Prepared by Heathcote Estate Vineyard Manager, Vin Harrop
Good early winter rains throughout June and July replenished soil moisture. August was dry, and the vines shot into life in September with a nice even budburst considering the cooler than average minimum spring temperatures. Welcome rain fell during flowering with no major impact on fruit set.
Warmer than average maximum temperatures were seen throughout late spring and early summer, encouraging ideal ripening conditions. The weather pattern then changed, turning cool after a rain event on 9 January and we experienced cooler temperatures throughout the month. This was ideal weather conditions, allowing the vines to maintain leaf function and general health as we approached the ripening period.
February saw a return to above average temperatures and this combined with very healthy canopies brought on fruit maturity beautifully. The vineyard was entirely handpicked with each parcel of fruit carefully selected. Harvest of the Shiraz started on Monday 16 February and continued through until the last Shiraz was picked on Wednesday 25 February.
Good soaking rains during winter and early spring provided ample soil moisture for the start of the growing season. Spring was relatively cool with below average temperatures for the months of October and November.
A heavy downpour of rain during flowering led to a significantly reduced berry number per bunch in the Grenache, leading to lower yields but intense flavours. However, the rain and cool weather was short lived, with a return to below average rain from October to February and above average temperatures December through to March. The prolonged warmer temperatures resulted in a significantly slower veraison this season, but the vines coped well under the conditions and welcomed some cooler weather late in the ripening period. Berry sizes were smaller across the vineyard and show promising fruit concentration.
As always, the vineyard was entirely hand picked with each parcel of fruit carefully selected. Harvest of the Shiraz started on Tuesday 25 February and continued until Thursday 6 March. A parcel of Grenache was also picked on 6 March for rose with the remaining Grenache picked 20 March for table wine.
Vintage 2013 produced exceptionally balanced fruit with terrific acidity and depth of flavour. A blessed vintage, the best ‘odd year’ in our part of the world since 2005.
The significant rain that fell during the previous harvest ensured good water storages leading into the 2013 season. Welcome winter rain in June (55mm) and July (83mm) also attributed to good soil moisture for the beginning of the 2013 growing season. Bud break began on 10 September. Spring was very dry with low disease pressure. We experienced excellent flowering, fruit-set and perfect canopy growth for the anticipated warm months ahead.
The dry growing season conditions continued throughout summer helping to alleviate the threat of any disease. Veraison was slow this season, however a warmer February saw desired fruit maturity coming on quickly after full veraison. Berry size was smaller and fruit concentration excellent. Once again the vineyard was entirely hand picked with each parcel of fruit carefully selected. Harvest started on 15 February, and finished on 13 March with Grenache.
Dam storages were still full and soil profiles likewise leading into the 2011-12 season, after a wet previous year. Spring temperatures were slightly warmer than average. This warm weather combined with excellent soil moisture contributed to abundant growth and some meticulous bunch thinning followed. Flowering and fruit set were terrific and unaffected by the significant rainfall in November.
The summer months were to be reasonably dry, and January warmer than average. February daily maximum temperatures were cooler than average however daily minimum temperatures (overnight lows) were higher than average. These higher overnight lows meant the vines were ripening at a good, consistent rate and optimum grape maturity was reached a little earlier. The vineyard was entirely hand picked with each parcel of fruit carefully selected. An excellent year, similar in character to 2010.
The season ahead was looking promising as a result of excellent winter rains that increased water storages, helped leach the build up of salts from the top soil and provide soil profile moisture for the vines forthcoming season.
Spring was to be much cooler and wetter than normal and the vines were very slow starting. With the days continuing to warm up throughout spring and plenty of soil moisture available to the vines the shoot growth continued to grow.
The vines hand good flowering and fruitset however cropload was to be less than desirable given mite pressures early in the season.
Thunderstorms and higher than average rainfall were to continue throughout the growing season contributing to significant canopy growth and increasing the likelihood of disease. The culmination of consistent rainfall events and high humidity meant that Downey mildew pressures were high and at times made the effectiveness of fungicide spray applications less than desirable. The widespread rainfall was to cover a large part of the east coast of Australia with many areas experiencing the worst floods on record.
The cooler weather particularly daily maximum temperatures combined with excellent soil moisture availability meant that the vines were under little stress throughout the ripening period. Given persistent fungicide spray applications the vines had very good canopy that was functioning well late in the ripening period, allowing the vines to ripen fruit to full maturity nicely. Botrytis concerns were evident late in the season however the majority of fruit was picked prior to any significant onset of disease and potential crop loss. The vineyard was entirely hand picked with each parcel of fruit carefully selected. Priority sections/parcels of fruit been picked first.
Overall this was a difficult growing season but fruit quality looks to be very good.
Steady soaking winter rainfalls provided a return to ‘normal’ winter season and an excellent start to the growing season. Rainfalls increased water storages, helped leach some build up of salts from the top soil and provide soil profile moisture for the vines forthcoming season.
Spring was warmer than normal with an unprecedented hot spell in November during flowering. Shiraz fruit set was not affected however it was evident at this stage that yields would be low in the Grenache.
A positive to the spring season was reasonable rains and the warm weather which combined to allow for good spring canopy growth to support the vines throughout the season. All of November’s rain fell between the end of flowering and fruit set (64mm).
