Our Vintage Report
18 January, 2016
For Hunter Valley grape growers, pre vintage discussion is only one topic and that of course is the weather. In recent years harvest has been in full swing by the second week of January but not so for 2016. Wet and cloudy conditions has meant later ripening on most varieties. The Hunter Valley went back to its typical dry winter with no significant rain recorded between 23rd May and 24th August 2015. Major rainfall wasn’t until the first week of November followed by two hailstorms on Friday afternoon 13th November, then another hail storm on 10th December. After a dry winter/spring the last two months totalled just over 300mm of rain. The hail basically cut a swath right through the middle with south – Mount View and north of Deasey’s Rd escaping. Unfortunately Brokenwood lies right in the middle, so some damage to bunches and berries.
The New Year didn’t bring a new climate and the first 18 days of January has seen records set for rainfall with Brokenwood recording 285mm so far. One way to feel better about all this is Monty Python’s ‘It’s only a flesh wound’ as in 1990 between 8th January and 12th February the Hunter received 435mm. This time minor flooding at Newcastle and lower Hunter farmland but the vineyards/grapes are holding up. Some wineries have started to bring in fruit, mainly Verdelho and Chardonnay. Brokenwood will start the Semillon harvest around the 21st January.
The red harvest is still a complete unknown at the time of writing. For Winemaker Stuart Hordern 2016 is his 2nd in charge (7th all up) and Assistant Winemaker Kate Sturgess, well a baptism with copious water for her first at Brokenwood.
Beechworth is having a terrific lead up to harvest. Indigo had 50mm of rain week starting the 11th January and on the back of a mind spring/summer we expect great things. The 2015 Indigo Vineyard Chardonnay has just been bottled continuing a run of elegant, flavoursome Beechworth Chardonnays. Cowra is on track for a great crop. The new owners of Forest Edge at Orange have in the words of Katrina Barry, our Brokenwood vineyard 2IC, ‘looking magnificent’. So top Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir; good news for everyone there. McLaren Vale has again struggled with weeks of continued hot dry conditions but slightly different to 2015 where the burst of heat came a couple of weeks before harvest. Canberra and Gundagai have no concerns at present.
4 February, 2016
The Hunter vintage has hit the mid-point with the last of the Semillon being picked today. My first report above has us at 285mm, then we had 43mm on the 23/1 plus a bit more and ended up at 338mm for the month. Good news is that fine and dry weather has prevailed since then apart from 11mm on 3rd February.
Sugars came up and the last few batches of Semillon are over 11baume. Quality is excellent as we have been stringent in vineyard with 2 of our staff sorting on the bins; however tonnes are down on some blocks such as Oakey Creek where the normal 50t became 19t. The reds are also coming up in sugar with a few blocks just past 12baume. The fine weather is predicted to continue, so good news.
1 March, 2016
A true ‘Indian Summer’ prevailed over the Hunter Valley for all of February enabling all Brokenwood Shiraz to be harvested and in very good condition. Sadly, some grower’s vineyards that copped the worst of the hail didn’t get harvested. Orange and Beechworth have had an outstanding year, while McLaren Vale has struggled with intense heat for the second year running. All up a successful if slightly nervous 2016 Brokenwood vintage.