“Are we there yet?” was the catch-cry of the 2014 season, partly due to its duration but mainly due to the scarcity of fruit that we harvested and the feeling that vintage never really got going. We began picking on the 6th of February and finished on the 25th of April and in that time we amassed half the yield we achieved in 2012. The fruit arrived in waves and initially harvest was dictated by the heat and dry. Suddenly in the last week of March the winery was empty, which is astounding and at the time almost perplexing. In hindsight we should have filled a fermenter with water and had a pool party.
The mid-season break was due to 140mm of rain falling on the 14th and 15th of February. Despite the ridiculous downpour I believe this actually saved the Vintage and the quality of our old vine Shiraz and particularly our Grenache is considerably higher than what it would have been had we not received any rain at all. The 2014 season served up an array of challenges including frost in Ebenezer and Kalimna, fires in Eden Valley, a very dry spring and summer, numerous heatwaves in January and February and finally the heavy rain at harvest. We even experienced extensive kangaroo damage at our Hillside property. None of this was enough to stifle the spirits of the winemaking team or the growers and we have made some great wines in a difficult season. It is a testament to the Barossa Valley that we can endure such conditions yet still make wines that are true to our region; that are distinctively “Barossan”.
In my opinion Grenache was the outstanding varietal and the timing of heat and rain was perfect for its ripening. It is bright and fragrant and the extra time on the vine also allowed it to produce magnificent tannin. The 2014 Natural Wine will be bottled and released soon and its release is always exciting as it gives our drinkers an early insight into the vintage.
One of my favourite things about being a winemaker is that no two seasons are the same and you have to adapt to the features and limitations of the harvest every year. At the time I was wishing the season away, but on reflection 2014 was an incredible learning experience, partly due to the absurdity of the conditions. Grape Vines are amazing plants and the weather rarely diminishes the quality of their output, although it certainly influences the flavour profiles of the fruit they produce. We have now experienced two very low yielding seasons in a row and I am hopeful that 2015 will deliver a more fruitful harvest, although it will surely be no less captivating.