This year has been a vintage of two stories, all about the weather but with differing results. We were told to expect an El Niño this summer which means reduced rainfall. Obviously this is not ideal for any form of agriculture. With grapes requiring watering, particularly in the early part of the season when the vines are coming back to life and then when the fruit is developing. The latter part of 2015 brought us timely rainfall and cooler conditions – perfect for the Kingsley Grove Estate vines!
So here is the first part of the story….
The results of the mild spring weather in our vineyard were excellent, good canopy growth on the vines and optimal conditions during fruit set. It was shaping up to be our best vintage since 2006, both in quantity and quality. Even with a hailstorm that probably meant a 10% loss in crop, we were lucky with it happening early enough in the season that grapes were still relatively small and still quite hard. This meant damage was limited to the few grapes that were hit by the hail.
Despite the good start to the season, all the same pressures were always possible. So as not to take any chances we followed a religious spraying program to prevent any disease later in the season and we netted at the first sight of the birds, which always arrive in ones and twos at the start of season and then multiply quickly as the grapes start to get sweet and irresistible!
So, all sensible precautions taken, we started picking a bit later than in many previous years thanks to the milder weather, on 14th January.
We began with the early picks, some of our Semillon for our unique Queensland Green wine and Chardonnay for sparkling Brut which we call Tingle. We are fortunate to have our own mechanical harvester so we can pick at night, which is best for the grapes. We also had the opportunity to hand pick a small amount of our new Pinot Grigio to add in to the Chardonnay, to make a classic style sparkling. The results in the winery are very exciting and these wines will likely be in bottle by the end of February 2016.
We then moved on to our Verdelho just a few days later, and once again we were blessed with some beautiful fruit which we can see has already produced one of our best Verdelhos yet!
Now for part two of our story….
Then began the summer rain, which we were supposed to have this year. It did not cause too much drama with the next picks on the schedule but now is putting some pressure on the quality of red wine grapes. With the Semillon and Chambourcin safely picked just before the rain started we have hardly any white grapes left on the vine, just those we leave on late for our fortified white wines.
We went from showers, to storms, to rain pretty much every day and the red grapes are not happy with the persistence of the strangely wet El Niño weather pattern. Most of them are still going along okay, but our Sangiovese is not happy at all. This variety has large berries and closed bunches so don’t cope so well with the rain. They are not as quick to dry as more open bunched varieties and have thinner skins which do have the same resilience as the smaller Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet grapes.
The Sangiovese is very important to us; it will make 4 different wines this year, some of which are our best-selling wines. The saving grace this year is that they are yielding a lot of fruit, so with some more careful picking we should be able to still get a good result, just losing a fair bit of quantity. Having said that, we plan to pick the Sangiovese and the Merlot on the 5th February….if only the rain breaks for long enough for the grapes to dry and for us to get them off the vine. So we watch the weather radar hourly, read the forecasts daily, and pray for good fortune.
Once we get past these then we just have to worry about the Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and late picks for the fortified wines. Needless to see, we will be happy when all the fruit of labours are under the broad roof of our winery.