Prepared by founding viticulturist keith harris
Winter of 2014 was colder and drier than normal leading to a warm, dry spring that saw good even bud break and consistent healthy shoot growth. While budburst was in line with the previous season, flowering was just more than a week later, reflecting a normal weather pattern that was slightly drier than normal, perfect for flowering and fruit set.
A cooler than average summer coupled with good rain at the right times saw consistent, healthy growth in all blocks. There was no disease pressure observed and the season proceeded in a very, even and pleasing fashion. A very cool dry March led to a longer ripening period allowing for maximum flavour development with good rain occurring at the right time to maintain vine health.
Harvest started on 18 February and the 2015 vintage proceeded exceptionally well. With the ripening period so even, all fruit was picked in optimum condition. Bunch and berry weights were ideal and all the fruit arrived at the winery in excellent condition with excellent fruit flavours and terrific natural acidity.
Early indications are that the 2015 vintage will be as good as the highly regarded 2010 and 2012 vintages.
The winter of 2013 was warmer than average with good rain events recorded. The first month of spring continued this trend (1.8°C above long-time average temperatures), with above average rain as well. This meant vineyard soils were at full moisture.
Flowering in early November coincided with a period of rainfall and strong cold winds resulting in some fruit set issues, particularly in the most wind exposed blocks – setting up the vintage for lower yields. The wet soils however encouraged strong shoot growth requiring meticulous canopy management to open up the fruiting zone. October, November and December were all cooler than average and the vines enjoyed a good, even growing season.
The second week of January saw a burst of heat with temperatures in the high 30°C’s. Given the vines had healthy canopy cover and good moisture supply from early season rain, this did not affect fruit quality at all. February and March conditions were ideal - warm and dry, perfect for vine health and flavour development. The 2014 vintage started on 21 February with pinot gris and finished on 1 April with the syrah. Overall, crops were below average due to small bunches and berry sizes – a fact which also delivered fruit of exceptional intensity of flavour. Another vintage of excellent quality, just a little less quantity!
Good winter rains ensured dams were full and soil moisture filled to capacity for the start of the 2012/13 growing season. Spring was warm and dry providing excellent conditions for the season ahead. The summer saw consistently high temperatures but very even conditions prevailed, with none of the extreme heat days we have experienced in some recent vintages.
Harvest commenced on 20 February, the same day as last vintage and coincidently all Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes were picked by the 9 March, again the same as last vintage. 2013 vintage fruit arrived at the winery in excellent condition across-the-board, free from disease and at perfect ripeness levels – terrific flavour and acid retention in the whites and pinot showing great colour, flavour and balance. The winemakers predict 2013 to be the best ‘odd’ year since 2005.
Good rains early in the growing season lead to excellent, healthy growth. Flowering went through very quickly in a good, dry spell in November. Despite growing temperatures being in line with long-term averages, the fruit ripened early at Yabby Lake Vineyard with picking for table wines starting on the 20th February. All Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape picking was completed by the 9th March, an exceptionally early season.
With excellent fruit flavours and perfect levels of acid retained in the grapes, the wines from vintage 2012 are looking terrific - with quality and character very similar to the 2010 vintage.
With the drought in Victoria finally broken, winter rain in 2010 was above average and was followed by two wet spring months in September and October. Fortunately it dried up in late November and early December to allow flowering and fruit set to occur. This cold, wet weather pattern continued into 2011 with February and March both two degrees below average temperatures. Fortunately April temperatures returned to normal allowing fruit to ripen slowly into vintage which was two to three weeks later than has been ‘the norm’. Meticulous vineyard management allowed us to manage any disease pressures. Good flavours were achieved and high acids levels retained.
Following significant spring rain periods, the early growing season for vintage 2010 started extremely well with good vigour, strong canopies and very good vine health. Rain episodes occurred at very useful stages and weather through flowering was fine and warm ensuring good berry set.
Picking started in late February and was probably the earliest start in the last ten years. The Mornington Peninsula was fortunate not to experience the extremes in weather, such as hail and flooding, which were experienced in Melbourne and other regions. The protection offered by the maritime influence on the unique location of the region is significant.
A great vintage for the region with very high quality fruit with excellent natural acidity and great flavours.
Average winter rains lead to good bud break and good early season growth. The drought returned in spring with below average rainfall in September, October and November, but with access to recycled water for irrigation the dry period was not a worry and good healthy growth continued through December and early January. Flowering occurred in the first two weeks of November which were warm and dry so fruit set was very good requiring shoot and fruit thinning to most blocks.
An overwhelming heat wave struck between 28-30 January and extreme temperatures returned on 7 February with maximum temperatures of around 42ºC. Fortunately, with plenty of irrigation water available we immediately implemented a full program of irrigation. The effect of the heat on the fruit was significant with many bunches completely burnt on the west side of the rows and berries desiccated on the east side. The net effect determined after harvest was a 30% loss on forecasts. The effects on flavour were at this stage unknown.
