It’s the tale of two regions, or in fact three for the 2021 vintage. Where your vineyard was located, the variety and crop load in different vineyards had a huge impact on the harvest outcomes for red varieties throughout February, March and April.
We had Grenache on beautiful old bush vines needing to be hand-picked, the weather was perfect – hot and dry, and we were ready to go, but unfortunately there was a very large bushfire north of the Swan Valley. As the firefighters fought to bring it under control, the heavy smoke blew over the vineyard for many days, and we decided to pick for Rosé, which has a lot less skin contact to reduce the risk of smoke taint. After lab analysis this has proved to be the correct decision with no smoke derived compounds detected in the fermented wines. We only managed a small parcel of Grenache picked for still wine.
Great Southern – Mount Barker
Our Pinot Noir was looking good but Mount Barker had endured above average rainfall through late summer which was not as positive for the early ripening and thin-skinned variety. The rain was followed by unusual high humidity, ideal for disease propagation, so we did a lot of work in the vineyards cutting out diseased bunches before picking commenced. We had a lot of sorting to do with Pinot Noir this year. Conversely the later and thicker-skinned Cabernet Sauvignon on our old vine dry-grown Abercrombie vineyard benefited from the rain and more importantly the timing of the rain. The canopies benefited as the additional moisture seem to power the ripening forward and our Abercrombie block delivered some absolutely excellent Cabernet.
Great Southern – Frankland River
The rain was very beneficial in Frankland and again the timing was perfect for Shiraz which is the hallmark red grape of this inland subregion. Humidity was not as much of a factor away from the coast and there will be some very smart wines made with Frankland Shiraz from the 2021 vintage.
Shiraz was affected by the rain events a little more than Cabernet Sauvignon, as it came exactly when Shiraz was due for harvesting. The Cabernet Sauvignon stood up very well, the thicker skin on the grapes helped immensely to resist water and disease, with excellent canopy management in the Leston vineyard a large factor in our success here. Vineyards set up with open canopies and lighter crop loads were much more effective with disease management and delivered a much better result. Quite a lot of Shiraz was picked in Margaret River for Rosé rather than still wine. Northern Margaret River fared better than the cooler, wetter southern Margaret River for reds this year. Luckily at Howard Park we do not have any reds from Southern Margaret River but only whites, which ripened earlier before the significant late rainfalls.
Overall, some varied results with Mount Barker Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, and Frankland Shiraz the standouts. I am amazed by the dedication of our viticulture teams led by David Botting, not just at the pointy end of harvest, but throughout the season to set up our estate vines for the best possible outcomes, and am very excited to see what our winemakers can achieve with our best parcels of fruit from the vintage. There are always pleasant surprises in the challenging vintages, which remind us that we always serve Mother Nature rather than control her!