A very good vintage throughout Australia; excellent Penfolds Grange
I love a sunburned country But not only was 1983 in many parts a genuine drought year and a second consecutive one at that but in other Australian regions the harvest began once the drought had broken and how! This was the year of Ash Wednesday, the horrifying climax of a long and extended dry which left huge areas of eastern and western Australia burned under some of the worst bushfires in history. Flames licked the Grosset vineyard in Clare and although damage to vineyards was minimal, jokes about Fume Cabernets were not uncommon. Worse was to follow when on March 2, just after some early red vineyards were harvested, hailstorms preceded drenching rains over most of the south-east.
While some Barossa and McLaren Vale vineyards were able to be harvested before the weather turned, yields were very poor and reds were generally dark and excessively tannic, the result of pitifully small berries with thick, cooked skins. Coonawarra and the south-east of South Australia had a disastrous time as the constant deluge encouraged perhaps the worst botrytis infection ever witnessed there, before or since. The sight of grapes falling off canopies twenty yards before the arrival of the mechanical harvester was not uncommon. Victoria experienced one of its worst vintages on record, the Hunter Valley had a reasonable time coming off what was for it a three year drought and the Margaret Rivers vintage was hot, dry and very ordinary.
By some margin Australias best red wine from 1983 was one of the most powerfully constructed and robust Penfolds Granges of all time, a great wine with distinct connections to the brilliant 1971 vintage. Wolf Blass also did very well with the 1983 Brown Label Shiraz which, like the first-rate Black Label Cabernet Shiraz from this vintage was sourced from Langhorne Creek and the Barossa Valley. Cape Mentelle (Margaret River) made a sweet, firm but rather herbaceous Cabernet Sauvignon, while Penfolds also performed well with a firm and concentrated Bin 389 from various South Australian regions, also making a very bony and tannic first edition of the Magill Estate (Adelaide Metropolitan).