The last fruit has now rolled in and we can reflect on the vintage that was.
Solid winter rains between May and September filled our dams, as well as allowing for good levels of soil moisture is to nourish the developing vines which typically burst mid to late September. The growing season was typical Margaret River Magic, with the temperatures and conditions until Christmas being right in the middle of the last decade of averages. These gentle conditions allowed most of the vines to reach full canopies by the new year and then focus on ripening of the fruit.
Margaret River was blessed with our couple of top up summer showers, on the 17 January and 14 February. Both were around 15 mm or a bit over half an inch in the old language. These well-timed showers allowed a top up of soil moisture, allowing the vines to continue their journey to ripeness. Fortunately, coinciding with the summer rains were warm and windy conditions, which allowed the grapevine canopies to dry quickly, hence preventing the opportunity for mildew to grow.
The ripening temperatures from January to April were slightly cooler than the long-term average, resulting in a delightful vintage for both winemakers and fruit quality, meaning that the fruit ripened gradually and over time eliminating any bottlenecks at the winery. A special feature of the season was its extremely gentle nature without any heat spikes. I always think of the perfumes in grapes behaving in the same way that perfume does on your skin. In hot conditions the perfumes will quickly evaporate and dissipate. The same is true in the grape, so these very gentle conditions without heat spikes contribute to super fragrant and flavoursome grapes.
The evidence to support this hypothesis is contained within the grapes. Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc and Semillon are characterised by delicate high-level perfumes, amazing levels of fruit freshness, and succulent levels of natural acidity. Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah responded to these very gentle conditions by ripening slowly and completely, yielding generously textured tannins and vibrant perfumes. Indeed, I believe this was a red vintage for those who believe fortune favours the brave and let their fruit hang until optimal physiological ripeness; which is not to be confused with sugar levels. It is early stages, as we barrel down inky purple and fragrant reds, but I am sure that Margaret River has just enjoyed an amazing vintage!