Vintage started on 19 February with rigorous hand selection in the vineyard to ensure that only the best, sound fruit was delivered to the winery. Harvest was completed on 8 April 2009. A combination of a cooler than average growing season and adequate water supply meant that the fruit was not affected as feared. Early reports from the winery show some blocks delivering wine of surprising quality.
Average winter rain in 2007 gave way to a dryer than normal spring but as the growing season got underway we achieved above average rainfall in November and December. This, coupled with warm temperatures saw ideal growing conditions for the vines with shoot growth being more vigorous than normal. January and February saw above average temperatures with a return to the dry conditions that have prevailed for so many years. Fine weather at flowering led to a good set, requiring shoot and fruit thinning in many blocks. Vintage at Yabby Lake Vineyard started on 25 February and most fruit was picked in excellent condition with high levels of natural acidity. A week of extremely hot temperatures late in vintage saw any remaining fruit ripen too quickly with many vineyards experiencing berry shrivel and weight loss; fortunately we missed most of this. We completed the harvest on 26 March 2008.
Early flavour assessment at the winery suggests that this could be an exceptional year for chardonnay and pinot noir.
Autumn and winter were extremely dry, meaning no water was harvested for the irrigation dam. We started a season that turned out to be the worst drought in living memory, a one in a 100 year drought, with restricted water supply. The growing season started cool and dry with frosts being recorded in October. Nearby vineyards suffered frost damage to their vines for the first time ever. Despite the drought there was enough continuing small rain events with cold, windy weather during flowering causing the fruit set to be interrupted and incomplete. Warmer temperatures in the latter part of the growing season saw the degree day sum required being reached earlier than ever recorded at Yabby Lake Vineyard. Grape maturities accelerated rapidly and picking got off to a frantic early start. Late in February we received 30mm of rain and the ripening curve slowed down rapidly. The majority of vintage was completed however before we would normally start. As we started picking it quickly became apparent that berry weights and bunch sizes were up to 30% lower than forecast leading to a very small crop of intensely flavoured fruit.
A warmer than average spring saw the vines get off to a good start with good weather over flowering. January to March was then cooler than average but, despite this, the growing degree day target for pinot noir and chardonnay was reached early on 5 March (The same as 2001). It was a warm, dry, disease-free season with vintage starting earlier than normal. Bunch sizes and berry weights were good with crops coming in on forecast and in good condition. Another good vintage, the fourth in a row!!
A very wet end to winter and a wet start to spring saw some vineyards showing signs of stress from wet roots early in the growing period. There were also some signs of salt damage with the wet weather bringing up salt that had accumulated through the preceding dry years. The season moved on to be cool and dry. Flowering and fruit set was good and vine growth healthy. Very little disease pressure was encountered this season. A late cool vintage was expected but autumn turned out to be dry and very warm and grape maturities accelerated to see harvest getting underway about a week later than normal and then rushing quickly through with real pressure on to get the grapes picked at optimum maturity. Analysis of the grape juice showed good balance with slightly higher than usual levels of acid. 2005 could be seen as one of the best ever on the Mornington Peninsula.
Late spring weather from the previous vintage indicated a potentially very fruitful crop. A mild winter and early spring led to fairly typical and even budburst. Spring was average to slightly warm, resulting in steady vine development. November and December were warmer than average, leading to highly fruitful buds for next (2005) vintage and very good flowering and fruit set for the 2004 vintage. Bunch weights were thus high and for Pinot Noir were at the very high end of recorded figures. A very cold January then slowed vine development considerably, ensuring late ripening and relatively high acid levels. February and March were about average and fortunately .
April was warmer than usual. Conditions were also very dry, meaning this late ripening could occur with relatively low disease pressure. The resulting fruit was very good quality with superb flavours. Winemakers predicted that 2004 had the potential to be the best vintage for some time.
A good, dry growing season with no disease pressure. Dry weather at flowering led to good fruit set with uniform bunches unlike last year where we had a lot of Hen & Chicken berries. The weather was hot and dry. The Mornington Peninsula was a declared drought area but all growers had sufficient water for irrigation to ensure the vines were not badly stressed. Crops of moderate size have ripened fully. Fruit of excellent quality and flavour was delivered to the wineries - clean and free of disease the outlook for the 2003 vintage proved excellent. Generally crops came in up to 15% below forecast. This means the forecast oversupply of pinot noir grapes will not be a problem. Rain in mid-vintage slowed things down a little but the fruit coming in was still very good quality with superb flavours. Winemakers are talking of this having the potential to be the best vintage for some time.
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the summer of our discontent. A mild winter saw a very early bud break with good fruitfulness apparent. Unfortunately at flowering the weather closed in and it was cold, wet and windy. This caused significant amounts of cap stick resulting in the worst fruit set in memory. One long term vigneron said it was the worst season he had seen in 27 years. But he cautioned against despair. The finest wines in the world come from regions that are on the edge climatically. Crop levels dropped to around 30% of the prior year. A warm dry autumn however ensured the crop available was harvested in excellent condition and reports on the 2002 wine show the quality to be very good.