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Australia promises high quality vintage

Despite early frosts, drought, irrigation restrictions, a heatwave and bushfires, a high quality 2009 vintage is being forecast by Australian winemakers.

And a 1.6 million tonne crop will help ease the surplus which is contributing to lower than wanted grape and domestic and export wine prices.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics last week forecast that the crop would be 13 per cent less than last year, although it would increase to 1.8 million tonnes in each of the next few years, putting further downward pressure on prices.

Winemakers in ten key regions have reported good quality red and white crops. Exceptions include early-picked reds at McLaren Vale which was hard hit by a heat wave in early February but d’Arenberg’s Chester Osborne, said that the last three quarters of the crop had been ‘pretty good …rich in fruit with nice balanced tannins’.

In the Barossa Valley, Doug Lehmann, of Peter Lehmann Wines, said ‘all in all we’re very happy’ with red quality being ‘quite good’ and riesling ‘very good’.

Riesling, the star variety of the Clare Valley, and the region’s reds were ‘fantastic’ said David O’Leary, of O’Leary Walker at Leasingham.

In cool climate Tasmania, Andrew Pirie of Pirie Tasmania, said pinot noir, although still more than a week from harvesting, was looking the best for years.

Yarra Valley Winegrowers Association president, Tony Jordan, said that he had last week tasted samples from half a million litres of wine at Domaine Chandon and found no smoke taint.

The impact of the smoke had been less severe than from the 2007 King Valley bushfires, 100 kilometres north, because in the week after the fires started the smoke had been blown north.

Outstanding quality has been reported by Hollicks Wines’ Ian Hollick, at Coonawarra, Ian MacRae, of Miramar, at Mudgee and the Hunter Valley’s Bruce Tyrrell of Tyrrell’s Vineyards.

In two of the industry’s main ‘engine rooms’, the Riverland and the Riverina, Tony Ingle, chief winemaker at Angove Family Wines at Renmark gave high marks to cabernet sauvignon and shiraz crops but Darren de Bortoli, of De Bortoli Wines in the Riverina, reported quality to be ‘a mixed bag’.

Written by Chris Snow in Adelaide

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