West Cape Howe Winery

The Vintage Report

2014 Vintage Review

Great Southern Region

as at the end of March 2014

The 2014 vintage in the Great Southern region was one you would dial up year in - year out if you could.  While it was a relatively mild winter, spring had well above average rainfall and the vines entered the season with good soil moisture resulting in strong growth.

Exposed sites may have suffered some wind damage, particularly areas within 5km of the cape to cape region in Margaret River, but for the main most vines enjoyed good growth and above average fruit set. This above average fruit set combined with strong canopies was instrumental in creating a steady ripening in white varieties enabling harvest to commence in late February and finishing late March. It is beneficial for the whites to be harvested as we enter Autumn so they can be picked in cooler nights enabling great acid structure and flavour to develop. And that was a feature of this year, constant warm dry days but nights that cooled down giving the vines a chance to catch their breath before the next sunny day.

The Summer of 2014 will be remembered for the long dry spell and temperatures through Spring and summer were above average. With good canopies the fruit flavours and acid balance developed nicely throughout summer, and moderate irrigation was required during this period to keep the canopy healthy and functioning. Fortunately the vineyard managers were proactive through this period and the vines went into the final ripening phase in great condition, with good cropping levels, strong canopies and no disease to speak of.

By the middle of February the flavours were presenting beautifully and harvesting commenced. It was an intense period as the flavour window was quite narrow and the fruit had to come in. It was all hands on deck with the fruit coming in from Frankland, Mount Barker and Margaret River all at the same time with no discrimination between varieties. There is usually a regional time gap and a varietal gap as well but not this year. It seemed like all the whites were ready within a 3 week period and wineries and vineyards worked tirelessly to get the fruit harvested within this picking window. And thankfully they did.

The resulting white wines look fantastic. The cool evenings and lack of extreme heat have seen sensational flavours develop in the aromatic varieties such as Riesling, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc which look truly varietal in character with lovely ripe flavour profiles and underlying acid structures.  The chardonnay was manipulated skilfully in the vineyard with designated blocks being given great attention to detail to create the subtle differences required for the different styles of “Old School” and “Styx Gully”

Our ‘new kid on the block’ Pinot Grigio is a wine to watch out for. The winemakers just LOVE playing with new varieties like this one. Great drinking in the near future!

Reds are starting to roll in with the promise of another successful vintage being completed by mid to late April.

Glen Harding
Viticulturist

 

2013 Vintage Review

Great Southern Region

The 2013 vintage in the Great Southern region was one that presented many challenges, but as in most circumstances with challenge comes reward.  While it was a relatively mild winter, spring was above average for rainfall and the vines responded with good growth.  Unfortunately, a storm in late November occurred during flowering and the sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon flowering was particularly affected by small rice sized hail.  This resulted in below long term average yields for these two varieties but fantastic flavour intensity.

The temperatures through spring and summer were above average, and with good canopies the fruit was ripening quickly.  A hot spell between Christmas and New Year meant that moderate irrigation was required during this period to keep the canopy healthy and functioning.  The vines went into the final ripening phase in great condition with moderate crops, good canopies and no disease to speak of.

By the middle of February the flavours were presenting beautifully and harvesting commenced.  It was an intense period of harvesting as the flavour window was quite narrow and the fruit had to come in.  It was all hands on deck with the fruit coming in from Frankland, Mount Barker and Margaret River all at the same time with no discrimination between varieties.  There is usually a regional time gap and a varietal gap as well, but not this year.  It seemed like all the whites were ready within a 2 week period and wineries and vineyards worked tirelessly through the period to get the fruit harvested within this picking window.  And thankfully they did.

The resulting white wines look fantastic.  It was feared with a warmer summer and early harvest that the aromatic varieties may have struggled but the Riesling, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc look truly varietal in character with lovely ripe flavour profiles and underlying acid structures.  Great drinking in the near future.

