Verdict

The 2009 vintage will be remembered for heatwaves and bushfires. It might be a year winemakers want to forget but many wines look likely to defy the difficulties they faced.

According to Constellation Australia’s chief winemaker, Paul Lapsley, this year’s highlights are ‘Riesling, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Clare Valley,

exceptional whites and reds from the Adelaide Hills, and Limestone Coast Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.’

Both Western Australia and Tasmania escaped the excessive heat events and both regions report wines with fresh acidity, good aromatics in whites and reds, and balance.

In the Yarra, Innocent Bystander’s winemaker Steve Flamsteed calls Chardonnay his ‘shining light’. Pinot Noir looks fine despite water stress and heat while some producers have had trouble with smoke taint on their Shiraz crop.

The Barossa’s Grape and Wine Association reports slightly later ripening varieties including Cabernet, Mataro and Grenache ‘will be the real standouts this year. Flavours are intense and colour strong, the wines are aromatic, dense and naturally balanced.’

Weather

A 10-day heatwave in Victoria and South Australia hit vines hard in late January/early February. The vines closed down for this period but it was before veraison and many vines survived. After the freak heat, the weather was much more mild with dry days and cool nights, giving a much more ‘normal’ vintage, according to the Barossa Grape and Wine Association. Western Australia escaped the heat with a cool, dry season. Tasmania also avoided the heatwave but poor weather at flowering and frosts cut crop levels.

Production

The most recent update from the Australian wine industry body, Wine Australia, suggests the 2009 wine grape harvest will be around 1.71m tonnes, less than the 2008 crop of 1.83m tonnes but still well above the drought and frost-hit 2007 crop of 1.34m tonnes. In the Eden, Barossa and Yarra Valleys, crops were 25-30% down on expectations due to water stress and excessive temperatures. Nevertheless, Tony Jordan, president of the Yarra Valley Winegrowers Association, says: ‘The loss of 25% is a blow but is within the year to year variation that we would get from crop loss. At least it will help correct the some of our oversupply problems.’

Back to the 2009 harvest reports

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