Let’s not rush to define the 2014 vintage!
Yes it has been hot, really hot and many wine regions this year have vintage behind them, facilities cleaned and are almost ready to start ageing their wines. Several regions saw harvest begin up to three weeks earlier than the norm (Hunter Valley), and numerous had to contend with temperatures well beyond 40 degrees (McLaren Vale, Bendigo) in January.
Don’t forget that the old grape vine once established can be quite resilient, and what’s more can more than handle stress. Early figures are suggesting that quantities are coming in around 5 - 10% down, which is not ideal for the grape grower that is already under stress with low prices (many are down 20 - 30% on 2013 figures) but certainly assists in terms of quality and balancing the over-supply of wine that remains an issue in Australian wine production.
Let’s not forget that prior to this year there has been good rainfall in many regions, dams and river systems held good quantities of water and some of the biggest and driest regions in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales have state of the art irrigation systems.
In February this year, I returned to the family vineyard in Bendigo at the time of netting and was amazed to see the volume of canopy still on the vines, doing its best to protect the fruit from sun damage. I don’t think there was a day under 30 degrees in January and there were certainly multiple days above 40 degrees. Despite the berry size being down, the vines held on with picking commencing in mid March, on a Saturday and concluding the next day. We may only be getting 4 - 5 tonne from an 8 acre vineyard but that is okay.
Let’s wait and see what the winemakers start saying about the fruit they are handling over the coming weeks and months. We all know you can’t make a great wine from average fruit and quality is sure better than quantity.