16/05/2006 - 22:00

A vintage to remember

16/05/2006 - 22:00
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Winemakers in the state’s southern regions have joined their colleagues in the north by closing the chapter on vintage 2006. And what an interesting vintage it has been.

Winemakers in the state’s southern regions have joined their colleagues in the north by closing the chapter on vintage 2006. And what an interesting vintage it has been.

Although sweeping summaries are fraught with danger when made across so many diverse growning regions, it is more than fair to say that the 2005-06 season will be remembered – not fondly by many – for its low temperatures and late ripening.

Even in Perth, summer’s heat barely stung at all and rain during the early months of the year added to an unpredictable weather chart.

But it started before that.

Average maximum temperatures for southern parts of the state, including Margaret River, were well below average for October, November and December 2005.

Although many areas recorded an average to above average number of sunny days during Feburary and March, the cool and slow start to the season would be felt for the remainder of vintage.

But as the old saying goes, good wine is made in the vineyard, and with a delayed ripening period on the cards, choosing the best time to pick started playing on the minds of vineyard managers during April.

Those watching their white fruit, particularly the aromatics such as sauvignon blanc, would have had their most important ripening periods later, outside of the range of warmer weather in Feburary and March, which is usually the case. This means that 2006 wines, particularly those from Margaret River, are likely to be exceptional – clear and crisp.

Although reports from Margaret River, Pemberton and other areas suggest chardonnay fruit also ripened well, total yields are well down on 2005 figures. Some who ventured early predictions had forecasted a surplus of white grapes in the order of between 150 and 200 tonnes.

But that figure now seem unlikely, with cooler conditions and late rain promoting disease in many properties. For some growers this meant a few rows were lost; for others, entire crops weren’t picked at all.

But if the white varieties tested winemakers’ patience, then the reds surely strained their blood pressure.

One southern Margaret River winemaker described this year’s reds as “a bit of a lottery”, with some styles taking to the cooler weather far better than others.

Pemberton stalwart and Picardy winemaker Bill Pannell recently wrote to the wine faithful, saying that merlot and shiraz have performed well this year, and northern parts of Margaret River have also had strong results in cabernet.

So while the next phase of the winemaking process takes place without the help of mother nature, grapegrowers, winemakers and consumers are left wondering how WA’s cool vintage will affect the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation’s estimated total wine-grape harvest of 1.9 million tonnes.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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