vale, Barossa and Clare Valley Shiraz are complex, rich and fragrant. Southern Fleurieu Shiraz has great intensity, while Limestone Coast’s Wrattonbully is particularly savoury, with ripe, chewy tannins. Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon is outstanding – intense colour, seductive aromatics, dark fruit flavours, fine tannins; Clare Valley’s intensely fruity.
From Western Australia, Margaret River Cabernet excels – classic herby, cedar and violet flavours – while Frankland River is more redcurranty. Frankland’s Shiraz is equally stylish, as are those from Victoria’s Pyrenees region.
There’s some finesse in Yarra Valley Pinot Noirs, with their bright fruit and strawberry nuances, while Tasmania Pinot Noirs offer enticing aromas, dark spice aromatics and silky tannins. Barossa Pinot Noir grapes beat the heatwave and there are fine examples.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA: McLaren Vale – Nugan Estate, Angove Family Vineyards, Pieri, Wakefield, Primo Estate, Battle of Bosworth Wines, Chapel Hill, D’Arenberg, Dowie Doole, Ekhidna, Fox Creek, Gemtree, La Curio, Leconfield; Barossa Valley – Glaetzer Wines, Two Hands Wines, John Duval, Fetish, Dandelion Vineyards, Yalumba, Kies Family Wines, McGuigan, Running With Bulls; Southern Fleurieu: Tapanappa; Coonawarra – Leconfield. Hollick; Clare Valley – Jim Barry, Wakefield; Adelaide Hills – Shaw and Smith; WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Margaret River – Fermoy Estate, Xanadu, Fraser Gallop Estate, Voyager Estate; Great Southern – Howard Park, Palandri; NSW: Hunter Valley – McWilliam’s; Hilltops – Hungerford Hill, Moppity Vineyards; VICTORIA: McPherson Wines, Bindi; Yarra Valley – Oakridge, Seville Estate; Mornington Peninsula – Yabby Lake Vineyard.