Low yields - good quality.
The growing season for 2015/16 began with well below average winter and spring rainfall.
September was cool with daily temperatures below average, this combined with low rainfall meant the vine shoots grew slowly in early spring. Then 3 consecutive months of warmer and drier than average conditions demanded earlier irrigation than the vines would normally require.
Flowering conditions were quite good, not as windy as in some years, however some welcome rain in the middle of November did cause some flower caps to stick, reducing fruit set a little.
The upside of such dry conditions was that disease pressure was extremely low and the vine canopies and grapes were in pristine health.
Between the 29th of January and the 3rd of February the drought broke and we received 44 mm of much welcomed rain. The extremely dry sub soils swallowed up this rain easily, while freshening canopies and filling out berry size and fortunately no disease or berry split was to be found.
The White Frontignac grapes, which produce our dry white wine “Blanc”, were the first to be harvested as the rain arrived on the 29th of January, an early start indeed.
The first reds, Block 8 Shiraz, were picked on the 17th of February and the final ripening period provided mild conditions, ideal for full flavour development. Block 6 produced a lovely balanced crop of 10.65 tonnes, picked on the 7th of March, which historical records show is pretty typical timing.
What started out as an early vintage concluded with 1.56 tonnes of Nero d’ Avola, picked on the 4th of April, which is a pretty normal date to finish up.
Whilst total tonnes harvested were below long term averages, quality was solid. The wines are highly aromatic with gentle acidity and moderate alcohol levels. The stand out varietal at this early stage appears to be Grenache.
Likely the best vintage since 2012.
The growing season for 2014/15 began with above average winter rainfall to the end of July. However in August the rain dried up and spring falls were significantly below average, temperatures were warmish producing an early bud burst and vines had healthy initial shoot growth. Irrigation was required earlier than most years in order to sustain the vine canopy. Flowering conditions were excellent, not as windy as in recent years, so fruit set well.
December was quite mild and at this point in the season crop levels appeared small, vine canopies were healthy and vine health was solid but growth stages were definitely early. The beginning of January produced a couple of particularly warm days above 40 deg. C but the healthy canopy to crop ratio provided shade and robustness to handle these days without excessive stress or fruit loss. Eventually mother nature delivered some welcome summer rain and from the 8th -14th January we had 33 mm of rain. The rain freshened up the canopies and kick started veraison. The rest of the month was extremely mild with below average temperatures and ideal ripening conditions leading into harvest.
In February the weather was warm but fortunately no extended heat waves arrived and nights were mild allowing natural acidity levels to be preserved. Fruit ripened swiftly and harvest began relatively early for us picking Frontignac on the 2nd February. Block 6 Shiraz was the first of the reds to come off on the 16th February, unfortunately the extremely dry season delivered only a miserly 1 tonne to the acre. It was a particularly condensed vintage with all of our Shiraz being harvested within 6 days. March provided cooler temperatures allowing the Grenache and Mataro to ripen at a much more leisurely pace, picking wrapped up on the 26th March with Block 2 Mataro.
In summary yields were extremely low, especially in Shiraz, the average yield across our Amery vineyard was only 2.3 tonnes to the acre. Fortunately every cloud has a silver lining and the good news story for Vintage 2015 is that quality is outstanding! The stand out variety is Shiraz, vibrant and intense colour is a highlight across all varieties. The wines have lovely, clean varietal expression with fine tannins and excellent balance, they are powerful but restrained.
Challenging with a good outcome
The 2014 vintage proved to be challenging with a multitude of weather events. There were heavy winter rainfalls which were welcome as by the time spring arrived the rain had certainly dried up and we experienced very dry and windy conditions.
January brought a heatwave which put the vines under some stress but this was soon counter balanced by an early February downpour, giving the vines some welcome respite.
Cool weather followed which slowed the rapid sugar accumulation the heat had brought on. Fruit quality was very good overall considering the challenging conditions leading up to vintage. Whilst Shiraz volumes were down, the lower yields have resulted in wines that display excellent intensity. 2014 proved you just never can tell what mothernature has in store.
Who says 13 is unlucky?
The solid winter rains provided good levels of subsoil moisture going into a very dry spring/summer period. While overall summer temperatures were quite mild with many cooler evenings, helping to lock in berry acidity. This also gave the vines a chance for some good flavour development.
Then a burst of heat in late January brought sugar levels on rapidly and fruit ripened quickly. Vinatge commenced a little earlier than normal on the 30th of January, picking Muscat Blanc. Reds followed in early February finishing with Mataro on Tuesday 5th of March. The fruit was in first class condition, berries were small with great flavour and perfect acidity.
Overall a short and compact vintage with quality comparing well to the outstanding 2012 vintage.
A lovely even year
"It was an early start with picking of the Muscat Blanc commencing on February 1st. The Muscat Blanc will be our first dry white wine made from the Muscat variety. Picking of the reds started on the 28th of February with Shiraz, followed by Cabernet, Merlot, Grenache and finishing off with the Mataro on the 13th of March. Interesting to note that we only started vintage on the 23rd of March last year, how the years are unique.
Yields were down across the vineyard by almost half. Quality however, was outstanding. All the red varieties show rich, well ripened fruit and remarkable varietal character with great structure and fine tannins. As I write we are pressing out the last of the reds and putting them in oak.
