2022 Vintage Update

If you make a living from the land, your livelihood depends on the weather. Each Christmas, you raise your glass to your neighbour and both wish the other good fortune, hoping that things don’t turn to custard. Over the last decade or two, there have been severe weather events and years seared into the memories of local Rutherglen vignerons.

The driest year on record was 2006 at 240.4mm of rain with 2019 not far behind at 343.6mm (we usually average around 600mm). In 2011, around 65% of the average annual rainfall fell between January and April (our key growing and harvest time) resulting in one of the lowest quality vintages for many producers. A 1-in100-year black frost in October 2013 wiped out much of the Rutherglen grape harvest for the following 2014 vintage. And the most recent of course was the smoke taint from the bushfires of 2020, a heartbreaking prelude to the economic pressures of the pandemic.

However, what these years give us is experience and resilience to know that we’ve been through it all before, and we can meet the inevitable challenges that will occur in the future. This is what agriculture and viticulture is all about. Learning to accept the tough years because they make the good years so much sweeter.

2022 is shaping up to test all of our skill sets and for us to draw on previous experience. The best part is that we’ve had a mild summer without the heatwaves that we usually experience. I remember 2019 was suffocatingly hot with endless weeks over 40C, it felt like the end of the world had arrived. The vines have responded well to a steady ripening period with warm days developing flavours nicely. Some blocks are in such good condition, they haven’t needed any irrigating. Our Jack's Block Shiraz is looking the best it has in years.

Our second La Niña year in a row has meant an increase in rainfall and humidity around this time, posing a few challenges. Botrytis is a fungal disease that flourishes in wet and humid conditions and has been the bane of grape grower’s lives this year. Late January, we received 160mm in one day! So far, we're really proud of how we've been managing this unusual amount of rain.

Some vineyard tricks include regular grass slashing and vine trimming to help sunlight and airflow into the canopy, de-clumping and bunch thinning to help the bunches hang individually (for airflow), and applying certified organic biological sprays which outcompete the botrytis for its food source. It’s certainly not a “hands-off” year; we’ve got higher input costs to make sure we get quality fruit but as a small, premium winery this is our absolute priority.

As I write this, our first picking day will be the 1st of March for Chardonnay - one of our latest starts in many years. The Tinta Roriz for sparkling and rosé will be picked this week too. A later start to vintage has actually been a blessing for us. Several years ago, we developed a Master Plan to improve the layout and usability of our production areas. This year, some of the final pieces of the puzzle have been achieved with a major overhaul of the winery.

We have a new crusher/destemmer which will give a better result for our premium wines and the press is now on wheels (offering more flexibility and efficiency). The fermenters were moved to a more accessible space meaning we can start to utilise whole bunch additions for certain wine styles. When vintage is over, all of the harvest equipment can be safely tucked away leaving much more space to do vital barrel work, bottling and fortified blending throughout the rest of the year. It’s like a whole new winery and I can’t wait to see the fruits of our labour.