Well Vintage in McLaren Vale is all but over (I suspect that some grapes destined for fortified wine are still to be picked) and it is time to reflect on the Vintage.
The lead up to the Vintage period was looking so good it had us all salivating. The winter rains had subsoil moisture levels higher than previously recorded. This meant that the vines did not need watering until quite deep into Summer. The beginning of Summer was quite mild with little rain that indicated a potential for a long ripening period for the grapes. No storm activity was also appreciated by the vines. Leading into January I was hearing that the coming vintage was shaping up to be even better than 2012 (2012 was considered by many as being the best vintage conditions for the last 15 to 20 years).
Then came January and February with high temperatures and effectively no rain. This combination brought on grape maturity very quickly. An example of this was at the Marius Vineyard where picking was organised for early March but had to be brought forward by 2 weeks due to the high rates of sugars developing quickly.
The order of grapes being picked was also different than “normal”. In most years white wine varieties are picked before red wine varieties. Well this year we had Shiraz frequently picked before any white grapes from the same property.
With the hot weather and the quick development of the grapes the wineries were stretched with a compressed time frame to process a below average volume of grapes. No sooner had fermenters emptied they were filled again. It was tight and long hours were to be had but I believe most if not all grapes that were supposed to be picked were.
The result was a number of very tired people working long hours to make what looks to be a high quality wine. The key to this vintage seemed to be keeping close eye on the vineyards and picking at the right time and having the capacity in the winery to cope with the compressed time frames. There will be some excellent wines come from this vintage but at this stage the overall analysis would be not as good as 2012.
One pivotal milestone for the 2013 was that I have made a small volume of wine – the Barbuckle Project Shiraz. More on his one later.
One area I would like to put my opinion out there is all about the back packers who descend on McLaren Vale. For the first time I met some of these people and got to know a little about what they do. Most of the above group come from Europe and are traveling around Australia. These people want to pick the grapes so earn some money to survive on while backpacking. There seems to be a limited number of Aussies who want to pick the grapes – it is hard work for people that have not done it before. I picked grapes 2 days this year and I was totally stuffed by the end of the day. There is a tide of distain for these backpackers, like they should not be here. So here is the thing – who else is going to pick the grapes? Who else is going to go home to speak about the interesting times they had in Australia and what wonderful wines they tried here? Who else is going to look for the wines that were made from the grapes they picked?
I would like to put it out there that we should welcome these people here during vintage – maybe we should create some facility where they can stay with their old Combi Vans, where they can have a shower and not be hounded to move on when they find a place to stay over night.
This year a met a few of these people (see the picture above) and they are wonderful people wanting to experience this beautiful country of ours (who would blame them) and to do this earn some money doing something that most of us do not want to do. I do not have all the answers and yes I understand these are general statements but lets see how we can do this better next year. You never know the group above, and others like them, may spark the next generation of world wide Australian Wine drinkers!