The light crop this year was due to unsettled and misty, cool weather at flowering that led to poor fruit set. These were touched up by hail that further thinned the crop. Rainfall has been about average and there were useful summer rains. Subsoil moisture was very good and we only needed to irrigate sporadically to keep moisture levels on target. The Grenache and Mataro needed no irrigation at all. Temperatures were just a little above normal but we had no extreme heat events.
The slightly warmer weather contributed to earlier ripening, but a light crop with a good healthy canopy also hastened ripening. All said and done, this years vintage dates are within the extremes of our historical records. As you can see I am trying to avoid surmising about climate changes. We are experiencing a wet March with mild weather. This is great for the vines as they prepare for dormancy and a well earned rest." - Colin Kay
A cloud with a silver lining
'The conditions leading up to the 2011 vintage have been favourable as McLaren Vale experienced very mild weather during the summer. We have had some of the best rainfall within the past decade and due to these conditions natural acidity levels have been almost perfect.
With the second latest start to vintage on record, the 23rd of March, the baume levels have been lower than in past years but the extended ripening period provided intense flavours and brilliant depth of colour. The bulk of the Shiraz was harvested over one week which meant for a busy time in the winery.
Due to the wet conditions during harvest we opted mostly for hand picking by dropping some of the grapes on the ground in an effort to maximize fruit quality. Though it was a vintage not without challenges, we are proud of the wines from 2011" - Colin Kay
A lovely even ripening period with excellent quality
2010 was a very good vintage, great colour and expression of fruit flavours, well structured and finely balanced wines. Vintage started on the 8th of February and finished on the 24th of March. It was orderly and the weather was as we could only wish for.
The season leading to vintage, apart from a burst of heat when the Grenache and Muscat Blanc were flowering – reducing their yields, was very good.
There were useful spring and summer rains in all cases followed by nice drying breezes, fungal disease pressures were low. In February and March it was dry and mild so the grapes ripened and were picked in ideal conditions.
The heat is on
“In all a difficult year. A dry and warm (relatively) ’08 winter resulted in early budburst, then normal moist cool weather of spring round an early flowering gave us a poor fruit set. As subsoil moisture was non existent monitoring of irrigation and providing the vines with enough water strained all systems.
It all came to a head with the extreme heat early February, water supply was restricted and some vineyards just did not carry their fruit through – it turned to raisins. The result was one of the smallest crops we’ve recorded. A tale of woe but the wines we have are good fruit driven styles with lower alcohols than we have seen for some years. How we have these elegant wines from this hard year I just don’t understand, we count our blessings.” - Colin Kay.
A tale of two seasons
"2008 Vintage could be summed up in 3 words - mild (growing season), early (harvest), hot (vintage heat wave).
Fortunately we had completed our grape picking before the record March heat wave but sadly some growers were not as lucky as we were. The season, though early, was close to ideal with average rainfall, generally mild weather, a kind ripening period and mild picking conditions. This resulted in well coloured, flavour full fruit with good acidity and excellent grape yields. We were very pleased with the vintage grape quality and have the feeling that we were extremely fortunate that our grapes were not adversely affected by the weather. The 2008 wines are great!"
Our 2008 vintage processing included 152.14 tonnes Shiraz, 17.60 tonnes Cabernet Sauvignon, 19.15 tonnes Merlot, 8.62 tonnes Muscat Blanc (Frontignac), 13.46 tonnes Grenache, 5.57 tonnes Mataro (Mourvedre), 6.26 tonnes Viognier and 3.56 tonnes Riesling. The total grape crush was 226.36 tonnes compared to 121.13 tonnes in 2007." - Colin Kay
“An extraordinarily early low cropping season with picking commencing on the 7th February and finishing a month later on the 7th March – we had harvested all but the Mataro and Grenache by the 15th February! The Riesling grapes we sourced from Eden Valley were picked on the 9th March and it was the first time we finished vintage before Easter.
The early season was due to a warm winter and spring that led to early bud burst and flowering and the small harvest was caused mainly by the rough weather at flowering that led to a very poor fruit set resulting in small bunches and berry size. Drought was an influence but fortunately we had sufficient recycled water to keep our vines healthy allowing the grapes to ripen normally albeit early.
We chose to pick at slightly lower sugar levels than usual, a decision driven by a forecast heat wave, and the grape crop was down by approximately 50%. Unfortunately this short supply will be reflected in 2009 when our red wines are released. There is no problem with the quality of the wines from 2007 vintage it’s just that there will not be as much to enjoy!” - Colin Kay
A classic Kays year
"A wet winter and spring, good early summer rains, a mild early summer followed by warmer dry weather through the grape ripening period, all combined to provide ideal growing conditions. Picking started on the 9 March and finished on the 23 March - a short hectic vintage with everything ripening at once!
Fortunately we had just installed a new Hypac basket press to keep the old Coq press company and as these two presses accepted the same baskets we were able to cope with a normal vintage tonnage in half the usual vintage processing time. The 2006 wines are all showing intense deep colours, very pleasing rich fruit characters and fine mouth filling tannins. We picked a total of 180.96 tonnes from our McLaren Vale Amery vineyards - 26.49 tonnes Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.79 tonnes Grenache, 2.67 tonnes Mataro (Mourvedre), 21.83 tonnes Merlot, 3.37 tonnes Frontignac (Muscat Blanc) and 113.81 tonnes Shiraz." - Colin Kay