Following the harvest of the whites, we were starting to think of booking holidays in March!  Unheard of good weather gods intervened.  March came in cold and damp. 3 degrees below the long term average and we started to wonder if the sun was going to shine and finish what we saw as being a vintage of great potential.  And this is where with challenge comes reward.  With the whole red harvest in the balance the easy (less stressful) thing to do would be to harvest, it was close to the right flavour profile, but not quite there.  In the Great Southern region this year fortune has really favoured the brave.  The sun came back with a vengeance in April, with the temperature maximums 3C above long term average, the vines basked in its warmth and the final ripening was complete.

The cabernet sauvignon from the region will be outstanding, a long ripening period, soft ripe tannins and beautiful blue fruit, cassis flavours will see them drink well early and have great aging potential.  The shiraz will have spicy notes underlying red fruit characters and also have good aging potential.

In all, another fine vintage from the Great Southern region, though not without moments of intensity and stress, but the end result has made it all worthwhile.

Glen Harding 2013 Vintage Review Climate Data.pdf

 

2012 Mount Barker Vintage Review

2012 was a near perfect climatic vintage in the Mount Barker wine region.  For the first time in a number of years the region experienced above average winter and spring rainfalls.  This resulted in a full soil moisure profile and ample water storage during the early growth period of the grapevine.

A combination of the consistently warm spring and summer temperatures also promoted good growth and strong canopies.  Good fruit set was achieved in the majority of varieties leading to moderate to good size bunches and an even fruit ripening.

Whilst the mean January temperatures were warmer than average, no extremely hot days were seen.  This promoted strong functioning canopies, rapid fruit flavour development and early but even ripening.

Good spring rains also saw a fantastic flowering in the region's Marri gums.  The flowering stretched through the whole ripening period and resulted in the lowest bird pressure that the Great Southern region has seen in years.  The low impact of bird damage assisted in the overall high fruit yield and quality that was seen.

White varieties came into flavour ripeness in late Febrary to early March and the resulting Riesling, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines look excellent.  Riesling displays delicate floral and citrus flavours and linear natural acids, with this acid giving mineral backbone the region is known for.

The Chardonnay variety was also a standout.  Minimal temperature variation and the lack of rain during the final stages of ripening, allowed the winemakers to harvest Chardonnay at optimal flavour development and create the style of wine they wished to produce.  Earlier harvesting gave a more restrained and elegant style and the wine from later picked fruit displays a richer and fuller flavour profile.

While the whites were being harvested, the reds were building fruit flavour, accumulating sugars and developing an elegant tannin structure.  Little or no rain through summer and early autumn reduced disease pressure and resulted in the berries being of smaller than average size.  This led to a concentration of flavour in the fruit and a great depth of colour and firm but elegant tannin development in the finished wine.

The Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2012 vintage is a standout and will result in outstanding wines on release in 2014.  Small berries and moderate yields from vines with still fully functioning canopies will result in rich and elegant Cabernets.  The season cooled down as we moved into March and April and the sugar accumulation was reined into line with flavour development.  This enabled the red varieties to be picked with full flavours and resulted in wines with moderate alcohol.

All in all, another fantastic vintage for Mount Barker and the Great Southern region and one to watch out for in the future.  Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon Sauvignon Blanc wines are tracking for a late June release and look fresh, clean and vibrant.  The 2012 reds are currently maturing in a mix of new French oak and tracking for release in 2014.

 

2011 Vintage

The 2011 vintage in the Great Southern was a classic! The intensity of colour and fruit depth in the red’s is exceptional, while the whites are exhibiting vibrant fruit characters and fresh acidity.

The surprise out of Mount Barker, given the warm season, was the quality of the Riesling. What is often considered a delicate variety is very strong this year with lime citrus characters and steely acid. The benefit of picking in the coolest part of the day from 3am-6am and processing immediately reduced any of the oxidation of these desirable flavours. Chardonnays were also strong with acids holding on giving winemakers the option of picking to style.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz were the standouts for the reds. Full tannin ripeness at desirable sugar ripeness and full flavour was achieved. The January rains helped maintain canopy health and with moderate crops the vines ripened the fruit easily. Notably, small areas of Tempranillo that were planted also had
possibly their best vintages to date.

Overall, the 2011 vintage will be remembered for near perfect weather conditions. Warm, sunny days, and cool rainless nights, characterised the ripening season. This allowed for slow, even ripening and optimal flavour development with no disease pressure.