A modest December rainfall and a very dry and hot January saw water storages fall significantly whilst maintaining vine health leading up to the critical veraison period. Excess crop load was thinned at pre-veraison and the vines’ remaining fruit went through veraison quickly which was pleasing. Early February rain was fantastic, allowing us to have water in our storages to take us right through until post harvest. We had relatively stable temperatures and did not receive the extreme highs. The vines had very good canopy that functioned well late in the ripening period, allowing the vines to ripen fruit to full maturity.
The vineyard was entirely hand picked with each parcel of fruit carefully selected.
The extreme weather conditions proved to be a significant factor in 2009. After pleasing average winter rains, spring was one of the driest on record with only 49mm of rain, 41mm of which fell in November. Timely rain provided some relief with 25mm at pre-flowering in November and 65mm post fruit set in December. Cooler temperatures had the vines in good health leading up to the Christmas break. The inevitable heat at Heathcote eventually came with above average temperatures in January, February and March and little rain. The extreme weather that affected parts of Victoria and South Australia and contributed to the devastating Black Saturday Bushfires also made its mark at Heathcote Estate. This included thirteen successive days above 35°C, seven of which were above 40°C. It was a tough time!!!
Watering occurred on a regular basis to help alleviate vine stress but unfortunately a lack of water due to the continuing drought, windy weather and prolonged heat caused some vines to loose leaf and momentarily shutdown. Historically, the vineyard is watered minimally and as such the vines are quite drought tolerant and on a whole were able to endure the extreme weather conditions well. The Australian Sprawl canopy (no foliage wires) provided shade and cover for the fruit from direct sunlight. The fruit looked in good condition, despite some shrivelling on the western side of the canopy that is exposed to the afternoon sun.
Harvest commenced on the 25 February and finished on the 6 March. Selective hand picking was undertaken to preserve the best parcels of fruit. Due to the prolonged heat endured this season, estimated yields were down 15 to 20 per cent for shiraz and 75 per cent for grenache after rigorous bunch selection at picking. The shiraz parcels again stood out with more defined structure, aromatics and tannin.
Average autumn rain in 2007 gave way to a dryer than normal winter and spring. The warm spring, combined with timely early rain, saw excellent flowering and eventual fruit set. These ideal growing conditions meant that shoot growth was more vigorous than normal. Shoot and fruit thinning was necessary on the Spanish varietal grenache to alleviate over cropping and a crowded fruiting zone, in turn enabling even maturity. Fruit thinning was also required in some blocks of shiraz and viognier. Rain at pre-bunch closure and veraison set the vines up nicely for ripening. With a cooler than average February, vine stress was kept to a minimum and ultimately allowed the fruit to be picked at night in excellent conditions. Once again, fruit of excellent colour, flavour and natural acid was produced. Harvest timing was very similar to 2007 with the last fruit harvested on 5 March 2008. Due to the early fruit maturity at Heathcote Estate Vineyard, harvest was completed prior to the extreme heat wave that was experienced throughout South Eastern Australia in early March. Early flavour assessments at the winery suggest that this could be an exceptional year for shiraz.
While Heathcote received some steady autumn rain in the months of April and May 2006, June was one of the driest and coldest on record. Above average rainfall in July brought some relief to the very low water storages, however the dry spell continued throughout spring, with warm days, clear skies and very cool nights. The clear skies during the day resulted in regular heavy frosts throughout October and November which caused extensive damage in many regions around South Eastern Australia. The Heathcote region was no exception and the Heathcote Estate Vineyard was hit by frost on five acres of shiraz. Thankfully, this resulted in minimal frost damage compared to others in the region. The warm spring weather created ample shoot growth and even flowering but fruit set was a little sparse due to the dry conditions. With little relief during the summer, supplementary irrigation was used in the vineyard to alleviate potential vine stress during ripening. This enabled the vines to maintain leaf function and ripen the season’s low yielding crop. The trying season produced a lighter crop load and with constant hot weather during ripening, this resulted in an earlier harvest yet again. Vintage at Heathcote Estate commenced on 17 February with the last fruit harvested on 5 March. The berries were small and the fruit had very good colour, flavour and tannin.
Another relatively dry winter meant that water storages were low, and that timely water applications would be of critical importance later in the season. Some spring rains and above average temperatures early in the growing season assisted in an even budburst and excellent shoot growth development, enabling fruit to ripen effectively. Using mulch under the vine maintained soil moisture and assisted in achieving an even flowering and good fruit set. The dry, warm and windy conditions in the growing season allowed for little or no disease. January was a very warm month with several days over 40°C. This was excellent for sugar and led to great phenolic development. Welcome rain early in February enabled the lightly cropped vines to maintain leaf area through to vintage. Optimal berry and bunch size combined with even bunch maturity created fruit of intense flavour in the vineyard. It looks like a vintage to watch with the winemakers pleased with fruit quality and early flavour assessment.
After an extremely dry summer and end to the 2004 vintage, the following vintage began pleasantly with consistent winter rain. The spring months brought average temperatures and rainfall, resulting in good shoot growth and flowering. Powdery mildew pressures were the only early threat. The extreme dry that the region is accustomed to developed through the months of December and January. The limited water in storage, supported by 57mm of rain in early February, helped to maintain vine health from veraison through to grape maturity. Unlike the characteristic long, warm ripening period endured most years, this year was somewhat cooler during the day and at night. At harvest, the fruit had developed a fantastic flavour with good, natural acidity.