Happy New Year everyone. I hope that you had a good Christmas with friends and family.
Let’s start with a recap of 2023
2023 was a much drier year than the previous three across Eastern Australia. Up to December 31st 2023, we received 663mm of rainfall, almost 100 mm below our long-term average of 754mm. We had a very dry May through October, with only 127mm falling across these six months. This low rainfall, coupled with a warmer-than-average winter, resulted in an early budburst, and irrigation was needed to get the vines off to a good start. A run of 11 days over 30˚C in mid-September with westerly winds impacted flowering, resulting in smaller bunch sizes, especially in Semillon.
We returned to average rainfall for November and December but received a hailstorm on the evening of November 29th, impacting the Oakey Creek Vineyard. Thankfully, it was localised, and our red vineyards were not impacted. Subsequent dry weather meant the damaged fruit mostly dried up, with little impact on quality. Despite there being several well-publicised storms that hit the Hunter Valley on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, we escaped relatively unscathed, which was a relief; other growers were not quite so lucky.
New Year, New Vintage
Coming into the New Year, fruit condition and canopy were excellent, though tracking 14-21 days earlier than last year due to the lighter crop. The last few weeks have been incredibly humid, but we have been quite fortunate that whilst it has been very sticky, we have not yet lost a day due to rain.
We picked our first fruit, Oakey Creek Chardonnay, on January 12th and rolled straight into Semillon. Whilst yields are low, quality is excellent with good flavour and chemistry. We have so far harvested 183 tonnes. We will have finished our Oakey Creek whites on Tuesday, and the last of the Semillon is scheduled to be picked before Australia Day. To give some context, our first fruit in 2023 was harvested on January 31st!
The forecast for the next week is hot and dry, precisely what we have been hoping for. We did our first sample of Shiraz yesterday (January 21st); the reds have handled the past few weeks of humidity well but are still 7-10 days away from being ready to pick. The coming heat this week should bring them on quite quickly!
The Vintage Cru arrived last Sunday, and despite being thrown in the deep end with a solid week to start, they have hit the ground running and are working well. Resident Vintage Chef Snorks is back on the pans for his farewell vintage, though that has been said before…
This year’s Vintage Cru includes:
Hugh Dawson: The prodigal son returns after a five-year hiatus working in the Top End and completing a degree in Ag Business. Hugh is back to run Beechworth vintage this year.
Darcie Linnell: Returns for her second Brokenwood vintage, having just graduated with a Bachelor of Oenology. South Australian, second vintage.
Charlie Higgins: South Australian, 6th vintage.
Catia D’Anna: Victorian, third-year Agricultural Science student. Her family owns Hoddles Creek in the Yarra Valley. Fifth vintage.
Olivia Jaffer: South Australian, freshly graduated Oenology student, sixth vintage.
Alphonse Potel: Frenchman from Burgundy. Third vintage.
Andrew Cheeseman: Brains 2024, South Australian, Fourth-year Oenology student.
Evie Pini: Sydneysider. First vintage.
Please keep your fingers and toes crossed for a continuation of this dry weather so we can make the most of a high-quality 2024 harvest.
Stay tuned for more vintage updates during the season.
Image - Picking Semillon at Tallawanta Vineyard, Hunter Valley. Captured by MJK Creative.