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Despite a few hiccups during the year, the State’s 2002 harvest is looking like another good one, according to David Pike.

THE Western Australian wine grape harvest for 2002 got under way earlier this month with the first grapes coming of vines in the Swan Valley. While the harvesting of grapes in WA will depend on climatic conditions and individual vineyard sites until the end of April, it is over the next month that most vines will be stripped of their precious berries.

This year is shaping up to be yet another dynamic vintage, with reports coming in from a number of the State’s leading wine makers and viticulturists that everything is pointing to a quality year.

“Initial indications are that the industry will again show a slight increase in volume of grapes crushed, primarily due to the number of new vineyards coming online,” Tony Devitt, who owns Ashbrook winery in Margaret River and is the principal research officer in horticulture with Agriculture WA, said.

“However, it will not be a significant increase as was the case in 2001. This year was very cool and dry, which has resulted in decreased yields for many vineyards.”

Chardonnay has been most affected this vintage. During the important flowering period of the chardonnay vines, most regions were affected by extreme winds and heavy rains, which has led to yields, in many cases, being significantly reduced.

Devil’s Lair viticulturist Simon Robinson explained that, in some isolated areas, yields would be down by nearly two-thirds on last year due to the nature of the weather conditions during flowering.

While yields are down the quality of fruit has not been affected,” Simon said.

He also pointed out that chardonnay yields were a problem nationally. Other than chardonnay, most other varieties seem to be progressing well in the WA’s vineyards, according to a number of winemakers I have spoken with.

Lamont winemaker Mark Warren said they began picking verdelho in the Swan Valley on January 31 and had just crushed some chardonnay. Mark said the fruit he had processed so far has been terrific, showing plenty of flavour and fantastic acidity levels.

“The reds have started to colour up and things are looking unreal and, although crop levels are going to be a little down, the valley will produce some smart wines this vintage,” he said.

WA’s biggest wine producer, Houghton, also began harvesting Swan Valley fruit late in January. Chief winemaker Larry Cherubino also was confident of a very good vintage for the valley, saying that the flavours of the verdelho were exciting and suggesting what was one of the coolest and driest summers for some time would produce wines with “intense flavours”.

Although it is still a little early to predict what the 2002 vintage will end up like, all reports thus far have indicated the wineries around WA will again highlight the quality of our wines to our eastern states competition.

I am heading off in a few weeks to get into the swill of vintage down in Margaret River at Devil’s Lair. Last year I spent a few days with the winery team, getting the feel of what happens 2002 vintage taking shape over the busy vintage period. So, having decided that I would still be able to have my morning bagel and coffee, and that it didn’t look all that demanding on my champagne lifestyle-acclimatised body, I have taken on the challenge of working in a winery this vintage.

Wish me luck.

In other news, Dullsville has taken out one of the most respected national wine awards for the second time in five years. The Tucker Sea-brook Trophy, which is awarded to the most successful wine exhibited at all major State wine shows within the preceding 12 months, went to the Houghton wine company’s flagship wine, Jack Mann.

The 1998 vintage of Jack Mann is a simply stunning wine and further evidence of the continually high standards being obtained by the winemaking team at Houghton during the past few years.

Here are some new chardonnay releases.

Evans and Tate Margaret River 2001 Chardonnay rrp $21 rating17.5/20

This is a really smart wine, formally known as Two Vineyards. Plain and simple, this is a fabulous change in direction for this wine, which hopefully wants to return to those powerful oak-driven styles of the past. This 2001 vintage is a delight, showing enticing aromas of white peaches and nectarines with a degree of complexity and savoury undertones. The palate displays ripe fruit characters with attractive, almost savoury flavours that fill the palate. This wine finishes with finesse, complexity and plenty of length.

Contact Evans and Tate on 9213 1799 or email et@evansandtate.com.au

Miranda of Barossa 2000 Chardonnay rrp $15 rating 16/20

This is part of a new range of wines from Miranda. This wine has been blended with parcels of fruit from both the Barossa and Padthaway. It shows a broad range of ripe tropical fruit aromas, with peaches, apricots and citrus dominating and displays notes of almonds and butterscotch. On the palate you find good acidity and more of those tropical fruit flavours apricots, peaches and a citrus tang. Showing some length – a good value wine.

Contact Miranda Wines on 9258 6000 or email cbayly@mirandawines.com.au

Oakridge Yarra Valley 1999 Chardonnay rrp $19.50 rating 17.25/20

Oakridge now falls under the Evans and Tate banner and has an impressive range of cool-climate wines. In terms of quality chardonnay this is a worthy opponent to the Margaret River Chardonnay.

You find dynamic aromas that show some complexity with integrated oak nuances, touches of honeydew melon and nectarines.

The palate is refined with good weight, ripe fruit characters with creamy vanillin undertones and plenty of length.

This one’s worth seeking out and good value for money.

Contact Evans and Tate on 9213 1799 or email et@evansandtate.com.au

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