Like all vintages we are always full of hope and anticipation. It’s a bit like Christmas when you were young, hoping for a bike to ride to football training and you get a trampoline instead – that all the family can share! You’re happy with the trampoline; you love doing somersaults, but secretly you think about the bike that you may have to wait another year for.
Vintage 2021 is a bit like that.
After the very small yielding vintages in 2019 and 2020 there was great hope that 2021 would at least come back to the 10-year average from a yield point of view. Flowering and thus fruit set were affected by the abnormally cold weather in October and November, which seriously reduced yields across all fruits, but particularly in Chardonnay in both regions, and most of the white varieties. A lot of the bunches had tiny green grapes that never grew within the bunch and when you examined them, they had no seeds because of the poor flowering so were never going to develop.
We reconciled ourselves as we wrote down our expected intake yields across the whites. The reds, with a different flowering and fruit set timing seemed to have not been greatly affected, and Shiraz in particular seemed to have a larger than normal crop yield which was very much appreciated after two lean years. We will make some excellent wines but the volumes will be much smaller than we had planned for.
The birds stayed away, they had plenty of their natural feed so although we did deploy our nets, we were not really under any bird pressure. And things were looking good, although we had been warned that this year would be a wetter than normal summer we did not expect the amount of rain that rolled in.
There was a lot of rain across all of our regions which appeared just before we were getting ready for the harvest. The grapes were not quite ripe enough to pick when the rain came, bringing with it persistent humid conditions, which is the perfect conditions for Botrytis to develop on some of the grapes. We had our viticultural team working very hard in the vineyard, cutting out the infected bunches prior to harvesting and the winemaking team had to do a great deal of sorting to select the cleanest fruit for pressing. It was a massive effort from both teams, and thanks to their quick thinking and hard work we ensured that we have protected the wines with clean fruit.
This was a vintage that separated the professionals and the dedicated from the average or inexperienced viticulture teams. Our teams in Margaret River and the Great Southern have done a marvellous job under very difficult conditions, including working around COVID and the associated restrictions. Like most in the regions, it has been incredibly difficult this year to source labour for hand picking and I applaud the effort and result from our viticultural teams despite these challenges.
Keep an eye out for part two.