06/02/2007 - 22:00

Conditions ripe for ripper reds

06/02/2007 - 22:00

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This year’s vintage is under way almost a fortnight ahead of schedule, and early indications from winemakers suggest that 2007 will be the year of great reds.

Conditions ripe for ripper reds

This year’s vintage is under way almost a fortnight ahead of schedule, and early indications from winemakers suggest that 2007 will be the year of great reds.

It’s somewhat of a reversal for the state’s wineries, which were forced to wait more than three weeks to kick off the 2006 harvest after one of the coolest summers on record played havoc with the ripening process.

And while last year was a good one for whites, this year the reds will shine, according to several winemakers Gusto spoke to this week.

They say the dry winter and a warmer summer have produced perfect conditions for cabernet, merlot and shiraz.

Houghton Wines winemaker Rob Bowen says the reds this year are likely to have a more intense flavour.

“The flavours this year couldn’t be more different than last year,” he says.

“The reds, by and large, were basically underperformed last year because of the cooler summer but this year we have warmer conditions. I think it will be a good year for the reds.”

But wine lovers may have to get their orders in early, with several wineries reporting that their grape intake is likely to be lower this year.

Faber Vineyard winemaker John Griffiths says a cool spring in 2005 and the dry 2006 winter has left his vines bearing smaller berries as well as smaller bunches of grapes.

“It’s a bit of a double whammy because we have small berries and small bunches,” he says.

Mr Griffiths, who is also president of the Wine Industry Association of WA, added that a recent spell of hot weather in the past couple of weeks had damaged about 50 per cent of the white grapes on his property.

The hot weather also damaged about 10 per cent of grapes at Houghton winery’s Swan Valley property.

Mr Griffiths agrees that the red wine produced this year will be of a high standard, even if he may have less to bottle than 2006.

“There will be some intense flavours,” he says. “I think this year will produce fruit similar to what we did in 2001, which was a great year.”

Wills Domain managing director Darren Haunold says it will be an exciting year for red varieties.

“It [2007] will be a cracker for reds,” Mr Haunold says. “2001 and 2003 were great years and those were vintages with warmer weather, and I think 2007, while it’s still early, is looking like producing reds that are just as good, or better.”

But Mr Haunold says it will be more difficult for winemakers to match 2006’s whites, which were aromatic and contained lower-than-usual levels of alcohol due to the unseasonally cold weather last vintage.

“I think the whites can be as good so long as they [winemakers] make the right harvesting decisions and get the balance right,” he says.

“It’ll be hard work though. Last year produced some of the best whites I have seen in my seven years of winemaking.”

Lenton Brae winemaker Ed Tomlinson started picking chardonnay last week and says the warmer weather is also a good sign for semillon.

“I think 1995 and the start of the 2003 vintage were warm and they were great years for semillon,” Mr Tomlinson says.

“I don’t think the sauvignon blanc will be as aromatic this year but that is why sauvignon semillon blanc is so good, because the sauvignon and semillon complement each other.

“Last year we had a fair amount of sauvignon blanc in the blend and this year we will probably use more semillon.”

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